A number of former coronavirus patients have become so-called COVID-19 ‘long-haulers’ and are still suffering from symptoms despite recovering months ago, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci told Times of Malta.

The most common symptoms are a lingering cough, shortness of breath and fatigue. According to Gauci, some people have reported being so fatigued that normal day-to-day chores have become a struggle.

“Some people are complaining that they are so fatigued that they cannot continue with the daily work that they used to do before,” Gauci said.

Some patients have also reported suffering from muscle and joint pains. Others have yet to regain their sense of taste and smell.

The public health chief said it is not yet known what causes such symptoms, with some theories suggesting it could be that though a person is no longer infectious, the virus continues to linger in the body.

It could also be that the body’s response is overreacting and causing such symptoms, Gauci contended.

In Malta’s case, the long-haulers’ symptoms have not always been the same as what they had experienced while still infected.

Gauci said some show no symptoms at all but now have lingering fatigue while others had some of the symptoms and are now exhibiting others.

Asked for the number of ‘long-haulers’ Gauci said it is difficult to say since the authorities do not manage patients once they have recovered.

It is only if they come forward themselves that they find out about them. In Malta, there are 5,371 people who have recovered from the virus.

Gauci was giving her comments during Times of Malta’s fortnightly Facebook show Ask Charmaine.

Large gatherings

When asked for her views on the ‘Christmas in the City’ programme unveiled on Monday, Gauci said she remained against large events that gather people together.

“It’s important to understand that we are in a pandemic and the more chance you have of meeting other people, the greater the risk of acquiring the virus,” she said.

“The law does not permit gatherings of more than six people.”

On whether she would be attending the event, Gauci said she will be too busy working and dealing with the pandemic to attend such festivities.

Doctors criticised the government for encouraging people to congregate in Valletta around Christmas time, saying this was irresponsible, especially since the number of new cases has continued to spike.

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