Concerns over government's silence around 'long COVID' health problems

Jimmy Nsubuga
·2 mins read
A woman wearing a face mask walks along Regent Street in London, England, on September 22, 2020. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this afternoon announced a raft of new coronavirus restrictions to apply across England, possibly to last the next six months, including requiring pubs and restaurants to close at 10pm and for retail staff to all wear face masks. A return to home working where possible is also being encouraged. The new measures come amid fears of a 'second wave' of covid-19 deaths prompted by rising numbers of people testing positive in recent weeks. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Up to 60,000 people could have suffered from long-term effects from coronavirus. (Getty)

The government has been criticised over its apparent silence around “long COVID” health problems.

A study from the COVID Symptom Study app claimed earlier this month that up to 60,000 people may have suffered adverse effects from coronavirus for more than three months.

Some of those affected with long-term symptoms have described how they were previously fit and healthy but are now confined to a wheelchair.

Breathlessness and fatigue have been reported, and some people have said shopping or climbing stairs can leave them bedridden for days.

Dr Freya Jephcott, research fellow in emerging infectious diseases at Cambridge University, has criticised the government for not saying more about the potential long-term issue for COVID-19 sufferers.

Dr Jephcott said: “The lack of mention of adverse outcomes other than death is a concerning gap in the narrative presented today.

“There is increasing evidence that a significant minority of people under 45 years of age, including children, will develop a protracted form of the illness which last months, if not years.

She added that 39 doctors personally afflicted by long COVID published a letter in the British Medical Journal last week emphasising their concern that adverse outcomes were not being adequately captured and then incorporated into public-health messaging and decision-making.

Read more: ‘What about long COVID?’ Concerns over calls to let virus 'go though the young'

Professor Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, said data from the COVID Symptom Study app had shown around 300,000 people reporting symptoms lasting for more than a month.

Up to 60,000 people reported having symptoms for more than three months.

An elderly couple wearing face masks walk along Regent Street in London, England, on September 22, 2020. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this afternoon announced a raft of new coronavirus restrictions to apply across England, possibly to last the next six months, including requiring pubs and restaurants to close at 10pm and for retail staff to all wear face masks. A return to home working where possible is also being encouraged. The new measures come amid fears of a 'second wave' of covid-19 deaths prompted by rising numbers of people testing positive in recent weeks. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
New restrictions were imposed in the UK this week. (Getty)

Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at Southampton University, said he was concerned that England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance had not mentioned long COVID on Monday during their press conference.

He added: “(Lingering) symptoms are common, occurring in 10-20% of non-hospitalised cases.

“Severe fatigue and breathlessness (are) among the most common symptoms.

“The long-term burden of disease is still emerging but we can be fairly sure it will be extensive.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this month that some people were still experiencing symptoms six months after contracting the virus.

Coronavirus: what happened today

Click here to sign up to the latest news, advice and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter