FRESH calls have been made to recognise long Covid as an occupational disease for key workers.

An All-Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus has urged Boris Johnson to recognise it officially and compensate frontline workers who are suffering from the long-term effects.

But what is the condition?

Here is what we know so far about the still-developing, ever-changing condition:

What is long Covid?

Long Covid can last for months. Image: PA Media

Long Covid, also known as post-Covid syndrome, is used to describe the effects of the virus which continue for weeks or months beyond the initial illness.

Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) define long Covid as “signs and symptoms that develop during or following an infection consistent with Covid-19 which continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis”.

The condition is associated with a range of symptoms, from fatigue and breathlessness to anxiety and depression.

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How many people get long Covid?

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One in five people who tested positive for coronavirus have gone on to develop longer-term symptoms, according to the most recent estimates.

Data from the Office for National Statistics published in December 2020 suggested around 186,000 people suffer problems for up to 12 weeks.

But research also suggests many patients with long Covid have been unable to properly return to work six months after infection.

What are the symptoms?

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According to Nice, long Covid usually presents with clusters of symptoms which may change over time and can affect any system within the body.

Lasting symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Breathlessness
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Palpitations
  • Chest pains
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Not being able to think straight or “brain fog”
  • Inflammation of the heart
  • Lung function abnormalities
  • Kidney injury and rashes
  • Neurological complaints such as taste, smell and concentration issues.

With so many symptoms it is difficult to diagnose.

What is the cause?

Pharmacist Bhaveen Patel prepares to give a dose of the Oxford / AstraZeneca covid vaccine to Brian Bourne at a coronavirus vaccination clinic held at Junction Pharmacy in Brixton, London. The roll out of the vaccination programme continues as the Governm

Medical experts are still trying to figure out what causes long Covid.

Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, can trigger an overactive immune response which also causes damage throughout the body.

Some believe the immune system does not return to normal after Covid-19 and this could be one of the reasons for prolonged ill-health.

One US study suggested low hormone levels in patients is a likely link to long Covid.

Meanwhile, in research published in the Lancet in November 2020, scientists in Italy found major structural changes in the lungs of patients who died with Covid-19.

Who is at risk of long Covid?

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Long Covid is not just people taking time to recover from severe disease.

Reports suggest even those with relatively mild infections can experience lasting health problems.

Researchers have said it cannot be assumed that people who are at lower risk of severe illness and death from Covid-19 are also at low risk of long Covid.

They said more work is needed to help those who are suffering, adding that many are “not believed” when they seek help.

What is being done about it?

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England now has nearly 70 clinics to address long Covid, harnessing doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists to offer physical and psychological assessments and refer patients to the right treatment and rehabilitation services.

Nice has also published official guidance on best practice for recognising, investigating and rehabilitating patients with long Covid.

Where can I get more information?

The NHS has a Your Covid Recovery plan, which contains advice, particularly for those who needed hospital treatment, and is available at