When are you most contagious with Covid? When Covid is at its most contagious and how long coronavirus lasts

With more Covid-related hospitalisations than ever before in the UK, here’s when you’re at your most contagious with Coronavirus

As the UK adapts to a ‘new normal’ where coronavirus still looms large amid eased restrictions, positive Covid cases are once again on the rise.

The Omicron variant and emerging sub-variants of Covid is continuing to usher cases and transmission higher, with the latest modelling for Scotland suggesting that daily cases could soar to 60,000 a day over the next few weeks.

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Covid Scotland: Daily cases could reach 60,000 in April
When are you most contagious with Covid? Here's when Covid is at its most contagious and how long it lasts (Image credit: Getty Images/Pexels via Canva Pro)

10,100 new positive Covid cases were reported in Scotland on Friday March 25, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon keeping face mask restrictions in place in efforts to shield the most vulnerable members of the population.

Cases across the UK have spiked to 612,084 in the last seven days, with more than 14,000 people admitted to hospital.

But daily Covid case counts remain high in England, with latest figures for the country showing 80,916 new positive cases recorded on Tuesday.

With more of us testing positive for coronavirus than ever before, here’s when Covid is at its most contagious and how long you are likely to be contagious with the virus if you have caught it.

When are you most contagious with Covid?

According to the UK Government, people with Covid-19 are able to infect others from roughly two days before they start to display symptoms.

But it also states that you can remain contagious up to 10 days after symptoms appear.

This echoes findings of a Lancet Microbe study published last year which suggested that people were more likely to pass the virus on to others in the first days of contracting it.

Common Covid symptoms such as a loss of taste, smell and new, continuous cough generally begin to appear five days after catching the virus.

However, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned in early December that the incubation period for the Omicron could be shorter than that of other variants due to its higher rate of transmission.

Mr Javid identified analysis from the UK Health Security Agency as suggesting that “the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant than the Delta variant.”

How do I know if I’ve caught Covid-19?

As always, the main coronavirus symptoms to watch out for are a sore throat, loss of taste or smell, new, continuous cough and high temperature.

But as the virus continues to mutate and spread through new variants like the Delta variant and Lambda variant, symptoms can also show some changes.

From what we know so far, Omicron variant symptoms differ slightly to those of more common Covid variants such as Delta – with Omicron symptoms reportedly bearing more similarity to those of a bad cold.

The highly transmissible variant sweeping across the UK is now accounts for the majority of the country’s Covid-19 cases.

You could also be contacted by Test and Protect contact tracers in Scotland, Test and Trace in England and Wales or receive an alert from a coronavirus contact tracing app like Protect Scotland and NHS Covid-19 app.

These various methods will be used if you have been identified as a close contact of someone who has reported a positive Covid test and been confirmed to have caught the virus.

What should I do if I think I’ve caught Covid?

To confirm whether you have caught coronavirus if you haven’t started to display symptoms, you should take a rapid lateral flow test.

This will give you a result in 30 minutes which can then be confirmed with a PCR test.

But if you have started to show symptoms you will need to order a PCR test and self-isolate until you receive a negative result if fully vaccinated.

Current rules in Scotland state that if someone in your household has started to display Covid symptoms, everyone in this household must isolate until a negative result is received – but the person isolating must not have been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case.

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