The Omicron edition continues due to record COVID-19 case numbers in the UK.
However, data have suggested that the variant does not usually cause such severe disease as previous strains, especially after a booster vaccination shot.
Rocketing case numbers are still forcing more and more people to self-isolate and be hospitalized, putting pressure on health services.
Scientists believe one of the reasons Omicron’s cases are rising so rapidly is that it can infect people more quickly than older strains like Delta and Alpha.
Here’s everything you need to know about how long it can take, and when people are most contagious.
When is Omicron most contagious?
For the previous variants, the World Health Organization said symptoms can begin to develop anywhere between two days and two weeks after infection.
However, the incubation period for Omicron is believed to be very short – between three and five days.
It is thought that people are most contagious for one to two days before the onset of symptoms and during the two to three days after.
This helps explain why Omicron has spread so quickly, because people have already passed on the virus before realizing it.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in December: “A recent analysis by the UK Health Protection Agency suggests that the window between infection and infectivity may be smaller for the Omicron variant than for the Delta variant.”
Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner Dr Alison Arvadi told NBC: “As we’ve seen these new forms evolve – Delta, now Omicron – everything we are seeing has accelerated.
“It is taking less time for someone exposed to Covid to potentially develop the infection. It takes less time for symptoms to develop, less time for someone to be contagious and less time for many people to recover. This is because many more people have been vaccinated.”
Data shows that most people are not contagious after seven days of experiencing symptoms or testing positive for the first time, especially when vaccinated, and the vast majority are no longer contagious after 10 days.
It is worth noting that many people have reported experiencing various symptoms with Omicron, which are commonly associated with COVID-19; Cough, fever, shortness of breath and loss or change in taste and smell.
Among those symptoms are:
- body aches and pains
- scratchy throat
- running nose
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should do a lateral flow test, isolate if it is positive and order a confirmatory PCR.
How long can you test positive for covid?
Most people will stop testing positive within 10 days of starting to experience symptoms or receiving their first positive test.
However, it is possible to continue testing positive for weeks or even months after having the virus.
The good news is that even if you continue to test positive after a long period of time, it is very unlikely that you are actually contagious.
Gavi Vaccine Alliance explains: “The time it takes to test negative after contracting COVID-19 depends on the severity of the case, and also on the test.
“PCR tests that hunt for and amplify the viral genetic material (RNA in the case of COVID-19) in our bodies so that we can detect it are extremely sensitive and even detect certain viral fragments. Attendance can also be raised.
“This is because fragments of viral RNA can remain in our bodies until the infection is gone and the virus is cleared from our system.”
In the UK, everyone can self-isolate after 10 days, even if you are still testing positive. The only exception is if you are still feeling strong symptoms, in which case you should continue to isolate until you feel better. Cough and shortness of breath in this case do not count as strong symptoms, as they can last for a while after your massive recovery.
Additionally, if you are fully vaccinated, you can leave isolation after seven days if you test negative on the sixth day and on the seventh day.