Long Covid: 2 million cases in UK, experts seek recognition of condition as ‘occupational illness’

Most cases reported to have tested positive a year ago

By Taran Deol
Published: Friday 03 June 2022
Long Covid: 2 million cases in UK, experts seek recognition of condition as ‘occupational illness’ Photo: iStock

Some two million people in the United Kingdom are living with self-reported post-acute sequelae SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC) —  also called Long Covid, data showed.

Long Covid is the condition in which COVID-19 symptoms such as breathlessness, muscle aches and fatigue persists for longer than four weeks since testing positive. A majority of the self-reported Long Covid cases — 826,000, which equates to 42 per cent — first had or suspected they had COVID-19 at least a year ago, according to data from the country’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) till May 1, 2022. 

Around 376,000 (19 per cent) of the cases claimed they tested positive at least two years ago, ONS data showed.

The trend was similar before the alpha variant became dominant and during the omicron wave. Some 593,000 (30 per cent) first had or suspected they had COVID-19 before the alpha wave hit while 619,000 (31 per cent) caught the virus in the omicron wave. 

During the alpha and delta waves, the figures were 239,000 (12 per cent) and 427,000 (21 per cent) respectively, ONS recorded.

The two million figure, representing 3 per cent of the country’s population, indicated a 10 per cent increase in the number of self-reported Long Covid cases recorded last month, while it’s double of what was reported a year ago in May 2021, when some one million people were living with the condition, according to ONS.

The body noted: 

As a proportion of the UK population, the prevalence of self-reported Long Covid was greatest in people aged 35-69 years, females, people living in more deprived areas, those working in social care, teaching and education or health care, and those with another activity-limiting health condition or disability.

Currently, fatigue is the most common symptom among cases of Long Covid, with 55 per cent people suffering from it. This is followed by shortness of breath (32 per cent), cough (23 per cent) and muscle ache (23 per cent). 

Such symptoms have “adversely affected” the daily lives of 1.4 million of the 2 million people living with Long Covid, the data showed. The remaining have seen a comparatively milder association, with their daily activities “limited a lot”. 

This has been the trend for the past one year: In May 2021, 674,000 of the total 1.1 million people living with Long Covid suffered adverse effects to their daily lives.

The estimates presented in this analysis relate to self-reported Long Covid, as experienced by study participants who responded to a representative survey, rather than clinically diagnosed, ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 or post-COVID-19 syndrome in the full population, the body notes. 

Our understanding of Long Covid is limited, but these findings confirm that it’s here to stay. “They put to rest any vestige of hope that Long Covid would somehow be just a thing of the early waves, would diminish in times of vaccination or ‘milder’ variants, or would just trail off,” Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London was quoted as saying in The Guardian.

The Bank of England shared some sobering findings May 9, 2022. The number of people 16-64 years of age out of the workforce and not wanting a job went up by 525,000 since the fourth quarter of 2019. Of these, 320,000 blame long-term sickness including Long Covid.

They must urgently classify Long Covid as an occupational illness, provide formal guidance to employers and increase funding for research into treatments, Layla Moran, member of parliament from Oxford West and Abingdon, told the same British daily

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.