UP to 500,000 Brits are suffering the effects of “long Covid”, MPs have been warned.
They have also been told some doctors are dismissing many of the long-term symptoms suffered in the wake of the coronavirus as ME.
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Experts have indicated psychosis, fatigue, loss of eyesight and mobility issues are among the wide-ranging conditions that have been identified in those who have previously contracted the virus.
The founder of the Long Covid Support Group Claire Hastie warned that GPs were regularly misdiagnosing ongoing problems as anxiety or ME, saying: "Many people in our group to this day are being told by their GPs that it's caused by anxiety and it's all in their heads.
"It can cause anxiety, but it is not caused by anxiety. The science needs to catch up with us."
She said figures from the King’s College London symptom tracker app showed that between 200,000 and 500,000 people in the UK are currently living with the long-term effects of Covid-19.
Giving evidence at Wednesday’s session of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus she said the virus had left her largely confined to a wheelchair and unable to walk 13 metres.
Another member of the Facebook support group said his experience and left him unable to walk up a flight of stairs without losing his breath and causing him chest pain, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Dr Jake Suett, an anaesthetist and intensive care doctor, said: "I was doing 12-hour shifts in ICU. It's a high-pressure situation, you have to be able to be active. I was going to the gym three times a week regularly.
"And now a flight of stairs or the food shop is about what I can manage before I have to stop. If I'm on my feet then shortness of breath comes back, chest pain comes back."
The APPG, which includes more than 60 MPs and peers, heard that eight in 10 people who had “long Covid” felt unable to return to work in a normal capacity.
An online survey of 1,800 people experiencing long-term symptoms found many employees felt "pressured" to return to work despite feeling they couldn’t do so.
Ms Hastie, who contracted coronavirus in March, said: "We've got people in our group who've been told or think they'll never work again. If they've got a physical job, someone's a Pilates instructor for example, she doesn't know if and when she'll ever be able to work again in her chosen field of work.
“People are being pressured back by employers who, understandably, don't understand this."
She also said it was “not uncommon” for kids to have “long Covid”, saying that research was looking at whether genetics was a “potential factor”.
Labour MP Andrew Gwynne, a member of the APPG, revealed that he had been unable to shake his own coronavirus symptoms for 18 weeks.
"I feel like [I'm running] the London Marathon whenever I've done just a basic task around the house," he said. "I sometimes struggle just to ask a single Parliamentary question by Zoom, and then I'll spend the rest of the day in bed."
The Royal College of General Practitioners says it expects GPs to see an influx of patients with "lingering" illnesses.
Researchers in Italy have reported that nearly nine in 10 patients discharged from a Rome hospital after recovering from Covid-19 were still experiencing at least one symptom 60 days after onset.
Doctors in Lombardy, the worst-affected region in Italy, warned this week that some victims may never recover from the illness.
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