Long COVID will put strain on health care system, warns Swedish expert

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STOCKHOLM, Feb. 16 (Xinhua) — The health care system faces a massive challenge when it comes to caring for patients suffering from long-term symptoms following a COVID-19 infection, the Swedish Medical Association warned on Tuesday.

“We are still in the second wave and the consequences of long-term illness are still to be seen. There will be a huge need for care for those who suffer from long-term symptoms,” the association’s chairperson Sofia Rydgren Stale told daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

The fact that the health care system is already under strain will compound the problem, she added.

“90,000 fewer operations were performed in 2020 compared with previous years. They were either canceled or postponed. This ‘care debt’ must now be dealt with at the same time as all care staff have worked extremely hard and need rest and recovery. It is not an easy task,” she noted.

According to a recent study by the medical association, half of the physicians surveyed did not have time for rest and recovery due to the pandemic, the newspaper reported.

Sweden has recorded more than 617,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic started, and statistics compiled by the National Board of Health and Welfare show that nearly 21,500 individuals were on sick leave due to COVID-19 for 14 days or more during the March-September period.

Half of those were off sick between 15 and 30 days, while roughly a third were on sick leave between 31 and 60 days. In 12 percent of the cases, the sick leave lasted longer than 60 days.

Although these statistics may hint at the extent of the problem, the full picture is still to be seen, Thomas Linden, head of section at the National Board of Health and Welfare, told the newspaper.

“In the general debate, people want a figure,” he said, adding that one first had to establish how to define long COVID.

“If you include common symptoms such as loss of energy and cough for a few months, the number will be very high. If you only count those who have sustained organ damage and received qualified care and rehabilitation, the number will be lower. There are many studies underway that try to map this, but we do not have any good numbers,” he explained.

According to the latest statistics presented by the Public Health Agency on Tuesday, Sweden had recorded 617,869 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic started. This was an increase of 9,458 since Friday. A tally of 12,487 deaths had been registered, following 59 deaths in the same period. Enditem

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