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“Long Covid”: Is it Affecting Two Million Brits?

New findings from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicate that slightly over 3% of individuals in England and Scotland report experiencing Covid-19 symptoms for more than four weeks after a suspected infection, totaling nearly two million people.

These statistics have sparked discussions about the considerable impact of “long Covid” on the economy, as it strains healthcare services and diminishes productivity due to high rates of illness-related absences from work.

However, delving into the ONS data reveals a somewhat less alarming scenario. A quarter of those reporting long-term symptoms claim that it has had no impact on their day-to-day activities, while less than 1% of the working-age population report that post-Covid symptoms significantly affect their daily lives.

Moreover, it’s essential to note that these are self-reported symptoms, and the ONS does not verify whether Covid-19 is the actual cause. Previous research comparing Covid-infected patients with uninfected individuals suggests that many symptoms are equally prevalent in both groups. Therefore, a substantial portion of self-reported “long Covid” may not be attributable to Covid itself.

While Covid may contribute to some patients’ long-term health issues, it’s crucial not to exaggerate the problem and unnecessarily raise concerns or prompt unwarranted policy interventions.

Another recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health examined the impact of Covid restrictions on drug-related deaths using county-level data from the US. The researchers found that lockdown measures unintentionally increased drug overdose deaths due to their effects on isolation, mental well-being, and limited access to treatment and harm-reduction services.

These effects are statistically significant, with estimates suggesting that adopting low-level restrictions akin to those in North Dakota could have prevented 9,300 drug deaths in the US in 2020 alone. Although economic support measures were associated with fewer drug deaths, they were insufficient to offset the negative impacts of lockdown policies.

This research adds to a growing body of evidence indicating that the policy responses to Covid-19 resulted in severe consequences for health, well-being, and the economy, outweighing any potential benefits.

While it’s crucial to provide appropriate care for those experiencing long-term Covid consequences, it’s even more imperative for governments worldwide to learn from the mistakes of their pandemic policies. Our focus should be on preventing unethical and unnecessary lockdowns, business closures, and vaccine mandates in future pandemics.

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