Long Covid: New figures suggest one million people suffering with symptoms in UK

Credit: PA

There has been a "marked increase" in the number of people experiencing long Covid for at least a year, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

Statisticians estimate that one million people in the community had ongoing symptoms in the four weeks to May 2 after contracting the virus at least three months beforehand, the new ONS figures report.

An estimated 869,000 first had Covid-19 – or suspected they had it – at least 12 weeks previously while 376,000 first had the virus or suspected they had the virus at least one year ago.

Previous figures, covering the four weeks to March 6, 2021, suggested 70,000 people in private households in the UK had experienced symptoms of long Covid for at least 12 months.

These people would have been infected before March 6, 2020, early in the pandemic and before the peak of the first wave of the virus.

The latest figures, for the four weeks to May 2, put the number at 376,000 and will include people infected during the peak of the first wave.

Long Covid was estimated to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 650,000 people, with 192,000 reporting that their ability to undertake day-to-day activities had been limited a lot.

Long Covid describes a range of symptoms that persist for more than four weeks after being infected with the virus. Symptoms vary but include fatigue, muscle pain and difficulty concentrating, or "brain fog".

Fatigue (weakness or tiredness) was the most common symptom reported as part of individuals’ experience of long Covid up until May 2 (547,000 out of one million people), followed by shortness of breath (405,000), muscle ache (313,000) and difficulty concentrating (285,000).

Prevalence of self-reported long Covid was greatest in people aged 35 to 69 years, females, those living in the most deprived areas, those working in health or social care and those with another activity-limiting health condition or disability, the ONS found.

Layla Moran, who chairs the APPG on coronavirus, said: “These figures should serve as a wake-up call to ministers that they must urgently fix the postcode lottery of care facing those with long Covid.

“Hundreds of thousands of people around the country are struggling with the debilitating impact of this condition yet are still not receiving the care they need.

“Our research has found that long Covid patients are waiting over 100 days for treatment while in some areas the clinics promised by the Government have been delayed.

“The Government must take steps to alleviate the suffering faced by those with this cruel disease and factor in the risks posed by long Covid as restrictions are eased.”