Health Secretary Sajid Javid has advised people to take a lateral flow test before meeting with others and to celebrate outside where possible to reduce the risk of transmission.
The warning comes as the Omicron variant continues its rapid spread across the UK, and now accounts for 90% of all new coronavirus cases.
Elsewhere in the UK rules are much stricter, with curbs on social mixing and hospitality in place in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, including the closure of nightclubs.
With infections continuing to rise, here’s what you need to know about the most common symptoms of Omicron and when to self-isolate.
What is the earliest warning sign of Omicron?
The Omicron variant has been found to cause slightly different symptoms to previous Covid-19 strains.
The earliest sign of infection from Omicron is a symptom that you can hear and will often appear before you start to feel unwell.
Those who are infected with the variant may develop a hoarse or croaky voice.
This is because a sore or scratchy throat is one of the most common symptoms linked with Omicron, and it is often one of the first to develop.
What are the other symptoms of Omicron?
The three main symptoms of Covid-19 listed by the NHS include a high temperature, a new continuous cough and a loss of sense of taste or smell.
However, the Omicron variant has been found to cause symptoms that differ to these ‘traditional’ three, with common signs of infection instead including:
- Body aches and pains
- Scratchy throat
- Night sweats
- Dry cough
- Runny nose
Taking a paracetamol and getting plenty of rest will help to ease symptoms, but if you are worried you can get help from the NHS online, or call 111 for advice.
As with other Covid-19 strains, symptoms of Omicron should typically clear within a few days.
When should I self-isolate?
It takes between five and six days on average for someone who is infected with Covid-19 to experience any symptoms, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
However, symptoms can start to appear from one to 14 days and a hoarse voice and scratchy voice is typically one of the first signs of infection.
Professor Tim Spector, the scientist behind the Zoe symptom tracker app, has likened the symptoms of Omicron as being similar to the common cold.
As such, if you feel unwell or have any cold-like symptoms, it is worth taking a Covid-19 test to make sure and self-isolate a home until your results are confirmed.
If you do test positive, your self-isolation period includes the day your symptoms started (or the day you had the test, if you did not have symptoms) and the next 10 full days.
You can stop self-isolating after the 10 days if either:
- you do not have any symptoms
- you just have a cough or changes to your sense of smell or taste – these can last for weeks after the infection has gone
If you live in England, the self-isolation period for people infected with Covid-19 has been cut from 10 days down to just seven, depending on a test result.
A lateral flow test must be taken 24 hours apart on day six and seven of the isolation period, and if both tests come back negative, isolation can end on day seven.