‘Marked increase’ in people suffering with long Covid that has lasted for at least a year

There has been a “marked increase” in the number of people with self-reported long Covid that has lasted for at least a year, according to new UK figures.

Long Covid, also known as post-Covid syndrome, is used to describe the effects of the virus that continue for weeks or months beyond the initial illness.

Common long Covid symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, problems with memory and concentration, insomnia, dizziness, joint pain, depression and anxiety, tinnitus and diarrhoea.

An estimated 1.0 million people in private households in the UK reported experiencing “long Covid” in the four weeks to May 2, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Of these people, an estimated 869,000 first had Covid-19 – or suspected they had Covid-19 – at least 12 weeks previously, while 376,000 first had the virus or suspected they had the virus at least one year ago.

Long Covid was estimated to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 650,000 people, with 192,000 reporting that their ability to undertake day-to-day activities had been limited a lot.

On Friday, the ONS said: “Since March 2021, there has been a marked increase in the number of people with self-reported long Covid of at least a year in duration.”

Previous figures, covering the four weeks to March 6 2021, suggested that 70,000 people in private households in the UK had experienced symptoms of long Covid for at least 12 months.

These people would have been infected before March 6 2020, early in the pandemic and before the peak of the first wave of the virus.

The latest figures, for the four weeks to May 2, put the number at 376,000 and will include people infected during the peak of the first wave.

Prevalence of self-reported long Covid was greatest in people aged 35 to 69, females, those living in the most deprived areas, those working in health or social care, and those with another activity-limiting health condition or disability, the ONS found.

Fatigue (weakness or tiredness) was the most common symptom reported as part of individuals’ experience of long Covid up until May 2 (547,000 out of 1.0 million people), followed by shortness of breath (405,000), muscle ache (313,000) and difficulty concentrating (285,000).

Layla Moran (pictured), who chairs the APPG 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.”

Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation, said: “Whilst research into this issue is ongoing, our Covid-19 Impact Inquiry has found that long Covid can limit many aspects of day-to-day life, such as the ability to work or undertake caring responsibilities, which contributes to heavy feelings of loss, guilt and stigma among those affected.

“Disruption to employment and education may also lead to widening health inequalities.

“It is crucial that that we continue to deepen our understanding of long Covid and its unequal impact on individuals and society, to ensure that the Government implements policies that protect the nation’s health.”

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