‘More than 400,000 people’ have had long Covid for over two years

·2-min read
Samples of Covid-19 in test tubes at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Archive)
Samples of Covid-19 in test tubes at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Archive)

More than 400,000 people in the UK with long Covid are likely to have first had the virus at least two years ago, new figures suggest.

A total of two million people across the country are estimated to be suffering from long Covid, according to a new survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Some 429,000 – the equivalent of around one in five (22%) – first had Covid-19, or suspected they had the virus, at least 24 months previously.

The number of people with long Covid who first had the virus at least one year ago is estimated to be 892,000, or 45% of the total.

The figures are based on self-reported long Covid from a representative sample of people in private households in the four weeks to July 31.

They show that long Covid is likely to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 1.5 million people – nearly three-quarters of those with self-reported long Covid – with 384,000 saying their ability to undertake day-to-day activities has been “limited a lot”.

Fatigue is the most common symptom (experienced by 62% of those with self-reported long Covid), followed by shortness of breath (37%), difficulty concentrating (33%) and muscle ache (31%).

The estimates cannot be compared directly with previous long Covid surveys published by the ONS, due to a change in the way the data has been collected.

Prevalence of long Covid is currently highest among 35 to 69-year-olds, at 4.4%, followed by 25 to 34-year-olds, at 3.0%.

People working in social care reported the highest prevalence of long Covid among employment groups (5.6%), followed by teachers and educators (4.4%) and arts and entertainment workers (4.3%).

There is no standard measure for long Covid, with the ONS using a definition based on symptoms that have persisted for more than four weeks after a first suspected coronavirus infection, where the symptoms could not be explained by something else.