Infection rates are down, but we need to talk about long Covid - Dr Gwenetta Curry

As people across the UK are being pushed to “live with” the virus, further consideration should be made to address long Covid.

According to the Office of National Statistics, an estimated 1.5 million people living in private households in the UK (2.4% of the population) were experiencing self-reported long Covid at the end of January. This is when symptoms persist for more than four weeks after the first suspected coronavirus infection and cannot be explained by something else.

The highest prevalence of long Covid has been among people between the ages of 35 to 49 years, females, those living in deprived areas, those working in teaching and education, social or health care, and those with disability. The increasing numbers of people suffering from long Covid could have a major impact on their future employment options.

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Insight: The Scots who are living with nightmare of ‘long Covid’
Gwenetta Curry, a lecturer in Race, Ethnicity, and Health at Edinburgh University, says its time to look at the impact of rising numbers of long Covid cases in Scotland. PIC: Contributed.

Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 48,336 new Covid cases, which is a significant decrease from the previous weeks. While the decrease in cases looks promising, hospitalisations remain disturbingly high.

Hospitalisations hit record levels over the past week with over 2,300 people in hospital testing positive for Covid-19 on April 5th compared to over 2,000 at the peak of the pandemic in January 2021.

The influx of Covid patients continues to put pressure on the already overworked NHS staff which increases not only the risk to the lives of staff but also to patients. The new Omicron variants have proven to be highly transmissible but less severe than the previous Delta wave. It has been reported that the risk of death from the Omicron variant is 60% less than in previous variants. The high levels of community transmission will undoubtedly cause an increase in those suffering from long Covid.

We have seen major increases in the infection rates among children causing a high number of school absences. Last month at least six schools in Scotland have been fully closed due to high numbers of staff being off work due to infection rates. Long Covid among children is another concern for many parents across the U.K. Since the beginning of the pandemic, it has been echoed that the risk of children having a severe reaction to Covid is extremely low. The data supports the notion that children rarely die from Covid but death can not be the only measure.

As we move forward with lifting restrictions children’s overall wellbeing should be at the front of the decision-making. The Covid-19 vaccines have now been made available for children between the ages of 5 and 11 across the UK.

Children in this age group in other countries such as the United States, Canada, Brazil and across the European Uniion have been vaccinated months before the UK with promising results.

As we move forward with removing restrictions and safeguards it will be more important than ever that everyone receives a Covid vaccine as well as a booster. Ethnic minority communities are lagging in vaccine uptake with the lowest uptake being among the Caribbean or Black ethnic communities (68%) compared to 89% among white ethnic groups. Protecting all communities across Scotland will help ensure everyone can safely enjoy the new normal we are all experiencing.

Dr Gwenetta Curry is an Edinburgh University lecturer on race, ethnicity and health

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