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Public Health

Network of Expertise on Long COVID

Acute SARS-CoV-2 infection is a complex multi-system disease affecting many body systems. A wide range of long-term symptoms and syndromes have been reported following infection, collectively referred to as ‘long COVID’.

The Network of Expertise on Long COVID under the Commission Expert Group on Public Health was set up by DG SANTE in 2023 to bring together national centres of expertise to advise on ways to strengthen EU- and national-level responses to long COVID. The Network provides a platform for exchanges of national experiences on diagnosis, treatment and management of long COVID, and will also collect information regarding the situation on long COVID in different EU countries.

Estimating the prevalence of long COVID is challenging without a precise and consistently applied case definition, however, preliminary estimates using WHO clinical case definition for ‘post COVID-19 condition’ indicate that a significant proportion of those infected with COVID-19 will experience debilitating symptoms lasting much longer than expected, leading to impaired quality of life in many cases. Given the high number of SARS-CoV-2 infections in Europe, addressing long COVID may place a significant burden on national health systems in the future.

Based on a 2023 survey to identify the main challenges and needs, the priorities for the Network and the Expert Group on Public Health will be presented early in 2024.

As there are still many unknowns, the EU’s Horizon Europe work programme 2021- 2022 has also provided funding for six research projects focused on long COVID and the EU Strategy on COVID-19 therapeutics refers to it in its framework of research, development and innovation actions. The European Medicines Agency is working to ensure that robust scientific evidence is gathered to support treatment and prevention options for long COVID.  An opinion from the Expert Panel on effective ways of investing in health provides insights into the impact of long COVID on health systems.