Long COVID is a thing and there is no known cure. Medical science has not yet figured out why, but many people that catch COVID19 do not completely recover. Instead of getting back to normal, people with long COVID tend to suffer from fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog, and joint pain. It is also common for long COVID patients to experience chronic cough, headaches, dizziness, anxiety, and organ damage. Although most long COVID patients did not have long-term health conditions before being diagnosed with COVID19, they now require ongoing healthcare services. Increased numbers of people facing long term disability caused by COVID19 puts a strain on the healthcare sector, but it also negatively impacts the economy.
Long COVID has consequences for the healthcare sector
A great deal of misinformation and disinformation about COVID19 is broadcast on social media and by more traditional media sources. One of the most damaging ideas about COVID19 is that it is “just a cold”. Unfortunately, COVID19 is much more than a cold and even though many people recover from the virus with few problems, many people do not. It is believed that 100 million people, or more than 40% of COVID19 survivors, have experienced long COVID. That is a lot of people that require ongoing healthcare services.
The largest publicly available survey of Canadians with long COVID has revealed some hard truths about the impacts that COVID19 has had on the healthcare sector and the economy. Almost 30% of long COVID sufferers have received care from a healthcare clinic more than 10 times after supposedly recovering from COVID19. In Canada, the number of COVID19 patients requiring ongoing care has prompted the opening of 20 clinics dedicated to the treatment of long COVID symptoms. So far, over 170,000 Canadians have been identified as long COVID patients. Until the COVID19 pandemic ends, these numbers will probably rise. That is a lot of extra demand for healthcare.
When large numbers of people become ill and require medical care, it puts a strain on our healthcare systems. Our governments need to take action to slow the spread of illness so that healthcare systems do not become overwhelmed. We also need to make sure that we train enough healthcare workers, keep them safe on the job, and plan for future needs.
Long COVID has consequences for the economy
So much attention is paid to getting people back to work and saving the economy from COVID19. Unfortunately, people who suffer from long COVID have not had an easy time getting back to their jobs. As many as 60% of COVID patients take leave from work due to either acute infection or long-term symptoms. Many long COVID patients have been off work between 3 and 6 months, while a significant number have been unable to work for a year or more.
The impact on the economy is serious. Almost 70% of long COVID patients are too sick to work full time. There are many that have been unable to return to work at all. This means that many people must rely on government benefits and long term disability pensions to survive. It also means that fewer workers are available to fill jobs. This is why our governments need to ensure that workers get the employment supports they need. When employees catch COVID19 on the job, there is a good chance they will never be able to return to their positions. That hurts employers and employees alike.
Ignoring COVID19 won’t make it disappear
Too often, politicians pretend that COVID19 is no big deal and are focused simply on getting people back to work. The negative effects the pandemic is having on the economy is hard, but pretending that everything is normal or that the virus is not dangerous will not help us in the long run. The more people that get sick, the harder it will be for our health systems to cope. When people get sick on the job, it becomes harder for employers to keep their businesses open. Some employees will never return and it costs time and money to train new employees. We need real solutions.