A health expert said as many as 10 to 20% of coronavirus cases have resulted in people reporting long Covid symptoms.

Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said the figure of one in 20 people with long Covid, which was reported in October by King’s College London, was “a bit low”.

Speaking on Times Radio, he said: “Many people would have 10-20% as their range if you look at the papers on how many people are still reporting significant symptoms several months afterwards.”

Prof Altmann is calling for long Covid clinics to open in the UK.

Long Covid sees people report debilitating symptoms six to 12 months after catching the initial Covid infection – including extreme fatigue, confusion and headaches.

“The UK has been fairly speedy at recognising it (long Covid), the problem is recognising it and doing something aren’t necessarily the same things,” he told Times Radio.

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Prof Altmann said he made the case for long Covid clinics at a World Health Organisation meeting this week, adding: “The point I was trying to make was really a call to arms for some really good solid research and mechanisms here, because there’s no point just having the banner above the clinic if we haven’t got the doctors to sit in them.

Prof Altmann warned that long Covid would create an additional burden on the NHS.

He was asked on Times Radio whether long Covid would become less of an issue as fewer people become severely ill from coronavirus, to which he replied: “Probably not”.

He said: “I think for me the rule of thumb at the moment looking at the long Covid cases is there’s no absolute correlation with how severe your initial attack was.

“So there’s plenty of people out there who barely know they had it and never had a PCR test or antibody test who are suffering massively still from long Covid.

“It really worries me, the kind of burden I’ve been suggesting is equivalent to our NHS burden of arthritis, which is one of the biggest cause on our NHS time and expenditure.

“It’s a real thing to worry and think about for the future, for patients and healthcare planning.”

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Prof Altmann said he agreed with the Health Secretary’s comments about the UK potentially living with coronavirus in the future in the same way as the flu.

Matt Hancock said he hoped Covid-19 will become a treatable disease by the end of the year.

Prof Altmann told Times Radio: “I agree with the “by the end of the year” part, I think the jury’s out on what the future will look like.”

On news of the number of coronavirus patients in hospitals going down, he said: “We’re all following the data in the UK and from Israel, who are a little bit ahead of the curve in terms of vaccinations, and seeing those transmission graphs absolutely being quashed.

“We can’t easily pick apart how much of that is lockdown, how much is vaccination, but it’s certainly both of those things.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we are winning finally.”


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