Three quarters of UK long COVID-19 sufferers working less: Survey

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More than three quarters of British people who have suffered persistent ill health following a COVID-19 infection have had to cut back or change the work they do, according to a survey on the impact of long COVID-19 published on Wednesday.

The survey of 1 002 people, conducted by market research company census wide in October for recruitment website Indeed, adds to signs that long COVID-19 continues to be a factor behind widespread labour shortages in Britain. Some 98% of long COVID-19 sufferers said the condition had limited their ability to work, 78% had needed to cut back or change their work and 19% had ceased work altogether.

“Our research shows that the health emergency has become an employment crisis,” said Danny Stacy, a senior adviser at Indeed. Long COVID-19, a collection of symptoms ranging from pain and heart palpitations to insomnia and brain fog, can last for many months after initial infection.

Britain’s most recent official labour market data showed that a record proportion of people classified as “economically inactive” – neither working nor looking for a job – were suffering from long-term sickness. In absolute terms, the number of working-age people who are long-term sick has risen by 378, 000 since early 2020.

Bank of England officials have highlighted lengthy waits for routine treatment in Britain’s public healthcare system, as well as long COVID-19, as potential reasons for the rise, which limits the economy’s ability to grow without boosting inflation.

The Office for National Statistics estimates that 2.1million people – 3.3% of the population – were suffering from long COVID-19 as of October 1, which it defined as symptoms that had lasted more than four weeks after a COVID-19 infection. Of those, 73% said long COVID-19 was limiting their day-to-day activities, and 16% – 333 000 people – said their activities had been significantly limited.

In the Indeed survey, 59% of people diagnosed with long COVID-19 said they felt more tired, 42% felt physically weaker, 37% found it harder to concentrate and 19% were in pain when working.