Better statistics and official recognition that the condition exists are among a campaigner’s demands to address the scourge of long Covid.
Matthieu Lestage is one of two million adults suffering from long Covid in France, and 144 million worldwide.
“I got Covid in October 2020, and my life has radically changed,” the former shop manager, sportsman and military instructor told The Connexion.
“I am now on oxygen for two hours a day just in order to keep my levels stable. The life I had before has gone.”
I am only 45 but am out of breath if I walk upstairs
He describes suffering from overwhelming fatigue, breathlessness and problems with concentration, memory and language.
Mr Lestage is now spokesperson for the Association Covid Long France which lobbies for more support for people with the condition. Its URL (www.apresj20.fr) comes from the idea that Covid only lasts for 20 days.
Photo: Matthieu Lestage, 45, is one of two million adults suffering from long Covid in France; Credit: Matthieu Lestage
“I cannot do simple things like go to the supermarket on my own. I cannot drive far, I cannot run at all.
“My symptoms are very common, but there are many more. I tremble and, although I am only 45, I am out of breath if I walk upstairs. If I push too hard, I lose consciousness. I am constantly managing my physical state.
“My passion is nature and fishing. I started fishing again a year ago and managed a day, but for two to three days after that I was so exhausted I had to stay in bed.”
Government promised to keep a record of long Covid patients
The government’s response to the condition has been laughable, he said.
In January, a decree was published to set up a platform to formally assess the number of long Covid sufferers in France, but since then nothing has happened, he claims.
The system was proposed by Renaissance MP Stéphanie Rist, who is also a doctor.
She said it is finally set to be operational before the end of 2023. It will keep a record of patients with the condition, enabling them to be formally recognised by their doctor and the health system for the purposes of reimbursing treatment.
Mr Lestage said it was important to have an official headcount and formal recognition that long Covid exists.
“Some doctors still don’t accept it, and those who do have no protocol to follow. They just try to treat the worst symptoms with painkillers and physiotherapy.”
75% of people with long Covid are women
He said that some doctors still insist long Covid, which affects more women than men, is psychosomatic.
“They say, ‘Well, you’re a woman, of course you’re tired. Your hormones are playing up, you are hysterical, go home and rest.’
“We all know that women’s health problems are not taken seriously by doctors, and 75% of people with long Covid are women.”
People do not take the same care with masks and hand gels
It is not only a question of medical support, Mr Lestage added. Long Covid patients also need help addressing the lives and jobs they have lost.
“They need to be heard, they need financial support to pay the rent, and research needs to be done so we can be cured.”
Politicians tend to minimise the effects of Covid, he said, even though the number of cases is increasing again.
This can mean that some people no longer take the same care about using masks and hand gels.
“People want Covid to be over, but for those suffering from long Covid the nightmare continues,” he said.