Growing number of long-term Covid sufferers unable to work costs UK £1.5billion a year

Long Covid is costing the UK £1.5billion in lost income a year as the number of people out of work with the disease rises to nearly 2million, new research has found.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank has estimated that 110,000 people are off work at any one time due to long Covid, with those who had lower incomes before the pandemic being more likely to suffer from it.

One in 10 long-term Covid patients who were working stop working while they have the disease, the IFS said.

The results will put further pressure on the government to tackle a problem that is expected to get even worse as infections rise again.

Although the health impacts have been known for some time, detailed work to quantify the economic impact has emerged only more recently.

The Treasury is said to be increasingly concerned that the UK workforce has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. There are nearly half a million fewer people in work than before March 2020, due to a combination of long Covid and more people choosing to retire early.

The IFS looked at how outcomes have changed since before the pandemic for long-term Covid sufferers and similar people without the condition. His research showed that people with the condition were more likely to apply for benefits, be in poverty and live in public housing, the IFS found.

The effects of Long Covid are persistent, with around 8% of sufferers still off work for at least three months after infection, although after six months the effects are considerably weaker and most have returned. at work.

The disease causes a range of debilitating symptoms, including extreme fatigue and shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and heart palpitations.

Treatment varies according to specific symptoms, with the most severe cases being referred to a specialist rehabilitation service.

Tom Wernham, research economist at IFS and author of the report, said: “Although acute Covid is no longer the serious threat to public health and the economy that it once was, the impact of the long Covid continued to grow over time, with almost 2 million now suffering from the disease.

“Our research suggests that for a significant minority of people with long-term Covid, the disease has serious effects not only on their health, but on their ability to perform paid work.

“The rising rate of long Covid could therefore put additional pressure on families during the cost of living crisis, especially as long Covid is more common among poorer families, as well as dampen a struggling economy – we estimate that there are 110,000 workers absent from work as a result.”

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Edward L. Robinett