We have known for a while that most people affected by the virus experience mild to moderate symptoms. Chinese scientists published The Epidemiological Characteristics of an Outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Diseases on February 17, 220 stating that 81 per cent of cases confirmed in China by that time were mild. Cases were considered mild if they did not involve pneumonia or only mild pneumonia.
I’m not a doctor but “mild pneumonia” sounds a little frightening to me. I recovered from Covid-19 after a fortnight - or so I thought. A few days later chest strain and soreness in my lungs have returned. I seem to be fine in the morning but any effort, such as a bit of housework or talking to friends, results in symptoms towards the end of the day. Some days I feel bone-tired, other days are much better. It’s been five weeks, and it’s rather unsettling.
I’m not alone. Patients of all ages report lasting fatigue and chest pains. What about people leaving the ICU? How long will they take to return to earlier selves? Many people are struggling to cope with their yo-yo condition which affects their mental health. Their loved don’t know how to help them because there is no guidance from either medical professionals or the government.
While we focus on acute cases, we must be able to find a slot in the news bulletin or a bit of cyberspace to address the 80 per cent of those affected by Covid-19. We all appreciate that the science cannot provide much help at this stage. The GPs I spoke to are right to recommend rest and taking it easy. But it’s not enough.
To get the economy going again, we need people to get properly well. People not businesses need government support in the first place. Easing the lockdown must mean opening up hospitals to provide X Rays and access to lung specialists for all Covid-19 patients whether they have been diagnosed by a swab test or by video calls by their GPs. There must be recommendations on the NHS website about gradual recovery plans so patients don’t start running before they can walk, especially since insurance companies such as Aviva don’t cover anything to do with Covid-19. Employers must receive guidance on how to ensure the welfare of affected staff. While some scientists are working on vaccines and effective antibody tests, others must research long-term effects of the coronavirus. The government may need to review chronic disability benefits as post viral fatigue may develop into ME/CFS for some very unfortunate people.
On the news the other night I saw a man in a hospital standing up for the first time after being acutely ill with Covid-19. It was meant to be a celebration but all I could think of was what a long road to full recovery lies ahead of him. Let’s acknowledge that and take action.