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‘Long Covid’ sufferers struggle to return to work

From migraines to fatigue, coronavirus patients say they are continuing to suffer debilitating symptoms months after first becoming infected, in what has become known as “long Covid.” 

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Claire Twomey, 33, a social worker in County Meath, Ireland, told CNBC via telephone that it was in her first week back at work, around six weeks after she first became ill with the coronavirus, that her symptoms re-emerged. 

She initially thought she had become re-infected with the virus when the headaches came back, followed by a fever, coughing and shortness of breath. But hospital tests found no underlying issues, she said. 

Twomey said she felt “absolutely floored” when the symptoms re-emerged. “I was back in bed, I couldn’t even read a book or watch TV for longer than half an hour.” 

More “insane, weird (and) strange” symptoms appeared in this relapse with the illness, including gastrointestinal issues, hair loss and skin rashes.

Twomey said she felt “frustrated” as the illness lingered, and worried about the future after being out of work for so long. “I’ve been on pause for six months,” she said. 

By mid-September, Twomey found she was having fewer “bad days” but knew that she still couldn’t return to working as she had before. 

Twomey applied for another part-time position in social care, but spent the eight days prior to the job interview bedridden with migraines. “I thought I was going to have to cancel the interview.” 

Fortunately, she was able to do the interview and got the job, which she is set to start in a few weeks. 

a close up of a woman: Claire Twomey, 33, a social worker from Ireland has suffered with

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Claire Twomey, 33, a social worker from Ireland has suffered with

‘A bigger public health problem’

Three health care bodies in the U.K. announced Monday that they were working on a formal definition of “long Covid” and how to identify symptoms, so that the National Health Service can officially recognize the illness. The “long Covid” guidelines are expected to be published by the end of the year. 

In a paper published Monday by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change on “long Covid,” Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, warned so-called “long haulers … could turn out to be a bigger public-health problem than excess deaths from Covid-19.” 

The paper also highlighted new findings from the Covid Symptom Study, led by Spector, indicating that around 10% of people surveyed in the U.K. had suffered with “long Covid” symptoms for a month, while up to 2% were still experiencing them after three months. 

With nearly 4.3 million downloading the study’s app to record coronavirus symptoms, it is said to be the largest public science project of its kind in the world. There have been 532,779 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the U.K. and 42,535 related deaths, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.  

Based on extrapolated data, the researchers estimated that of those affected by the first wave of the virus in the U.K., 300,000 people would