Complacency could condemn thousands more to long COVID

July 8, 2021

This article has not been updated recently

According to ZOE COVID Study incidence figures, it is estimated that among unvaccinated people in the UK there are currently 22,638 new daily symptomatic cases of COVID on average, based on PCR test data from up to five days ago [*]. An increase of 17% from 19,228 last week. 

Comparatively there are currently 11,084 new daily symptomatic cases in partly or fully vaccinated people, an increase of 85% from 5,982 new cases last week (Graph 1). The positivity rate is still much higher in those with just a first dose, compared to those who are double vaccinated (Graph 2). 

In terms of prevalence, on average 1 in 159 people in the UK currently have symptomatic COVID (map below). 

The UK R value is 1.1 and regional R values are; England, 1.1, Wales, 1.2, Scotland, 1.0 (Table 1). 

According to the ZOE COVID Study there are an estimated 500 cases of Long COVID a day among unvaccinated people in the UK. This is calculated by using the estimated number of daily new cases from ZOE and the rates of long COVID from the latest research on risk factors for long COVID [ref] and adjusting for age differences. 

The ZOE COVID Study incidence figures (new symptomatic cases) are based on reports from around one million weekly contributors and the proportion of newly symptomatic users who have received positive swab tests. The latest survey figures were based on data from 9,146 recent swab tests done between 19 June and 4 July 2021. The data excludes lateral flow tests.

Tim Spector OBE, lead scientist on the ZOE COVID Study app and Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, comments on the latest data:

“The ZOE data continues to show that the number of new cases are rising. UK rates are among the highest in the world, out-pacing the USA, Australia, Italy, France and Spain. While the rate of increase seems to be slowing down, we’re yet to reach the peak of this latest wave. Even though we’re doing away with COVID restrictions in the UK, COVID isn’t done with us. While it seems that the link between cases and deaths has been fundamentally weakened thanks to an excellent vaccine rollout, we are still seeing a correlation between new cases and Long COVID. Vaccines reduce the chances of people getting Long COVID, by reducing the risk of seriously debilitating symptoms and also by reducing the chances of an infection lasting more than three months. But unfortunately, if new cases continue to increase then many more thousands of people, especially the young, will be affected by long term symptoms that leave sufferers unable to live life normally.

ZOE continues to drive the public health message that there are more than just three symptoms of COVID. Our data shows symptoms are more mild and comparable to a bad cold, with a runny nose, headache and a sore throat among the top symptoms for all groups. It seems unlikely that the government is going to change the official list anytime soon, so we are calling on people to spread the word. If you or anyone in your household feels ill, do a lateral flow test and if you test positive, confirm it with a PCR test. It’s simple, if you feel ill, take a test. Let’s all try to do our bit to keep our freedom without unnecessarily condemning thousands more young people to Long COVID.”

Graph 1. Daily new cases of COVID in UK by vaccination status

Graph 2. Positivity rate in vaccinated (1st and 2nd dose) and unvaccinated

Graph 3. Long COVID incidence in the UK

Table 1. Incidence (daily new symptomatic cases)[*], R values and prevalence regional breakdown table 

Graph 4. The ZOE COVID Study UK Infection Survey results over time 

Graph 5. The ZOE COVID Study daily active cases by region in the last month

Map of UK prevalence figures

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