Long COVID and long lockdown

A number of people have reported long term symptoms after suffering from COVID-19. This has led to the term “long COVID” being coined.  The symptoms observed include:[1]

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or tightness
  • problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • heart palpitations
  • dizziness
  • pins and needles
  • joint pain
  • depression and anxiety
  • tinnitus, earaches
  • feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
  • a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
  • rashes

It is worth noting that there are significant similarities in the list with other long term health affects that are associated with post-viral well-being. The reference to fatigue, insomnia, joint pain, brain fog, depression and anxiety will immediately cause people to think about conditions such as Chrnic Fatigue Syndrome.

This is important because when considering such health conditions, the impact of environment on emotional well-being and on activity does seem to play a part. This is seen both in the way that alongside immune system problems and post viral reactions, emotional stress is seen as a probably contributing factor to CFS and in the way that therapies such as CBT are used to treat Chronic Fatigue.

This then has implications because I want to suggest that if we have people experiencing post viral responses to COVID-19, then a world in which we have to live in a long term state of lockdown or semi lockdown seems like exactly the right type of petri-dish to cultivate a long term syndrome and the worst kind of environment to foster recovery.

I include within that label “semi-lockdown” all of the social distancing restrictions we associate with pandemic response including the 2 metre rule, limits on contact with others, mask wearing, restrictions on public gathering for worship, fellowship, entertainment etc.  You see these restrictions continue to perpetuate a world that is different to normal, a world where there seems to be less hope and greater causes for anxiety. 

Restrictions were necessary whilst we were awaiting a vaccine but now tha the vaccine has been rolled out to the most vulnerable, we are surely moving to a situation similar to how we live with the annual flu season.

I am concerned by suggestions by some that we must prolong Non Pharmaceutical Interventions until later into this year.  It is troubling that some people are using the fear of Long COVID as the basis for justifying continued social distancing measures when in fact those measures are highly likely to be a significant factor in the prevalence and persistence of  Long COVID.

Lockdown and social distancing measures were vital tools in mitigating a public health crisis but prolonging their use is likely to cause a second devastating public health crisis.

[1] Long-term effects of coronavirus (long COVID) – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

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