Coronavirus: Loss of taste and smell 'will not be added' to list of COVID-19 symptoms

Joe Gamp
Contributor, Yahoo News UK
Screen grab of Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19).

Health chiefs say the loss of taste and smell will not be added to the official list of coronavirus symptoms.

During Friday’s press conference at Downing Street, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said there was no plan to add loss of taste and smell to the list of symptoms people should watch for.

The advice comes despite health secretary Matt Hancock becoming one of many people to report suffering from a loss of taste and smell after contracting the virus.

Hancock confirmed he lost his sense of taste while he was suffering from COVID-19 during the briefing - but said it was not permanent.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, left, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock answer questions from the media via a video link during a media briefing at Downing Street. (AP)

Van-Tam said a taskforce will continue to look at loss of senses as a symptom of the virus.

The professor told reporters: “On the point about loss of taste and smell, we have actually asked our expert advisory committee, Nervtag, to look at this.

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“And there is some anecdotal data in the published domain that there are a proportion of people who do indeed lose their sense of taste and smell.

Professor Van-Tam also said there was no evidence to suggest face masks would stop the spread of COVID-19. (AP)

“However, we have looked at the data there is, in relation to whether that on its own is a symptom that would be important to add to the case definition, and the answer to that from our experts is absolutely not.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Matt Hancock says it's 'highly likely' he's now immune to COVID-19

The deputy health chief also said the government does not recommend healthy people wear face masks as there is no evidence they stop the spread of COVID-19.

He continued: "There is no evidence that general wearing of face masks by the public who are well affects the spread of the disease in our society.

“What matters is social distancing.

"In terms of the hard evidence and what the UK Government recommends, we do not recommend face masks for general wearing by the public."

Read more: Coronavirus: UK death toll rises by 684 in biggest daily increase yet to 3,605

The number of officially recorded coronavirus-related deaths climbed to 3,605 in the UK on Friday - up 684 from the 2,921 announced on Thursday.

Matt Hancock and NHS staff stand on marks on the ground ahead of the opening of the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel centre in London. (AP)

It represents the third successive day that the country’s daily death toll rose by the highest amount since the outbreak started.

Read more: Coronavirus: Six reasons it's OK to leave your house, according to Boris Johnson

The number of confirmed cases has increased by 4,450 to 38,168 from yesterday’s total of 33,718.

The figures come as health secretary Matt Hancock warned the UK’s peak for cases was on its way within weeks.

And on Friday, the NHS Nightingale hospital was opened at the ExCel centre in London today by Prince Charles, who has come out of self-isolation after being infected with coronavirus.

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