Oldham doctor launches Long Covid campaign

Date published: 29 March 2021

Oldham GP and national health campaigner Dr Zahid Chauhan OBE has implored employers to ease the pressure on sufferers of one of the world’s most currently misunderstood ailments - and not rush them back to work.

Long COVID-19 sufferers have been told that the condition is “all in their head”, with some experts recently claiming they actually have nothing more than glandular fever.

But as exam invigilator Helen Avouris can testify, Long Covid can actually mean shortage of breath and the kind of unprecedented exhaustion that led her to stop working just 20 minutes into her last shift.

The former schoolteacher is one of an anticipated 60,000 Covid sufferers who have endured symptoms for over three months, having contracted the virus while visiting her poorly daughter in Italy in March, 2020.

Dr Chauhan believes any attempt to coerce sufferers like Helen back to work could prove disastrous for anyone with the baffling condition.

“At present, we are vexed as to why Long Covid exists – but I can assure you it mostly certainly does, and it can lead to palpations, acid reflux and utter exhaustion," Dr Chauhan said.

“One of its chief curses is that the actual initial infection can often appear quite mild, which seems to give some people license to suggest its psychosomatic.

"It isn’t and pushing people back into stressful situations could create huge health problems.”

Helen visited Italy to care for her daughter Tasha before the full extent of the coronavirus was known.

“There were no temperatures taken at the airport, no hand gel available in the hospital and people moved about quite freely,” she recalls.

She has since paid numerous visits to medics and even lost her voice for four months, which made her “sound like a cross between Marj Simpson and Minnie Mouse”.

Also a talented actor who has appeared on Coronation Street, Helen (pictured above) now accepts that having the condition is limiting her life and cannot believe people are being asked to return to work whilst still suffering from Long COVID.

“I have struggled to find the right words, have brain fog and what feels like a burning sensation,” she added.

"And I cannot believe anyone who is experiencing the kind of fatigue I have, which is like being hit by a bus, is being asked to go back to the office.”

Dr Chauhan added: “Finding out more about this strain of COVID-19 is vitally important.

"Until that time happens, we must have patience with sufferers and not risk their lives and wellbeing in an urgent push to normalise.

"The condition remains a complete mystery and its implications could be catastrophic.

"Let us not take a chance with people’s lives and instead nurse them back to health, properly.”

Dr Zahid Chauhan OBE is a national campaigner for health equalities and the founder of the Homeless-Friendly charity.

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