Anyone with cold or flu symptoms should get a Covid test, warns expert

ANYONE experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms should get a Covid test, one expert has warned.

The three main symptoms of Covid-19 highlighted by the NHS include a new persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste and smell – but one expert says cold symptoms are also a key sign of infection.


If you’re struggling with cold and flu-like symptoms then it might actually be Covid-19Credit: Getty – Contributor
Professor Tim Spector urged people who are feeling under the weather to get a coronavirus test


Professor Tim Spector urged people who are feeling under the weather to get a coronavirus testCredit: Youtube/zoe

When it comes to Covid-19 infections, the UK currently has more cases than other European countries.

This, Professor Tim Spector of the Zoe Symptom Tracker App from King’s College London says is because of our attitude towards the virus.

In a YouTube video he addressed his appearance on This Morning earlier in the week, where he had been criticised for telling people to stay at home if they had a cold.

Host Phillip Schofield had explained how his daughter had been scared to leave the house because she had a persistent cough. She took both a lateral flow and a PCR test – both of which were negative.

Prof Spector said she had done the ‘exactly the right thing’ and added that many people are not aware that other symptoms – such as a runny nose or sore throat, are actually signs of Covid.

He said: “It’s easier to work at home, just spend a couple of days if you are feeling under the weather without spreading it around and get a test.

How to get a Covid test

Both PCR tests and lateral flow tests are available through the government’s website.

If you need a PCR test for travel then you will have to buy one.

PCR tests

You can only get a PCR test from the government if you are displaying the three classic signs of Covid-19 listed by the NHS.

These are a new persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste and smell.

You are advised to get a test even if these symptoms are mild.

You can order the tests to your home address or book an appointment at a walk-in or drive-through centre.

If you don’t have symptoms you can get a PCR test for the following reasons:

  • you’ve been in contact with someone who’s tested positive
  • you’ve been asked to get a test by a local council or someone from NHS Test and Trace
  • a GP or other health professional has asked you to get a test
  • you’re taking part in a government pilot project
  • you’ve been asked to get a test to confirm a positive result
  • you’ve received an unclear result and were told to get a second test
  • you need to get a test for someone you live with who has symptoms
  • you’re in the National Tactical Response Group

Lateral flow tests

If you have no symptoms and you are not eligible for a PCR test then you can order rapid tests to be sent to your home.

Many employers are signed up to the government scheme – making it easy to pick tests up from your work place.

“If you do have a cold just think, it could be Covid, keep your distance before whether you know it is or not.”

Prof Spector said that symptoms have evolved from the three that the NHS is still listing and said that now, many people are ‘absolutely not aware’ that the virus can look like a cold.

“Especially if you’re young or you have been double vaccinated”, he explained.

He added: “So we want people to stop a moment and think if they are going into crowded spaces.”

Prof Spector said infections are high in the UK for two reasons. He explained that the first reason is a lack of masks and social distancing and the second is because we’re ignorant of the symptoms

“We should be looking out for things like sore throat, runny nose and sneezing. The classic three – cough, fever and anosmia are rarer these days, yet the government has done nothing.

“By not updating advice, we’re letting people into care homes, schools, workplaces and large gatherings displaying known signs of Covid.”


Data from the ZOE App suggest that one in 95 people in the UK have Covid.

Prof Spector added that if we don’t wake up to the fact these cold-like symptoms could be Covid, we will continue to keep numbers high.

He added: This will put unnecessary strain on an exhausted NHS and be letting more than 170 people die every day.” 

Prof Spector highlighted that he had visited his mother in a care home and the only precaution that had been taken was to take his temperature.

He said that by not recognising cold and flu symptoms we could be putting each other at risk.


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