‘Do not oversimplify long Covid’ says Leeds health chief

Leeds’s most senior health chief has warned the issue of long Covid should not be “oversimplified”, adding that scientists are yet to reach an agreement on the exact nature of the condition.

Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 11:45 am

It follows a document released by Leeds City Council which estimated nearly 13,000 people in Leeds were living with long Covid – where Coronavirus-like symptoms continue for weeks or even months after an initial infection.

A meeting of the council’s Health Scrutiny Board also heard how some suffering from the condition were often reluctant to seek treatment because they felt “guilty” at their lack of seemingly serious symptoms.

Leeds City Council’s director of public health Victoria Eaton told the meeting: “This is a very emerging understanding of what we are calling ‘long Covid’.

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It follows a document released by Leeds City Council which estimated nearly 13,000 people in Leeds were living with long Covid – where Coronavirus-like symptoms continue for weeks or even months after an initial infection.

“We have weekly calls with the chief medical officer nationally – he is very keen to stress that this is a very fast moving landscape and there is a lot of clinical disagreement about what this thing is called long Covid.

“What is clear is it is not a single condition – it is a whole range of different symptoms. The more we can understand how fast moving this is, the better. In terms of how we get the numbers – it is literally self-reported data, which has lots of flaws and requires people to report.

“When the report came out in September from the Office for National Statistics, we quickly made sure it was in the report, because it was different from the previous month’s report – it is moving that quickly

“Please don’t oversimplify this – it is not just one condition. There are many other post-viral conditions as well. It is a range of conditions of a post-viral suite of symptoms.”

According to council documents, long Covid currently refers to symptoms lasting for more than four weeks after the first infection and are not explained by something else. The most common include fatigue, ongoing shortness of breath, muscle and chest pains, ‘brain fog’ and anxiety. Symptoms can fluctuate over weeks so individuals can seem to be getting better, then get worse again.

The office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that around 1.5 per cent of the UK population were suffering from long Covid on August 1. The Leeds City Council report stated that “this equates to 12,807 people in Leeds.”

Lisa Hollingworth, from the NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “57 percent of people were not able to work, had lost their job as a result of long Covid, or were working modified hours.

“This is a new condition – it is ever-evolving and we are ever-responding.

“The data from the ONS is self-reported, so we need to bear those caveats in mind. Long Covid is likely to amplify existing inequalities.”

Jenny Davidson, a clinical coordinator for Leeds’s long Covid team, said more has been done to encourage those suffering long Covid symptoms to come forward for treatment.

She said: “We have been on the radio a lot and on the news a few times, because it is really important to know. We have some people who report who feel like a fraud because they weren’t that poorly in the first place. They are almost apologetic for taking up services.”