Now the Covid restrictions have all been lifted, it may be assumed by some that Britain’s Covid nightmare is over. But for many people, the trouble does not appear likely to go away any time soon.
While some still mourn the loss of loved ones killed by the virus, others will have been relieved they and those they knew were infected without enduring severe illness. Yet for all that millions will have had a brief and mostly mild illness and recovered, for many the issue of ‘Long Covid’ is one that just won’t go away.
According to a new report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), as of the end of January 2022 no fewer than 1.5 million have been suffering from Long Covid symptoms of various kinds.
First identified in the initial wave of the virus as some people failed to fully recover from infection, the condition can impact people in a range of ways.
For some, it has a comparable effect to a condition such as ME, by draining away their energy and making once straightforward tasks a major effort. That means not only are activities like walking or climbing stairs hard, but so too is bathing.
Speaking to the Guardian, one Long Covid victim, Dr Susannah Thompson, said: “I’ve always been active – I was a cold-water sea swimmer. I went from being able to throw myself in the sea twice a week to struggling to get in and out of a bath.”
While far from all of those with Long Covid will be so badly affected that they need mobility baths, it is clear that these could prove an invaluable aid for those who might have had to make very sudden adjustments from living very fit, active and mobile lives to struggling with the basics.
This situation, as well as being very traumatic, also brings a practical problem because it means such individuals are very unlikely to be living in homes that are equipped with a range of mobility needs unless, for instance, they are living with an elderly parent.
According to the ONS survey, the highest prevalence of self-reported Long Covid was among those aged 35 to 49, women, people living in more deprived areas and those working in education or the social and health care sectors. This is, of course, logical, for these professions include a lot of human contact, not least in the health sector where encountering infected people is more likely.
However, it also means the condition is disproportionately affecting people who would normally be living active, healthy lives.
While the Omicron wave has been milder, it has infected more people and it remains to be seen just how much of a long-term impact this has on Long Covid statistics, not least as the survival rate is extremely high among vaccinated people.
Moreover, while vaccination has lowered the risk of catching Covid and greatly reduced the risk of severe disease and death, there is no consensus in the medical sector over whether they genuinely reduce either the prevalence or severity of Long Covid.
That could mean the number with Long Covid continues to grow in the future, as the virus circulates at a low level and infects those who have so far avoided it. This may in turn raise the number that – if not for life, then for at least an extended period – need mobility bathing aids.