As Dr. Fiona Godlee, the editor-in-chief of BMJ and chair of the session, noted: “While most of the people recover quickly and completely from COVID-19, growing numbers are finding that they haven’t simply snapped back to their pre-COVID lives. Instead, after what may are only a light initial illness, they’re experiencing a variety of troubling and sometimes disabling symptoms.”

“Breathlessness, cough, palpitations, exercise intolerance, mental and physical exhaustion, anxiety, depression, fatigue, inability to concentrate and brain fog are just a few of the items being described,” she said.

Yet despite living with such life-altering symptoms for months, many of us are unable to convince their doctors that they need long COVID, having never received a positive COVID-19 test result.

According to Prof. Greenhalgh — who focuses on medical care and also works as a GP — the need for proof of an infection with SARS-CoV-2 is that the very first thing that has got to change if patients with long COVID are to receive any support.

In a BMJarticle she co-authored in August, Prof. Greenhalgh and colleagues had already emphasized this point: “Since many of us weren’t tested, and false-negative tests are common, we propose that a positive test for [COVID-19] isn’t a prerequisite for diagnosis.”

Highlighting that there’s an “absence of agreed definitions,” she and her team suggested that a helpful approach could be to consider “post-acute COVID-19 as extending beyond 3 weeks from the onset of first symptoms, and chronic COVID-19 as extending beyond 12 weeks,” no matter any test results.

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