One million living with ‘long Covid’, warns ONS

Fatigue is among the symptoms associated with long Covid

Around one million people in the UK could be living with ‘long Covid’, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Some 869,000 people continued to experience symptoms for at least 12 weeks after they first suspected they had the coronavirus, and 376,000 said these symptoms had persisted for at least a year.

The figures relate to “self-reported” symptoms of long Covid, defined as symptoms persisting for more than four weeks after Covid-19 infection, rather than clinically diagnosed post-Covid-19 syndrome. The survey was conducted at the beginning of May.

Some 650,000 felt their persistent symptoms had adversely affected their daily life, 192,000 of whom felt their activities had been limited a lot.

Fatigue was the most common self-reported long Covid symptom and was experienced by 547,000 people. Some 405,000 experienced shortness of breath, 313,000 had muscle aches and 285,000 had difficulty concentrating.

The condition was most prevalent in people aged 35 to 69 years, women, those living in the most deprived areas of the UK, those working in health or care, and those with an activity-limiting health condition or disability, said the ONS.

Prevalence of self-reported long Covid was lowest in people of an Asian background.

Julie Stanborough, head of health analysis and life events at the ONS, said: “Around one million people in the UK were experiencing self-reported long Covid at the beginning of May, with nearly two-thirds experiencing a negative impact on day-to-day activities.

“Our analysis also shows that health and social care workers had a higher prevalence of self-reported long Covid than those working in other sectors, but this was largely driven by the risk of initial infection and other socio-demographic factors such as age, sex and location.”

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, said: “These figures should serve as a wake-up call to ministers that they must urgently fix the postcode lottery of care facing those with long Covid. Hundreds of thousands of people around the country are struggling with the debilitating impact of this condition yet are still not receiving the care they need.

“Our research has found that long Covid patients are waiting over 100 days for treatment while in some areas the clinics promised by the government have been delayed. The government must take steps to alleviate the suffering faced by those with this cruel disease and factor in the risks posed by long Covid as restrictions are eased.”

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