‘Nearly 600,000 people’ in UK have had long Covid for at least two years

Nearly 600,000 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 2.2 million people across the country are currently estimated to be suffering from long Covid, or 3.4% of the population.

This includes 594,000 who first had Covid-19, or suspected they had the virus, at least 24 months previously.

The figures have been published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and are based on self-reported long Covid from a representative sample of people in private households in the four weeks to November 6.

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They show the overall number of people with long Covid is broadly unchanged since the previous survey for the period up to October 1, when the estimated total was 2.1 million.

But the number estimated to have had long Covid for at least two years has climbed from 507,000 to 594,000.

Some 1.2 million people are estimated to have had long Covid for at least a year, up month-on-month from 1.1 million.

There continue to be sharp differences in the prevalence of long Covid among age groups and occupations.

An estimated 5.0% (around one in 20) of 50-69 year-olds are currently likely to be suffering from long Covid, compared with 4.8% of 35 to 49-year-olds, 3.1% of 25-34 year-olds, 2.9% of people aged 70 and over and 2.4 % of 17-24 year-olds.

People working in social care reported the highest prevalence of long Covid among employment groups (6.6%), followed by civil servants and local government staff (5.1%) and health care employees (4.8%).

Levels were lower among occupations such as financial services (3.2%), farming (3.2%) and hospitality (3.4%).

Long Covid is likely to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 1.6 million people – three-quarters of those with self-reported long Covid – with 370,000 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 70% of those with long Covid), followed by difficulty concentrating (48%), shortness of breath (46%) and muscle ache (45%).

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.