More than 50,000 people in Wales are estimated to be suffering with the long-term effects of coronavirus, a new study has found.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which conducted a Covid-19 infection survey over the four-week period ending March 6, revealed that around 56,000 people in Wales had reported experiencing ‘long Covid’.

According to the study, someone is defined as having long Covid when symptoms, including a persistent cough, breathlessness, headaches and fatigue, last for more than four weeks.

Other typical and debilitating side-effects include heart palpitations, gut problems, pins and needles, numbness and “brain fog”.

(Image: Press Association Images)

The study found that prevalence of long Covid was higher for women who participated in the survey (14.7%) than men (12.7%) and was highest among those aged 25 to 34 (18.2%).

Across the whole of the UK, the analysis found that an estimated 1.1 million people had long Covid, including 932,000 in England, 79,000 in Scotland and 26,000 in Northern Ireland.

Some 697,000 people had been suffering with side-effects for at least 12 weeks. This duration extended to beyond six months for 473,000 people and one year for 70,000 people.

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Ben Humberstone, head of health analysis and life events at the Office for National Statistics, said: “The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that over a million people in the UK were reporting symptoms associated with long Covid at the beginning of March 2021, with over two-thirds of these individuals having had (or suspecting they had) Covid-19 at least 12 weeks earlier.

“An estimated 674,000 people reported that their symptoms have negatively impacted on their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities. People who tested positive for Covid-19 are around eight times more likely to suffer prolonged symptoms than observed in the general population.”

The study found that the prevalence rates of self-reported long Covid was highest in Wales (1.9%), followed by England (1.7%), Scotland (1.5%) and Northern Ireland (1.4%).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, health and social care workers experienced the highest prevalence rates of self-reported long Covid (3.6% and 3.1% respectively), while those in the most deprived social group also reported the greatest levels of the long-term form of the condition.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething
(Image: Matthew Horwood)

In a written statement last month, Health Minister Vaughan Gething said the Welsh Government was working alongside the other UK nations to look at “shared priorities and areas for collaboration on long Covid”.

In February, NHS chief executive Andrew Goodall wrote to all health boards to outline the ‘all-Wales community pathway’ for long Covid based on NICE guidelines.

Meanwhile the NHS Wales Covid Recovery App, launched on January 20, also supports anyone recovering from the long-term impact of the condition.

“All health boards continue to work closely with their GP practices and community services to evolve their local pathways for timely access to the right professional or integrated service for each individual,” said Mr Gething.

“My officials and health boards are engaging with patient support groups to listen to people’s experiences. This insight is helping to identify and shape what further improvements are needed.

“By the end of March, all GP practice systems will have the codes for recording people with long-Covid. This important data, together with the ongoing research, will inform future local service planning and delivery.”


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