Alarming new figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal 34% of all existing long Covid patients developed their symptoms after catching Covid-19 during the era of the Omicron variant.
Long Covid cases have also returned to a high of 2 million, after declining to 1.8 million in previous surveys.
The leading testing expert, Dr Quinton Fivelman PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at London Medical Laboratory, said, ‘UK Covid cases and hospital admissions continue to fall, but these latest ONS long Covid figures are a wakeup call. The dangers of the virus, even in its purportedly less severe Omicron form, remain significant.
‘Looking at these figures, though 45% of long Covid patients developed their symptoms at least one year previously, a worrying 253,000 (13%) reported they first caught Covid-19 less than 12 weeks previously. However, they have already developed long Covid symptoms significantly impacting their health and lives.
‘To put the numbers into focus, 29% of long Covid sufferers reported they first had Covid before the first wave of Alpha became the main variant; 256,000 (13%) during the Alpha period; 386,000 (19%) during the Delta period and a significant 681,000 (34%) during the Omicron period. Anyone thinking that Omicron variants are less likely to result in long Covid than previous Covid strains must think again.
‘Nor is the severity of long Covid symptoms decreasing. Chronic fatigue continued to be the most common issue (62%), followed by shortness of breath (37%), difficulty concentrating (33%) and muscle ache (31%).
‘The latest figures also reveal that you are more likely to develop long Covid if you are aged 35 to 69 years, a female and/or live in a more deprived area.
‘Covid may remain active in our bodies, in areas such as the gut, for extended periods of time, potentially causing a long-term, low-grade infection. This could well be the cause of long Covid. For this reason, at the beginning of June, London Medical Laboratory called for the Government to urgently consider vaccinating everyone over 50 this autumn. We are delighted it agreed to do this.
‘However, the Government must also ensure that all the top-up jabs administered are the latest versions ordered, which provide greater immunity to Omicron variants. Now we know the true scale of long Covid caused by Omicron, we should not continue using older vaccines that do little to combat the spread of Omicron, even if they do help reduce the severity of its initial symptoms.
‘Clearly, Covid still possesses the power to disrupt our lives and places a huge burden on an already struggling NHS and fragile British economy. We are very worried about what lies ahead as we enter the colder winter months.
‘If anyone is concerned about their own immune response to the jabs and how well they continue to produce antibodies, the new generation blood tests available from London Medical Laboratory are highly accurate, quick and simple to carry out, either at home through the post, or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer this test across London and nationwide.