How long signs of coronavirus can last and how many people are affected in UK

While for most people Covid is a relatively short and mild illness, thanks in large part to vaccination, a significant proportion of the population suffer debilitating symptoms months after catching the virus.

Around 1.5 million people in the UK are now estimated to have had symptoms for more than three months, according to the latest figures from the ZOE Covid study app.

And leading experts have warned that the UK is facing a wave of long Covid cases from the highly-contagious Omicron variant, which is now the dominant strain.

Here’s what you need to know.

How long can signs of coronavirus last?

People with a mild case of Covid usually recover in one to two weeks. 

Long Covid is an informal term, commonly used to describe symptoms that persist for or develop after an extended period of time following an infection.

It can be broken down into two types: ongoing symptomatic Covid, where where your symptoms continue for more than 4 weeks; and post-Covid syndrome, where your ongoing symptoms continue for longer than 12 weeks and cannot be explained by any other condition.

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Common long Covid symptoms include:

  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Pins and needles
  • Joint pain
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Tinnitus, earaches
  • Feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
  • A high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
  • Rashes

According to the NHS, the chance of having long-term Covid symptoms does not appear to be linked to how ill you were when you caught the virus.

People who had mild symptoms at first can still have long-term problems.

How many people are affected in UK?

Around 1.5 million people in the UK are estimated to have had symptoms lasting more than three months, according to the latest figures from the ZOE Covid study app.

And an estimated 550,000 people in the UK have had long Covid for more than a year, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London, who runs the ZOE Covid study app, has expressed concern that long Covid cases may continue to rise, especially as infections are at near-record highs.

“We’re not talking about the risk of long Covid anymore and it’s a serious issue,” Professor Spector told i.

He added: “The Government should say to the public ‘it’s your civic duty to stay at home when you’ve got cold-like symptoms and not infect people.’

“Just because it might be like a cold for you, it’s not going to be like a cold for everyone. It could end up with someone being off work for a year.”

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