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A group of doctors affected by prolonged symptoms of Covid-19 are calling for an action plan in tackling the long-term health effects of the virus.

A letter signed by 39 doctors said there was an “emerging picture” that long-term symptoms of the virus were having a substantial impact on a significant minority of people.

Those suffering with so-called long Covid have reported breathlessness, chronic fatigue and brain fog – months after initially falling ill.

In the letter to the BMJ medical journal, published today, the group of doctors said they aimed to share their insights of having confirmed or suspected coronavirus, as well as their perspective as physicians.

They said research and surveillance is required to “capture the full spectrum of disease”, including those who are not admitted to hospital and not tested for the virus.

Further research into chronic Covid-19 symptoms is needed, according to the letter’s signatories, who claimed failure to do so risks missing opportunities to identify risk factors and treatments for those affected.

This requires collaboration between politicians, healthcare services, public health professionals, scientists and society, the doctors said.

Their action plan also called for one-stop clinics for those experiencing long-term symptoms of Covid-19, while clinical services should not “unfairly discriminate” against those with negative tests.

“Widespread testing was not available in the early days of the pandemic,” the letter said, adding that the test has been associated with “a considerable risk of false negatives”.

“We welcome increasing awareness of the problem of persisting symptoms of Covid-19,” the letter concluded.

“As politicians, scientists, and doctors attempt to tackle this issue, these principles can act as a guide enabling the experiences of those with the condition to inform the efforts of experts and lead to improved research and clinical care, benefiting those affected and society as a whole.”

It comes after a study found that tens of thousands of people have had symptoms of illness for more than three months, with some sufferers having difficulty climbing the stairs or going shopping.