The study discovered that unvaccinated younger sufferers of the pathogen were more at risk of contracting debilitating long-term symptoms of the disease. The decision to lift England’s coronavirus restrictions could see a surge in cases, with one leading scientist saying that the nation could slip into “uncharted territory” in terms of the numbers of people becoming infected with long Covid. Government epidemiological advisers expect at least one to two million coronavirus infections in the coming weeks after the restrictions are lifted.
Vaccines will ensure that the number of people who will be hospitalised or who may die will be reduced.
However, the move could leave many younger people with long-term health problems, researchers have said.
Long-Covid is also known as post-Covid syndrome and has more than a dozen symptoms that can endure for months after testing positive with the pathogen.
Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pains, sleeping difficulties and problems with memory and concentration, often referred to as “brain fog”.
Professor of immunology at Imperial College Danny Altmann said there was evidence from multiple countries that a significant number of people who get Covid are at risk of developing a longer-term illness.
Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “From every version of Covid we’ve ever seen on the planet, we’ve got a rule of thumb that any case of Covid, whether it’s asymptomatic, mild, severe, or hospitalised, incurs a 10 to 20 percent risk of developing long Covid.
“We haven’t seen any exceptions to that.”
Now, Health Secretary Sajid Javid, has warned that coronavirus infections after the lifting of restrictions may soon reach 100,000 per day.
Mr Altmann said it was then reasonable to expect 10,000 or 20,000 of those daily cases to go on to develop long Covid.
But there are huge uncertainties around long Covid, including why some are more at risk than others, how long symptoms endure, and what treatments might help.
Mr Atmann added: “It’s a nightmare for anyone to plan for accurately because it’s such a slippery thing to get hold of.
“We don’t understand where we’re headed because we’re in truly uncharted territory.
“But, we know enough to know it looks fairly serious and fairly scary.”
Epidemiologist Claire Steves of King’s College London said the next six weeks or so would be risky as England opens up and many young adults have not been fully vaccinated.
The epidemiologist said that the coronavirus vaccines offered hope for protecting people against long Covid.
She said: “We are seeing a very clear reduction in the risk of long Covid in all age groups if you have had two shots of vaccine,
“We know the vaccines really work to reduce your risk of getting infected in the first place, and then if you are unlucky enough to get Covid we are showing your risk of long Covid is much reduced.”
Doctor Steves said that people who develop Long-Covid improve over time.
She added: “Even in those individuals that are still symptomatic now, they are improving, they are doing better than three months ago and six months ago.
“But there is this set of individuals that really do have a very longstanding change in their ability to function.”