Boris Johnson is being urged to take action on ‘long Covid’ and formally recognise debilitating side effects of the disease that can last for months after recovery, such as fatigue, heart palpitations and breathing difficulties.

MPs have called on the Government to ‘urgently’ address the problem, saying that Number 10 must first acknowledge that it exists. 

The group said it had heard ‘incredibly moving and concerning’ testimonials from hundreds of people with persistent symptoms, including those who had been fit and healthy before being struck with Covid-19.

Layla Moran, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) group on coronavirus, said Westminster must commit resources to a rapid inquiry. 

Matt Hancock has already admitted that he is ‘worried’ about the long term impacts plaguing coronavirus ‘long-haulers’, and has used it as a warning to young people who think they are immune to the disease. 

This graph shows how many patients reported each symptom when they were admitted to hospital and 12 weeks later. It shows the initial symptoms of a fever, cough and loss of taste/smell have reduced. But breathlessness, excessive fatigue and muscle aches have persisted

This graph shows how many patients reported each symptom when they were admitted to hospital and 12 weeks later. It shows the initial symptoms of a fever, cough and loss of taste/smell have reduced. But breathlessness, excessive fatigue and muscle aches have persisted 

Ms Moran said the Government needed to take action to address the health, wellbeing and employment arrangements of people living with the effects of ‘long Covid’, and provide the necessary support.

Writing in the British Medical Journal today, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon also warned that as the number of people with long Covid increases, the situation will become ‘more and more urgent’.

She said: ‘In August, we heard from people living with long Covid and hundreds more sufferers submitted written evidence to our inquiry.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF LONG COVID AND HOW BAD IS THE PROBLEM?

Covid-19 is described as a short-term illness caused by infection with the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Public health officials tend to say people will recover within two weeks or so. 

However it’s become increasingly clear that this is not the case for everyone, and that the two-week period is only the ‘acute illness’ phase.

The North Bristol NHS Trust’s Discover project, which is studying the longer-term effects of coronavirus, is just one of a handful of studies to have shown the long impact of Covid-19. However it only studied hospital patients.

A total of 163 patients with coronavirus were recruited to the study. Nineteen of those died. The remainder were invited for a three-month check-up and 110 attended. 

Most (74 per cent) had at least one persistent symptom after twelve weeks. The most common were:

  • Excessive fatigue: 39%
  • Breathlessness: 39%
  • Insomnia: 24%  
  • Muscle pain: 23%
  • Chest pain: 13%
  • Cough: 12%
  • Loss of smell: 12%
  • Headache, fever, joint pain and diarrhoea: Each less than 10% 

Patients who had suffered more severe Covid-19 reported more symptoms on their follow-up.      

Other long term symptoms that have been reported by Covid-19 survivors, both suspected and confirmed, anecdotally, include:

  • Hearing problems 
  • ‘Brain fog’
  • Memory loss
  • A lack of concentration
  • Mental health problems
  • Hair loss

The impact of long Covid on people who had mild illness have not been studied in depth yet.  

Data from the King’s College London symptom tracking app shows that up to 500,000 people in the UK are currently suffering from the long-term effects of Covid-19.

That’s according to the founder of the Long Covid Support Group, Claire Hastie, who said the lasting effects of Covid-19 had left her wheelchair-bound after being diagnosed in March.

A survey recently found a third of British doctors have treated patients with long term Covid-19 symptoms, including chronic fatigue and anosmia.

‘Their testimonials were incredibly moving and concerning.’ 

One of these people was Claire Hastie, who is the founder of the Long Covid Support Group on Facebook.

She described how she used to cycle 13 miles to work but since her Covid-19 diagnosis in March, can no longer walk 13 metres and is now largely confined to a wheelchair with her children providing much of her care.

Dr Jake Suett, a staff grade doctor in anaesthetics and intensive care medicine, said: ‘I was doing 12-hour shifts in ICU.

‘And now a flight of stairs or the food shop is about what I can manage before I have to stop… if I’m on my feet then shortness of breath comes back, chest pain comes back.’

Ms Moran said: ‘What was clear was that we needed to make some urgent recommendations to the Prime Minister; the health, wellbeing and employment arrangements for those living with long Covid remain unaddressed.

‘And as the number of people with long Covid grows, the situation gets more and more urgent.’

The recommendations include more research into the condition and its long-term effects, new guidelines for employers and GPs to help sufferers return to work, and the regular collection of data on the number of people living with long Covid. 

Ms Moran said that general awareness of long Covid and its seriousness was too low in Westminster. 

She said she had written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on August 24 with APPG’s recommendation but had not received a response.  

‘It all has to start with formal recognition and we’re not even there yet,’ Ms Moran said.

‘At the time of writing, I have not received any response from the Prime Minister to our recommendations.

‘If we can’t even respect those suffering with this condition by formally acknowledging their plight, how are we supposed to put the support in place that is clearly needed?

‘What’s clear is that general awareness of long Covid, and its seriousness, is too low in Westminster.

‘That’s why as an APPG we will continue to work hard in the coming weeks to raise awareness of it in both Houses of Parliament.

‘After all, we’re doing this to save lives. That’s what matters.’

The true scale of long Covid is not known, partially because there is not yet a database to keep track of those suffering, but also because so many people who are convinced they suffered with Covid-19 never got a formal diagnosis, and it is too late to take a test now.

This makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly who is unwell due to Covid-19. However, many people suffering long term health problems claim to have a multitude of tests for other conditions, all of which have come back negative.

There have been a few studies on hospitalised Covid-19 patients, which only give part of the picture.

One study in Bristol has found almost three quarters of Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital still suffer symptoms three months later, the most common of which were fatigue and breathlessness. 

And more than half of patients who had heart scans while in hospital with Covid-19 showed abnormal changes to their organ, according to the British Heart Foundation.

But even people who weren’t hospitalised, and were once healthy and fit before being struck with the coronavirus, are battling side effects such as constant fatigue and muscle weakness, making it difficult to carry out basic daily tasks.

A survey recently found a third of British doctors have treated patients with long term Covid-19 symptoms, including chronic fatigue and anosmia. 

Data from the King’s College London symptom tracking app suggests that up to 500,000 people in the UK are currently suffering from the long-term effects of Covid-19. 

The Government has pumped £10million into studies into the long-lasting effects of the disease, which some experts have called ‘this generation’s polio’. 

The Department of Health announced that up to 10,000 people will be involved in the Leicester-led study to look at how people who catch the coronavirus fare long-term.  

The UK’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has said the longer term impacts of Covid-19 on health ‘may be significant’. 



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