About 2m people have long Covid in England and Scotland, figures show | Long Covid


About 2 million people in England and Scotland say they are experiencing long Covid, figures reveal, with many reporting their symptoms have lasted two years or longer.

The findings were released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and cover the period from November 2023 to March 2024, revealing of those who reported having long Covid, about 1.5 million people – about three-quarters– felt their day-to-day activities were affected, while 381,000 people – about a fifth – said their ability to undertake such activities had been “limited a lot”.

Of those who reported the date their long Covid symptoms began, 71.1% said they started at least a year before, 51.3% said it was at least two years ago and for 30.6% it was at least three years previously.

Prevalence was highest among those aged 45 to 64, women, people not working or looking for work, and those in the north-west of England.

“Our results show that while the peak of the pandemic has passed, the virus continues to have an impact,” said James Tucker, the deputy director of the winter Covid infection survey at the ONS.

Dr Simon Williams, a behavioural scientist and public health researcher at Swansea University, said the findings indicated an absolute public health crisis: “It may not be an acute crisis like we saw in 2020-21 and the early peaks of pre-vaccination Covid, but it’s more of an ongoing chronic crisis.

“Thankfully due to vaccines, death rates and hospitalisations due to acute infection are and will likely remain low. But long Covid is unfortunately a problem that cannot be ignored.” He added: “If five years ago, we were to imagine that a completely new disease, which for some can cause medium- to long-term, and potentially disabling symptoms in approximately 3% of the population, which is what the new figures suggest, we would be enormously concerned.”

Williams said the findings had significant implications, not just on the day-to-day health and quality of life of those suffering from long Covid, but also on the NHS and the economy at large.

“We are concurrently seeing high rates of work sickness and economic activity – with ill health a considerable factor,” he said. “And so the fact that we have a disease which is to some extent causing symptoms and functional impairment up to two years or longer after infection is concerning.

“We need to continue to invest heavily in research to better understand and treat long Covid, as well as to provide support for those suffering.”

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