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This is according to the REACT-2 study, led by Imperial College London and funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. Between September 2020 and February 2021, researchers surveyed more than 500,000 people in a random sample to find out if they had had Covid-19 (confirmed or suspected) and persistent symptoms.
The survey showed that 37.7% of people had at least one symptom that persisted for at least 12 weeks, which was severe (‘significant effect on my daily life’) in 30.5% of cases. 14.8% reported three or more symptoms. The prevalence of persistent symptoms was higher in women than in men. It increased linearly with age. Overweight, smoking or vaping, and hospitalisation were also associated with a higher probability of persistent symptoms. In terms of symptoms, two groups were identified: in the largest group, fatigue predominated, while in the second group, respiratory and related symptoms prevailed.
The Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) cites a recent report by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) that 5% of Covid long victims were forced to leave their jobs. The National Health Service (NHS) “is beginning to organise itself to deal with this tsunami of people, mainly of working age, struggling to get back to normal”. But the SOM spoke out in favour of urgent action and made some recommendations, such as flexible working arrangements to facilitate a return to work or clear policies between the employee and the manager.
Professor Paul Elliott, director of the React programme at Imperial College London, said their findings paint a worrying picture of the long-term health consequences of Covid. He added: “Long Covid is still poorly understood, but we hope that through our research we can contribute to better identification and management of this disease, which our data and others suggest could ultimately affect millions of people in the UK.
Study “Persistent symptoms following SARS-CoV-2 infection in a random community sample of 508,707 people” (pdf)
SOM guide “COVID-19 return to work guide For managers” (pdf)