Long Covid is still affecting about a million people in the UK, with the number of patients living with symptoms for many months on the rise, the llatest Office for National Statistics data have shown.
The figures, published 4 June using data collected up until 2 May, show that 1.6% of people living in private households said they were experiencing symptoms lasting longer then four weeks after they first suspected Covid-19 infection.
Of those, 869,000 first had (or suspected they had) were first infected at least 12 weeks previously, and 376,000 had been living with ongoing symptoms for at least a year.
While the overall figure of one million hasn’t changed since previous data in March, the numbers living with symptoms for many months has grown substantially.
The ONS Coronavirus Infection Survey, found that 650,000 people said their long Covid symptoms were adversely affecting the day-to-day activities and 192,000 individuals reported that their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities had been limited a lot.
Fatigue remains the most common symptom, followed by shortness of breath, muscle ache and difficulty concentrating, the ONS said.
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.
In its report, the ONS said the increased prevalence of self-reported long Covid among health and social care workers was largely explained by socio-demographic characteristics as well as the risk of initial infection.
Dr David Strain, senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter said the figures highlighted the devastating longer term impact of Covid.
‘The numbers of people with symptoms beyond 12 weeks have risen by almost a quarter, and nearly 200 thousand unable to work and function normally.
‘With over 300 thousand more people reporting symptoms lasting beyond 12 months, it is becoming clear that this is not getting better on its own stressing the need for further research into treatments for this condition.’
Professor Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at The Open University, said the estimated number of people now having symptoms for more than 12 weeks was around 1 in 75 of the population – quite a lot higher than the March estimate.
And he added that the number who had been ill for a year or more was a huge increase but perhaps not surprising as the figures would now be showing more people who first became ill during the first wave.
He said: ‘376,000 is very roughly the population of the entire urban area of Coventry, or Bradford, or Cardiff, so we have a whole Coventry-full of people who have had symptoms related to Covid-19 for a year or more.’
South East London GP and former CCG chair Dr Marc Rowland noted via Twitter that this ‘will generate a huge workload’ for GPs.