More than 100,000 British workers off sick with long Covid, earnings hit

Around 110,000 British workers are off sick with long Covid symptoms, costing them £1,100 ($1,320) in lost earnings at a time of an escalating cost of living crisis, new research shows.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated that one in 10 sufferers in employment are forced to take leave on vastly reduced earnings. Statutory sick pay in the UK is just £99.35 a week.

The financial hit — amounting to almost £1.5 billion a year in total — is adding to the strain on households being caused by the fastest inflation in 40 years. Those who were less well off before the pandemic are more likely to have persistent coronavirus symptoms.

“The impact of long Covid has continued to grow over time, with almost 2 million now suffering from the condition,” said Tom Wernham, a research economist at the IFS and author of the report. “For a significant minority of long Covid sufferers, the condition has severe effects not only on their health but on their ability to do paid work.”

The analysis shows how the virus is continuing to inflict a toll on the economy a year after remaining restrictions were lifted. The most common long Covid symptoms are fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of smell and muscle ache.

People with long Covid are defined as those reporting symptoms more than four weeks after infection. The IFS estimated around 8 per cent of workers with the condition are still missing from work three months after infection, though most return by the six-month mark.

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