Recent data shows that long COVID is keeping as many as 4 million Americans out of work and three quarters of UK sufferers working less. Long COVID is worsening the labor shortage in both countries.
Long COVID occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS CoV-2 infection, usually three months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms that last for at least two months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis, according to the World Health Organization.
The most common symptoms of long COVID sufferers are weakness and tiredness, difficulty in concentrating, shortness of breath, muscle ache, worry or anxiety, trouble sleeping, memory loss or confusion, headache, which generally have an impact on everyday functioning.
How many people are getting long COVID?
One in five COVID-19 survivors aged 18-64 years in the U.S. and one in four survivors aged over 65 years experience at least one condition that might be attributable to previous COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As of October 1, 2022, an estimated 2.1 million people in the UK, which accounts for 3.3 percent of the country’s total population, were experiencing self-reported long COVID, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The prevalence was greatest in people aged 35 to 69 years and females.
The impact of long COVID on labor market
Around 16 million working-age Americans have long COVID, among whom as many as 4 million are out of work due to long COVID, according to a report released by the Brookings Institutions in August this year.
Long COVID potentially caused 15 percent of the labor shortage in the U.S., and the annual cost of those lost wages alone is potentially as high as $230 billion, the Brookings report said.
Among 2.1 million long COVID sufferers in the UK, 73 percent said that their day-to-day activities were limited, and 16 percent reported that their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities was significantly limited, said the ONS.
According to the ONS, the UK’s 70 percent of those with self-reported long COVID have symptom of fatigue, 45 percent of those have difficulty in concentrating, 42 percent have shortness of breath, and 42 percent experience muscle ache.
Symptoms of long COVID are likely to be an important factor in the recent rise of the number of working-age adults who are out of the labor force because of long-term sickness, according to the ONS.
A survey on the impact of long COVID conducted by market research company Censuswide in October for recruitment website Indeed also showed signs that long COVID has become an employment crisis in the UK.
In the Indeed survey of 1,002 people, 59 percent of long COVID sufferers felt fatigue, 42 percent felt physically weak, 37 percent had problems concentrating, and 19 percent were in pain. Some 98 percent said the condition had limited their ability to work, while 78 percent had to cut back or change their work.
Measures should be taken to prevent more infections
The results of a CGTN survey for global netizens showed that 85.4 percent of respondents believe measures should be taken to prevent more people from being infected, and 60.44 percent of respondents are very worried about the impact of long COVID.
The global respondents didn’t really “lie flat” as advertised by the Western media, according to the survey. “Lie flat” is a catchphrase for encouraging inaction in combating COVID-19, or “living with the virus” in the U.S. and Europe.
The concept has exacerbated the risks of virus mutation and prevalence of COVID-19, the results of the survey showed. It has also continued to have negative effects on society, including pressure on medical supply and labor shortage.
The impact of long COVID will worsen over time if the U.S. does not take the necessary actions, the Brookings report also noted.
Chart of the Day: Fight against COVID-19 continues as survivors experience long COVID