Wednesday, 07 Dec 2022

WHO chief urges immediate action to tackle devastating long Covid

WHO chief urges immediate action to tackle devastating long Covid


WHO chief urges immediate action to tackle devastating long Covid

Long Covid is "devastating" the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of people, and wreaking havoc on health systems and economies, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned as he urged countries to launch "immediate" and "sustained" efforts to tackle the "very serious" crisis.

The world has never been in a better position to end the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is also "very clear" that many of those infected by the virus, which first emerged in China in late 2019, are still experiencing "prolonged suffering", the WHO director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said.

Covid has killed almost 6.5 million people and infected more than 600 million. The WHO estimates that 10% to 20% of survivors have been left with mid- and long-term symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness and cognitive dysfunction. Women are more likely to suffer from the condition.

With the absence of evidence about how best to treat it, long Covid is turning people's lives upside down, and many face "often lengthy" and "frustrating" waits for support or guidance, Tedros said. The large numbers of those cruelly affected by the long tail of Covid are also having a dangerous impact on health systems and economies still reeling from waves of infections.

"While the pandemic has changed dramatically due to the introduction of many lifesaving tools, and there is light at the end of the tunnel, the impact of long Covid for all countries is very serious and needs immediate and sustained action equivalent to its scale," Tedros said, writing for the Guardian.

Countries must now "seriously ramp up" both research into the condition and access to care for those affected if they are to "minimise the suffering" of their populations and protect their health systems and workforces.

"Early in the pandemic, it was important for overwhelmed health systems to focus all of their life saving efforts on Covid-19 patients presenting with acute infection," he said. "However, it is critical for governments to invest long-term in their health system and workers and make a plan now for dealing with long Covid.

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