The debilitating effects of long Covid have just begun to hit economies | Torsten Bell

A study of German footballers revealed they still weren’t fighting fit six months after recovering from infection

The impact of the pandemic on our economy as we attempt to reopen is top of the agenda, with ships on the wrong side of the globe, gas prices rising and surging demand for many goods going unmet. How big and long lasting these effects will be dominated discussions of global financial leaders at last week’s annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

But what is hardly discussed and still poorly understood is the continuing impact of Covid-19, specifically on the millions of people who have had it. Governments are only just starting to worry about long Covid’s impact on their disability benefits bill, while we know little about Covid’s direct effect on productivity.

New research gives a worrying answer on that front, albeit from a very particular industry: football. Examining the impact of Covid infection on football players in Germany and Italy, it finds their performance (measured by passes) dips by 6% when they return after the illness and is still 5% down six months on. This is very different to an almost instantaneous recovery from flu. Most of us don’t do jobs as physically demanding as football, but the paper is a reminder that current high case rates may not be cost-free – for those infected or our economy as a whole.

So when we’re pondering the legacy of this crisis for our economies, let’s not forget what makes up a large part of them: human beings.

• Torsten Bell is chief executive of the Resolution Foundation. Read more at resolutionfoundation.org

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Torsten Bell

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