Nearly four years since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, you could be forgiven for believing the pandemic is behind us. But for many, it feels far from over.
Close to two million people face a daily battle with debilitating symptoms of Long Covid – the lasting symptoms of the virus that remain after the infection is gone – with some now housebound, unable to walk and even partially blind.
Alan Chambers, 49, is among those who have been grappling with the illness for years, having caught coronavirus in March 2020.
Mr Chambers went from being “a fit, healthy, working member of the community who would do anything to help anyone” to being “ill and isolated in our bedroom”, blind in one eye and no longer able to walk unaided, his wife Vicki said.
As of March, an estimated 1.9 million people in the UK have experienced coronavirus symptoms for more than four weeks, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics. Of those, 1.5 million reported the condition had adversely affected their day-to-day activities.
It comes as coronavirus case rates have shown an overall increase since July, with fears the approaching winter will bring a further surge in infections.
Yet in May, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that coronavirus no longer represents a global health emergency, which was seen as a symbolic step towards the end of the pandemic.
Dr Jo House, founding member and health advocacy lead at Long Covid Support, said the advocacy group now has 62,000 members, with about 250 more people joining every month.
“In their words, they feel ‘forgotten, unheard, disbelieved, isolated, unemployed, disabled, immobile’.
NHS England admitted to The Independent that access to necessary support, treatment and care for Long Covid patients is still lacking. It said there was “still more to do to ensure support is there for everyone who needs it”, so that patients requiring specialist assessment and treatment for Long Covid can access care in a timely way.
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Source: The Independent, 29 November 2023