Around one in five people with coronavirus may go on to suffer long Covid, new data suggests.
For the first time, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published figures examining long Covid, finding that a fifth of people have symptoms for five weeks or more while around one in ten are affected for 12 weeks or more.
Overall, around 186,000 people in private households in England in the week beginning November 22 were living with Covid-19 symptoms that had persisted for between five and 12 weeks, the ONS said.
When looking at symptoms among people five weeks after testing positive for Covid-19, the ONS estimated that 11.5% of respondents were still experiencing fatigue, 11.4% had a cough and 10.1% had a headache.
Some 8.2% were still experiencing a loss of taste while 7.9% still had a loss of smell.
All estimates are based on responses collected as part of the ONS Covid-19 infection survey, which tests thousands of people for coronavirus whether or not they have symptoms.
This data does not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutions.
Sarah MacFadyen head of policy at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: “While it’s still early days, these welcome insights helps us to build a better picture of the impact of long Covid.
“What we need to see now is further research into this so we can better support people.
“Shortness of breath is listed as a common symptom and we’re hearing from many people via our Post-Covid Hub who are struggling with breathlessness.
“We’ve heard from many people enduring a long recovery from Covid and some are in a frustrating endless loop of symptoms – feeling better one day and worse the next.
“Long Covid clinics are due to open in England. These need to be rolled out urgently and across the UK so that people can access help and support wherever they live.”
The ONS is also investigating Covid-19 complications by looking at GP records, hospital data, deaths and testing figures.
To date, it has analysed the healthcare records of patients in hospital with Covid-19 until the end of August.
It has compared their complication rate to the end of September with people in hospital but not with Covid-19.
The results suggest that patients in hospital with coronavirus have higher rates of metabolic, cardiovascular, kidney and liver disease compared to those without.
Higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease were particularly notable, the ONS said.
It added: “While these results do not confirm the presence of a causal relationship between Covid-19 hospitalisation and subsequent adverse health events, they are suggestive of a statistical association that warrants further investigation.”
A small study published in October from the National Institute for Health Research, which is largely funded by the Department of Health and Social Care, suggested that long Covid may in fact be four different syndromes.
These are permanent organ damage to the lungs and heart, post-intensive-care syndrome, post-viral fatigue syndrome and continuing Covid-19 symptoms.