What is post-Covid syndrome? Sufferers report feeling crushing fatigue, breathlessness and brain fog after recovering from coronavirus

Scientists want to ascertain whether "post-Covid syndrome" should be recognised as an illness in its own right as Covid-19 sufferers are reporting debilitating symptoms for weeks or months after recovery from coronavirus. A recent study has revealed that one in ten people are struggling to shake off Covid-19, many are experiencing crushing fatigue, breathlessness and brain fog longer than expected – in some cases leaving them bed-bound or unable to work full time. 

28-year-old Callum O'Dwyer, who developed coronavirus symptoms that lasted for two weeks, is now suffering from post-viral fatigue.

Speaking to Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain, Callum described what he has been feeling three months since he started showing coronavirus symptoms.

"The fatigue, muscle weakness and brain fog, recurring shortness of breath has left me struggling. it's very debilitating...Several times it's felt like the clouds have broken through. I'm starting to get better but over and over again, it's put me back a few stages and it's that cycle of 'I'm starting to get better' and then I fall back is so frustrating. It's so difficult for people and that's been my life for three months now."

Addressing the syndrome that many Covid-19 suffers have faced, Professor Rob Copeland, director of new Sheffield Hallam research centre, said: "What this has shone a light on is the perception that whether you have this virus really severely and you end up in hospital or you recover immediately after two weeks, it's just not the case.

"We've seen thousands of people and the data from the Covid symptoms study suggests there are hundreds of thousands of people for whom long term symptoms persist. The chronic fatigue particularly is a key challenge and the non-linear recovery that Callum talked about is perhaps one of the most interesting elements because you feel like you're on the road to recovery, the symptoms appear to lift and then you start to engage in your usual behaviour. Maybe you go out and engage in some physical activity and a couple of days later, it can knock you back so for us at the research centre, that's really interesting to explore," he added.

Peter Julian spent 17 days in hospital, eight of those were on a ventilator. He believes he has post-intensive care syndrome, a form of PTSD.

He said: "Right now after nine weeks out, I can walk ten minutes before I get breathless. The worst things are the cognitive problems so my memory and my short term and long term memory is gone. Also, you really struggle to do cognitive tasks. If I write an email or do anything like that, I have 25 minutes a day before I'm worn out for the rest of the day. Following conversations is really hard, you get confused and it gets worse through the day so I start off fairly ok in the morning and then dip through the day."

An NHS spokesperson said: "In response to the greatest health emergency of our time, frontline and support staff across the NHS have moved heaven and earth to provide expert care for tens of thousands of Covid patients treated in our hospitals.

"While our country emerges from the peak of coronavirus, the next phase of the health service's response to coronavirus will mean expanding and strengthening community health and care services in new ways, as well setting up extra psychological care for staff."