More than half of long Covid sufferers unable to work after two years: UWV

One in three long Covid sufferers worked in healthcare. Photo:

More than half of people suffering from the long-term effects of coronavirus are expected to be unable to go back to work after two years, employee insurance agency UWV says.

The organisation received 1,900 applications last year from people with long Covid for a declaration that would entitle them to long-term sickness benefit (WIA).

WIA is available to people who are dismissed after being off work through illness for two years and lose at least 35% of their income.

The UWV says around 17,000 people are on the waiting list to be assessed for long Covid and expects the number to grow this year. So far around 60% have been declared unfit for work. ‘The UWV expects these figures to remain the same,’ a spokesman told NRC.

Support network C-support said around 20,000 people had registered for its services. Long Covid is defined as coronavirus symptoms that persist for longer than three months.

Long-term Covid patients complain of symptoms such as severe pain and fatigue, rapid breathing and heartbeat, and anxiety and depression. Many of those applying  had fallen sick with coronavirus more than once.

‘My clients often try to go back to work after a few months, only to drop out long-term later,’ UWV insurance doctor Diny van der Geest said.

Healthcare workers

One-third of applications are from workers in the healthcare sector, who accounted for a high proportion of infections in the first wave of coronavirus in the spring of 2020, when they were exempted from many of the quarantine restrictions so they could keep working on infected wards.

Last month long-term care minister Conny Helder agreed to draw up a package of measures to provide financial support for healthcare workers who have been unable to return to work since contracting coronavirus.

The FNV and CNV unions have started legal action to secure payments of €22,839 for everyone working in healthcare who developed long Covid in the first wave. The unions argue that staff should be entitled to the same amount as people with other industrial illnesses.

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