Long Covid Support charity calls for investment in clean indoor air, particularly in healthcare settings and schools, and greater research into long-Covid treatments
The number of people in England with symptoms from Covid‐19 lasting more than a year after infection may run into the tens of thousands.
The findings come from researchers at Imperial College London (ICL), who analysed a sample from the Real-time Assessment of Community Transition (React) study, set up in 2020 to monitor the coronavirus epidemic.
The work found that while most people recovered from infection within two weeks, a significant proportion of the group (7.5%) reported persistent symptoms lasting 12 weeks or more and 5% reported symptoms lasting more than a year.
Professor Paul Elliott, Chair in Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine from the School of Public Health at ICL said that several factors had an impact on whether people would develop lasting symptoms, including the variant of SARS-CoV-2 people are infected with, the initial severity of their symptoms and whether they have pre-existing health conditions.
Dr Christina Atchison, Principal Clinical Academic Fellow within the School of Public Health and lead author of the study said that those infected when Omicron was dominant were far less likely to report symptoms lasting beyond 12 weeks, which may reflect the changing levels of immunity in the population.
Professor Helen Ward, from the School of Public Health at ICL, added that while the researchers had gained valuable insights they were undertaking detailed interviews to further understand the variation in people’s experiences and the impact on their everyday lives.
The analysis highlighted how persistent symptoms of Covid were related to worse mental health and quality of life. Females, those with more than one comorbidity, those from a deprived area, and people infected with an original strain of Covid were all related to a higher risk of symptoms lasting more than 12 weeks.
Mild fatigue, difficulty thinking or concentrating, and joint pains were the most common ongoing symptoms. Others reported loss or change of sense of smell or taste, shortness of breath, severe fatigue, chest tightness or pain and poor memory.
“We need investment in clean indoor air, particularly in healthcare settings and schools, to prevent more people developing this potentially life-changing condition…”
Claire Hastie, a founder of the Long Covid Support charity said the study added to the body of evidence. “We know from our support group that people are continuing to develop long-Covid from the current wave of infection.
“We need investment in clean indoor air, particularly in healthcare settings and schools, to prevent more people developing this potentially life-changing condition, and a significant and urgent increase in research into treatments for those already living with long-Covid.”
Lauren Walker, Professional Advisor at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists said that long-Covid continues to have a ‘huge impact’.
She said: “Symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog and pain can make it difficult for people to complete even simple tasks. Complex activities, like being able to work or take care of family can feel impossible. For children, their ability to attend school can be seriously reduced. This is clearly extremely challenging for these individuals and it affects national productivity.
“Occupational therapy focuses on helping people to return to work or education, as well as being able to manage social activities and tasks at home. Unfortunately, access to occupational therapy varies across the country and not everyone who needs it receives it.”