The Health Secretary is urging the public to be wary of the effect of ‘long COVID’ on 10 percent of 19 to 49-year-olds.
Matt Hancock is appealing to people – especially young people – to follow the rules and protect themselves and others from COVID-19, as new data and a new film released today reveal the potentially devastating long-term impact of the virus.
The symptoms of ‘long COVID’, including fatigue, protracted loss of taste or smell, respiratory and cardiovascular symptoms and mental health problems, are described in a new film being released today as part of the wider national Hands, Face, Space campaign.
The film calls on the public to continue to wash their hands, cover their face and make space to control the spread of the virus.
The emotive film features the stories of Jade, 22, Jade, 32, Tom, 32 and John, 48, who explain how their lives have been affected – weeks and months after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
They discuss symptoms such as breathlessness when walking up the stairs, intermittent fevers and chest pain.
The film aims to raise awareness of the long-term impact of COVID-19 as we learn more about the virus.
A new study today from King’s College London, using data from the COVID Symptom Study App and ZOE, shows one in 20 people with COVID-19 are likely to have symptoms for 8 weeks or more.
The study suggests long COVID affects around 10 percent of 18 to 49 year olds who become unwell with COVID-19.
Public Health England have found that around 10 percent of COVID-19 cases who were not admitted to hospital have reported symptoms lasting more than four weeks and a number of hospitalised cases reported continuing symptoms for eight or more weeks after discharge.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I am acutely aware of the lasting and debilitating impact long COVID can have on people of all ages, irrespective of the seriousness of the initial symptoms.
“The findings from researchers at King’s College London are stark and this should be a sharp reminder to the public – including to young people – that COVID-19 is indiscriminate and can have long-term and potentially devastating effects.
“The more people take risks by meeting up in large groups or not social distancing, the more the wider population will suffer, and the more cases of long COVID we will see.
“The powerful new film we’re releasing today sheds light on the long-term impact this devastating virus has and should act as a stark reminder to us all.”
The government say it is committed to supporting people suffering long-term symptoms of COVID-19.
The NHS recently announced £10 million to run designated long COVID clinics in every area across England where respiratory consultants, physiotherapists, other specialists and GPs will all help assess, diagnose and treat thousands of people who have reported symptoms ranging from breathlessness, chronic fatigue, “brain fog” to anxiety and stress.
Most people recover from COVID-19 without needing special treatment and for the majority symptoms will clear after approximately 2 weeks (endnote 1).
But some of the persistent health problems reported for weeks and months after include continuing headaches, fatigue, respiratory symptoms such as lung inflammation, cardiovascular symptoms such as chest tightness, protracted loss or change of smell and taste and mental health problems, such as cognitive difficulties.
Tom, 32, who features in the film says: “Do not make the mistake of thinking that being young or being fit is going to stop COVID from having a long-term impact on your health.”
Jade, 22, who also features in the film said: “I haven’t had a day since mid-March where I’ve felt better.
“I’m a Nursery Practitioner and I haven’t been able to work for seven months now. I’m having to rest more, sleep more and I don’t have the energy that I used to at all.
“I really hope that I go back to my normal self. Not knowing makes me feel really worried about my future.”
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS Medical Director, said: “As we continue to learn more about COVID-19, it is clear that a significant minority of patients are suffering the after effects for weeks or months after contracting the virus.
“New specialist centres across the country will see respiratory consultants, physiotherapists, other specialists and GPs, all help assess, diagnose and treat patients who are suffering, and so it has never been more important that everyone does what they can to reduce the risk of spreading the virus by following the Hands, Face, Space guidance.”
New figures have been released as part of the Hands, Face, Space campaign which reveal uncertainty around how long it takes to recover from COVID-19.
Over a third of people (34 percent) believe COVID-19 symptoms disappear after four weeks, whilst 1 in 5 (20 percent) of the 18 to 34 age group state they thought this would take 2 weeks (endnote 2).
Over a third (31 percent) of the same respondents admitted they are unsure how long it would take to recover from COVID-19 symptoms.
Nearly a third (29 percent) of people aged between 18 to 34 said they weren’t aware it is possible to have COVID-19 without displaying symptoms, meaning many people could also be at risk of acting as a ‘carrier’ of COVID-19 and passing it on to vulnerable family members, further reinforcing the importance of adopting the three essential behaviours to protect ourselves and our loved ones.