Long COVID should be recognised as a chronic medical condition so more Australians can access appropriate care, health experts say.
As the nation grapples with a third wave of COVID-19 infections, Australia’s peak physiotherapy body is calling on federal, state and territory governments to fund treatment for the condition.
The Australian Physiotherapy Association wants a national long COVID tracking and data collection system to monitor the prevalence of the debilitating condition.
It’s estimated up to 30 per cent of people will experience COVID-19 symptoms for 12 weeks or longer after infection, but a more precise number is not known due to poor data collection.
After contracting COVID-19 early in the pandemic, APA President Scott Willis is himself still suffering from the after-effects.
“I know first-hand the ongoing and debilitating impact of this condition,” he said.
“We need government to acknowledge long COVID and respond with appropriate and accessible rehabilitation pathways.”
Dr Willis is particularly concerned about access to long COVID care for people living in regional and rural Australia.
Australia has lagged on planning for long COVID and a rehabilitation program is well overdue, he said in a statement.
“We know that physiotherapy rehabilitation programs can ease fatigue and improve the mood and health of people living with long COVID, which leads to increased productivity,” Dr Willis said.
“The health system must be flexible and rapidly respond with public funding to properly support the growing numbers of affected Australians, as is being done around the world.”
Months of misery
A person is considered to have long COVID if their virus symptoms have persisted for more than 12 weeks after the initial infection.
The symptoms include extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain or tightness, problems with memory and concentration, changes to taste and smell and joint and muscle pain.
Australia recorded more than 53,000 new cases and 94 deaths on Friday.
LATEST 24-HOUR COVID DATA:
- NSW: 14,953 cases, 41 deaths, 2176 hospitalised with 59 in ICU
- Victoria: 19,812 cases, 44 deaths, 820 hospitalised with 29 in ICU
- Tasmania: 1363 cases, 1 death, 51 hospitalised with 3 in ICU
- NT: 422 cases, no deaths, 89 hospitalised with 2 in ICU
- Queensland: 7644 cases, 8 deaths, 1061 hospitalised with 30 in ICU