Matt Hancock says the ‘thousands suffering long Covid’ proves the coronavirus can ‘strike us all’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned the ‘many thousands of people suffering from long Covid’ highlights how the virus does not just prey on the elderly. 

As many as 60,000 people of all ages in the UK are thought to be suffering from long-lasting effects of coronavirus, which linger after the original illness has cleared up.

Speaking at the Downing Street briefing this evening, Mr Hancock said it demonstrated how the ‘virus can strike us all, and we must all do our bit to strike back.’

He said even the young and healthy are suffering symptoms months after their coronavirus illness. These include fatigue, breathlessness and brain problems. 

Mr Hancock confirmed at least 43 NHS mini-hospitals are to be established in England to help those suffering from long Covid.

The centres will offer support to as many as 500,000 people thought to be suffering prolonged effects of the virus, including breathlessness, fatigue and anxiety. He said up to 40 of them will open next month,

Matt Hancock said the ‘many thousands of people suffering from long Covid’ shows the virus can ‘strike us all’

Ten sites are already earmarked for the Midlands, seven in the North East, six each in the East of England, South West and South East, five in London and three in the North West.

A person will need a referral from a GP or other healthcare professional to access the service. 

About five per cent of those who get coronavirus experience symptoms that last for 12 weeks or more, according to research by King’s College London. It is double that for those under the age of 50.

More than two-thirds of those hospitalised because of the virus suffer from debilitating symptoms more than seven weeks after being discharged, a study in the medical journal Thorax reported.

Mr Hancock said: ‘[The] threat is not just to the oldest and most vulnerable, but of anyone of any age from any background.

LONG COVID: WHAT IS IT AND COULD IT BE FOUR DIFFERENT SYNDROMES? 

Covid-19 is described as a short-term illness caused by infection with the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Public health officials tend to say people will recover within two weeks or so. 

However it’s become increasingly clear that this is not the case for everyone, and that the two-week period is only the ‘acute illness’ phase.

The North Bristol NHS Trust’s Discover project, which is studying the longer-term effects of coronavirus, found that out of a total of 110 patients given a three-month check up, most (74 per cent) had at least one persistent symptom after twelve weeks. The most common were:

Excessive fatigue: 39%Breathlessness: 39%Insomnia: 24%  Muscle pain: 23%Chest pain: 13%Cough: 12%Loss of smell: 12%Headache, fever, joint pain and diarrhoea: Each less than 10% 

Other long term symptoms that have been reported by Covid-19 survivors, both suspected and confirmed, anecdotally, include hearing problems, ‘brain fog’, memory loss, lack of concentration, mental health problems and hair loss.

The impact of Long Covid on people who had mild illness have not been studied in depth yet.  

Data from the King’s College London symptom tracking app shows that up to 500,000 people in the UK are currently suffering from the long-term effects of Covid-19.

In October, scientists claimed Long Covid could actually be split into four different syndromes.  

Academics at the National Institute for Health Research — headed up by Professor Chris Whitty — were asked to review the limited evidence on long Covid to help both patients and doctors understand the ‘phenomenon’. 

Their findings warned that even children can suffer and it can’t be assumed that people who are at lower risk of severe illness and death from Covid-19 are also at low risk of lasting side effects.

Doctors cautioned some mental health problems such as anxiety and depression in ‘long-haulers’, as they are known, could be down to lockdowns, as opposed to the virus itself. 

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