European countries struggling to combat Long COVID-19 – WHO report
Updated 00:39, 01-Mar-2021
Alec Fenn

A new report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that European countries are struggling to combat Long COVID-19.

The report says nations across the continent have failed to implement the consistent 'surveillance' which is vital to the identification and treatment of the condition.

Long COVID-19 is the term used to describe a prolonged battle with the virus that typically lasts several weeks or months after the initial infection.

People suffering with Long COVID-19 have reported a range of health problems, including chest and muscle pain, heart palpitations, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, thrombosis and autoimmunity, a condition which sees the body mistakenly attack its own cells.



How is Europe dealing with Long COVID-19?

While most European countries now have COVID-19 data surveillance systems that record the total number of cases, deaths, hospital admissions and intensive care unit admissions, the report's authors were unable to find any details of specific data streams for Long COVID-19.

They were also unable to find many examples of widespread accessible multidisciplinary services for Long COVID-19 that were available to communities in European countries outside the UK. However, healthcare organizations across the continent are now trying to develop co-ordinated responses.

In England, the National Institute for Care Excellence (NICE) has outlined a set of guidelines. Because of the complex nature of the condition, NICE advises that "assessment and management should be tailored to the individual's problems, after excluding any coexisting illness that may be giving rise to the symptoms reported."

In Germany, some larger university hospitals are offering special consultation hours for patients with long-term complaints, but the report says these services aren't widespread across the country.


A woman undergoes a swab test in the UK, where healthcare workers are now dealing with scores of patients suffering from Long COVID-19. /AFP

A woman undergoes a swab test in the UK, where healthcare workers are now dealing with scores of patients suffering from Long COVID-19. /AFP


Several hospitals in Italy have created post-COVID-19 wards for rehabilitation of those who experienced prolonged admissions to ICU. Other services include those by AbilityAmo, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing rehabilitative interventions for post-COVID disability and fragility. 

Czechia's Hradec Kralove teaching hospital has set up a specialized post-COVID-19 care center to look after Long COVID-19 patients with residual symptoms three months after their acute infection. The care center provides a multidisciplinary team of medical experts.

in Spain, hospitals and primary care centres provide COVID-19 patients with guidance on respiratory and physical rehabilitation to face the consequences of Long COVID-19. In Belgium, France and Portugal, specific services are mainly developed for coronavirus patients who were hospitalized but there are no dedicated Long COVID-19 programs or services.

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