Long Covid may be widespread

OVER two million people with Covid-19 in England are thought to have had one or more enduring symptoms, according to findings from the Government-funded REACT-2 studies.

The research based on self-reported data from 508,707 adults aged 18 and above found that 38 per cent of those who had symptomatic Covid-19 experienced at least one symptom lasting 12 weeks or more – which is equivalent to 2 million people – while 15 per cent experienced three or more persistent symptoms.

The findings suggest that the risk of persistent symptoms, or long Covid, increases with age, with a 3.5 per cent increase in each decade of life. It also shows that the risk of long Covid is higher among women, people who are overweight or obese, who smoke, live in deprived areas, or had been admitted to hospital for Covid-19, while risk is lower in people of Asian ethnicity.

The study has found that people with persistent symptoms at 12 weeks fell into two broad groups – in the first the most common symptom was tiredness and muscle aches and in the second it was shortness of breath affecting normal activities and tightness/pain in the chest, with more people reporting severe symptoms.

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT programme at Imperial College London, said: "Our findings do paint a concerning picture of the longer-term health consequences of Covid-19, which need to be accounted for in policy and planning. Long Covid is still poorly understood but we hope through our research that we can contribute to better identification and management of this condition, which our data and others’ suggest may ultimately affect millions of people in the UK alone."

The NHS has recently opened over 80 long Covid assessment services across England and has published a £100 million plan to expand support, including £30 million to help GPs improve diagnosis and care for patients with long Covid.