The idea that long Covid presents a unique and significant threat to the enduring health of millions of people has become established as an article of faith among many in the public health establishment. So the suggestion this week by Queensland’s Chief Health Officer that we should abandon the term “long Covid” has set the cat among the pigeons.

Dr John Gerrard’s comments come on the back of research he and colleagues published in BMJ Public Health which found that 12 weeks after a diagnosis, patients with a Covid-19 infection were no more likely to have ongoing symptoms than those with other viral infections such as influenza. His point was not that no one experiences persistent post-Covid symptoms, but instead that “long Covid” is not a unique or new phenomenon and that “rates of ongoing symptoms and functional impairment are indistinguishable from other post-viral illnesses.”

In truth, Dr Gerrard’s findings should come as little surprise. Although ONS data tells us that significant numbers of people in the UK report symptoms long after a Covid infection, the most rigorous research comparing patients infected with Covid with a control group of uninfected patients tends to suggest a less worrying picture. For example, a meta-analysis of such studies focusing on children reported that the “frequency of the majority of reported persistent symptoms was similar in SARS-CoV-2 positive cases and controls”. In other words, it was hard to attribute most reported long-term symptoms as being caused by Covid at all.

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