MPs are calling on the Government to recognise ‘long Covid’ as an occupational disease – and demanding that front-line workers suffering from the condition are given adequate sick pay.
The All-Party Group on Coronavirus – chaired by Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP – has urged ministers to establish a compensation scheme for health and social care staff and key workers.
Opening a debate on long Covid on Thursday, Moran will say that “reporting, research and recognition” of the long-term effects of coronavirus are “all desperately needed”.
“More than anything else, we need to protect our heroes on the frontline, in health and social care and key workers who can’t work because they have long Covid,” she is expected to say. “The Government must commit to recognising long Covid as an occupational disease and create a scheme to help those people.”
‘We need better recognition’
Earlier this week, the cross-party group of MPs heard evidence from a 38-year-old doctor who said that her battle with Covid-19 damaged her spinal cord – and now claims she can only walk 200 metres without assistance.
Dr Nathalie MacDermott added that the virus has affected her bladder and bowel too, causing urinary tract infections, and she gets pain in her arms and has weakness in her grip.
A clinical doctor specialising in paediatric infectious diseases in the NHS, she told MPs that employers need to understand that long Covid is a “genuine condition” and that people may need to be off work for a significant period of time.
She added: “I think we need better recognition in the public, particularly the younger public who think that they’re invincible. I’m 38 and I wonder if I’ll ever be able to walk properly without crutches again. Will this continue to get worse? Will I end up in a wheelchair?”
Another long Covid sufferer Dr Linn Jarte, a 33-year-old anaesthetist, said that taking even a couple of steps made her feel “absolutely horrendous”.
“I felt as if my whole body was just filled with lead, but at the same time I had this sort of painful burning situation, and it also made my heart rate just shoot through the roof,” she said.
The APPG on Coronavirus is circulating a petition, demanding that ministers recognise the reality of long Covid – in the hope that it will pave the way for the introduction of targeted sick pay schemes, comparable to the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.
Moran added: “I would like them all to know that they have not been forgotten. They have not been ignored. This House has heard them and is listening. Now the Government has to step up and act too.”