New statistics on people who self-report having Long Covid symptoms show widespread prevalence, with the majority reporting symptoms that affect them on a day to day basis, particularly fatigue.
An estimated 1.8 million people are reported to have Long Covid, with the majority saying their symptoms affect them on a day to day basis, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Those defined as having Long Covid are people who report having symptoms persisting for more than four weeks after they first suspect that they have been infected with the coronavirus that cannot be explained by another reason. The study only related to people who self report Long Covid, rather than to those who have been clinically diagnosed.
Of those people with report Long Covid, 382,000 (21%) first had (or suspected they had) Covid-19 less than 12 weeks previously, 1.3 million people (73%) at least 12 weeks previously, 791,000 (44%) at least one year previously and 235,000 (13%) at least two years previously.
Of people with self-reported Long Covid, 556,000 (31%) first had (or suspected they had) Covid-19 before Alpha became the main variant. This figure was 249,000 (14%) in the Alpha period, 446,000 (25%) in the Delta period, and 438,000 (24%) in the Omicron period.
Long Covid symptoms adversely affected the day-to-day activities of 1.2 million people (67% of those with self-reported Long Covid), with 346,000 (19%) reporting that their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities had been “limited a lot”. Fatigue was the most common symptom, followed by shortness of break, loss of a sense of smell and difficult concentrating.
Those aged 35 to 49 years were more likely to report symptoms, as were women, people living in more deprived areas, those working in social care, teaching and education or healthcare and those with another activity-limiting health condition or disability.
Meanwhile, Long Covid groups expressed concern after the Equality and Human Rights Commission [EHRC] tweeted on Monday that “without case law or scientific consensus, EHRC does not recommend that ‘long Covid’ be treated as a disability”. Groups say this gives the green light to employers not to take action to help people affected stay in work.
The EHRC has now issued a statement on Long Covid, saying it believes not all cases will fall under the definition of disability in the Equality Act.
It states: “This does not affect whether ‘long Covid’ might amount to a disability for any particular individual – it will do so if it has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. This will be determined by the employment tribunal or court considering any claim of disability discrimination.”
The EHRC recommends that employers continue to follow existing guidance when considering reasonable adjustments for disabled people and access to flexible working when it comes to Long Covid, based on the circumstances of individual cases.