On 14th March, Commissioner Stella Kyriakides spoke at EPSCO Council on the topic of long COVID. Her speech began by highlighting that 1/8 of individuals who test positive for COVID experience symptoms lasting longer than usual. During the first 2 years of the pandemic, for example, 17 million Europeans were affected by long COVID.
Commissioner Kyriakides called for increased knowledge about both the causes and best treatments for long COVID, given its significant and long-lasting impacts on individuals, society and the economy. The EU Commission has developed a national expert network through the EU Health Policy Platform to facilitate this. Stakeholders must now actively participate, given collaboration and knowledge sharing are central to discovering effective solutions.
WHO Europe also recognises the impact of long covid and features a recent research by KU Leuven (Belgium), which demonstrates the central role that physical activity can play in long COVID treatment. The condition commonly involves symptoms including fatigue, persistent respiratory issues and depression. Dr Jan Verbakel, from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care, led the development of national healthcare professional guidelines on diagnosis and treatment management of long COVID. Encouragingly, exercise was found to be a crucial feature of effective response, with physical activity providing benefits for both stamina and patient wellbeing due to its antidepressant effects.