4,000 people out sick with long Covid is 'the tip of the iceberg'

4,000 people out sick with long Covid is 'the tip of the iceberg'

Almost 4,000 people have received illness benefit for long Covid. The 643,315 claims for EIB by June 24 suggest that some who claimed it tried to go back to work after their illness but had to go off sick again. Stock picture

Almost 4,000 people have received illness benefit for long Covid, having received Covid-related enhanced benefit for at least 10 weeks prior, new figures show.

Illness benefit is paid in varying amounts to private and self-employed workers based on PRSI stamps for up to two years.

Some 3,783 long Covid sufferers have needed this, out of 478,485 people who received a shorter-term work-related Covid-19 payment, enhanced illness benefit (EIB), for up to 10 weeks or, in some cases, more.

The Department of Social Protection’s figures show it received 643,315 claims for EIB by June 24, indicating that some people who claimed it tried to go back to work but had to stop.

The maximum weekly payment for EIB is €350 and 5,291 people claimed this for ten or more weeks.

TD: Figures 'are tip of the iceberg'

The figures, released to Independent TD Denis Naughten, are “the tip of the iceberg”, he said.

These first official figures in relation to long Covid 'are really only indicative of a bigger issue,' said Roscommon–Galway Independent TD Denis Naughten. File Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins
These first official figures in relation to long Covid 'are really only indicative of a bigger issue,' said Roscommon–Galway Independent TD Denis Naughten. File Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

“These are the first official figures that are available in relation to long Covid. They are really only indicative of a bigger issue.

“These are purely people who never recovered from Covid, and continued on to claim illness benefit.

“It is significant.”

The data shows 93 people with long Covid qualified for the disability allowance based on the severity of their condition

He said: “You then also have people who returned to work but are not at full productivity. They are not able to work to the extent they worked prior to Covid.”

HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor, writing to Mr Naughten, said studies indicate “approximately 10-20% of Covid-19 patients experience lingering symptoms for weeks to months”.

PCR testing alone shows 1.6m cases, meaning there could be almost 300,000 long Covid cases.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach warned that the only thing he can predict is “uncertainty” when it comes to the virus and the possibility of reintroducing restrictions in the coming months.

“I am not predicting because I just can’t predict with certainty what will happen, all I can predict is uncertainty,” he said.

“I think that’s why we’re making sure we have legislation, contingency planning through legislation that if we had to bring back mask mandates for public transport, or indeed for retail, that we would be in a position to do that quickly.”

He pointed to Aer Lingus cancelling flights as a concern but said variants are not as virulent as they once were which is a “good thing”.

Micheál Martin called on all those who are immunosuppressed to get a second booster. He said a fourth dose, or second booster, will be “a key weapon” in fighting the virus over the autumn and winter period.

"We're going through different phases of Covid-19. We're now in a disruptive phase and the sense that Covid remains a significant disrupter or disruptive influence and one can see that in health services, for example, 800 people in hospital now have Covid 50% of those are in for different for different reasons," Mr Martin said. 

"That then has an impact on hospital services in terms of isolation protocols, in terms of delayed discharges from hospitals, the inability of nursing homes to take people in from hospitals as quickly or as normally as they would." 

He said the virus will continue to dispute people's summer plans. 

"Likewise in the workplace, we can see what Aer Lingus and other airlines where people are all sick with Covid, it has led to the cancellation of flights. So that is a concern that it remains a significant disruptive force in our society and in our community," he said. 

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