May 30, 2024

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

The findings were released by the Office for National Statistics (WE) and covers the period from November 2023 to March 2024, revealing that of those who reported having prolonged Covid, around 1.5 million people – around three quarters – felt that their daily activities were affected, while 381,000 people – around ‘ a fifth – said their ability to undertake such activities was “very limited”.

Of those who reported the date their long-term Covid symptoms started, 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 ago.

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

“Our results show that although the peak of the pandemic has passed, the virus is still having an impact,” said James Tucker, the deputy director of the winter Covid infection survey at the ONS.

Dr Simon Williams, a behavioral scientist and public health researcher at Swansea University, said the findings point to 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 is more of an ongoing chronic crisis.

“Fortunately, because of vaccines, death rates and hospitalizations due to acute infection are and will likely remain low. But for a long time Covid is unfortunately a problem that cannot be ignored.” He added: “If we would have thought five years ago that a completely new disease, which can cause medium to long-term symptoms for some, and potentially disabling symptoms in around 3% of the population, which the new figures suggest. , would we should be extremely worried.”

Williams said the findings have significant implications not only for the day-to-day health and quality of life of those suffering from prolonged Covid, but also for the NHS and the wider economy.

“We are simultaneously seeing high rates of occupational illness and economic activity – with ill health a significant factor,” he said. “And so the fact that we have a disease that causes some degree of symptoms and functional impairment up to two years or more after infection is concerning.

“We must continue to invest heavily in research to better understand and treat chronic Covid, as well as provide support for those who are suffering.”

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