Record one in 28 people now believe they have long Covid

long Covid - JUSTIN TALLIS
long Covid - JUSTIN TALLIS

One in 28 people in Britain claims to be suffering from long Covid, the highest figure published to date.

Around 2.3 million people across the country (3.5 per cent) said they were still experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog and headaches at least four weeks after the infection cleared up.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed more than one million people claim to still have symptoms at least a year after testing positive for Covid, while 514,000 said they had experienced after-effects for at least two years.

The ONS has now moved to a new remote data collection method, and said the results were not fully comparable with previous surveys, meaning it is difficult to know if prevalence is rising or falling.

But the estimate is still the highest to date, with 3.5 per cent of the population claiming to have long Covid. Previous highs under the old recording system only reached 3.1 per cent.

The new figures also suggest there are sharp differences in the prevalence of long Covid among age groups and occupations.

Working-aged people between the ages of 35 and 69 were most likely to report symptoms, with one in 20 experiencing long-term effects.

Around 3.6 per cent of those aged between 24 and 34 had self-reported long Covid, compared with 2.9 per cent of 70s and over and 2.7 per cent of 17 to 24-year-olds.

People working in social care reported the highest prevalence of long Covid among employment groups (5.5 per cent, followed by civil servants and local government staff (5.2 per cent) and health care employees and teachers (5.0 per cent).

Levels were lower among occupations such as financial services (3.4 per cent), hospitality (3.5 per cent) and information technology (3.8 per cent).

Long Covid is likely to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 1.6 million people - nearly three-quarters of those with self-reported long Covid - with 342,000 saying their ability to undertake day-to-day activities has been "limited a lot", the ONS found.

Fatigue is the most common symptom (experienced by 69 per cent of those with long Covid), followed by difficulty concentrating (45 per cent), shortness of breath (42 per cent) and muscle ache (40 per cent).

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.