The UWV expects three out of five lung covid patients to be completely disabled after two years

The majority of people with serious long-term corona complaints will be declared fully unfit for work. This is what the UWV expects on the basis of the assessments that have been made so far. Three out of five people with such complaints are now unable to work at all, according to figures published by the benefits agency on Wednesday for 2022. Return to the labor market is definitively excluded for a small proportion. “The UWV expects these figures to remain the same,” says the spokesperson.

Anyone who earns less than 65 percent of their previous income after two years of illness is eligible for a disability benefit under the Work and Income according to Labor Capacity Act (WIA). Since February last year, it has been possible to apply for a WIA benefit with long-term corona complaints.

Last year, almost 1,900 people reported to the UWV for an assessment due to corona complaints. The group often suffers from severe pain and fatigue, sometimes with too fast breathing and heartbeat, or anxiety and depression, says UWV insurance doctor Diny van der Geest. “My clients often try to return to work after a few months of illness, but then drop out for a long time.”

Many people in their twenties and thirties

It is not known exactly how many Dutch people have lung covid. About twenty thousand of these patients are affiliated with support organization C-support, but the actual numbers are probably higher. If the symptoms persist for more than three months after a corona infection, this is referred to as lung covid.

Almost half of Van der Geest’s clients are over fifty, but the insurance doctor also sees many people in their twenties and thirties. Sometimes there was “underlying suffering such as diabetes or autoimmune disease, but by no means in everyone,” she says. “Some were very fit before they got corona.” Many patients have had corona more often.

Some of my clients used to be very fit

The UWV expects the number of assessment applications due to corona to increase further. At the end of August last year, a total of 17,000 people were on the waiting list at the UWV, some of whom received or will receive a corona diagnosis. Because the number of assessments for corona is 3 percent of all WIA assessments in the past year, this means that hundreds more people with a corona diagnosis could be added. The UWV said it was unable to say on Tuesday how many people are now on the waiting list.

Still too little known

The UWV takes into account that some of the people who have been declared fully incapacitated for work will be able to return to work at some point. “Little is still known about the course of lung covid,” says Van der Geest. “It is still possible for people to recover and get back to work.” So far, this has mainly worked for people who do routine administrative work in offices.

According to the medical examiners, about 17 percent of the people who report to the UWV with lung covid are less than 35 percent incapacitated for work and are therefore not entitled to a WIA benefit. According to Van der Geest, a large number of them have now returned to work.

The UWV expects that a small proportion will never work again. For example, someone over the age of 60 whose clinical picture of lung covid resembled Alzheimer’s. The person was confused and had memory problems. The UWV ruled that the chance of returning to work was nil.

A third worked in healthcare

Almost a third of the people who received a corona diagnosis from the UWV worked in healthcare. In the healthcare sector, almost twice as many people are rejected due to lung covid as in other sectors. This may be explained by the fact that many people who have been ill for two years now contracted corona in the first wave, when many healthcare workers became infected.

Employers generally give the corona patient group many opportunities to return, says Van der Geest. According to the doctor, this is mainly because they are dealing with staff shortages and because more information is now known about lung covid. “Almost everyone has someone in his or her environment who is out for a long time due to corona. That leads to more understanding.”

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It recently emerged that scientific studies into lung covid are at risk of coming to a standstill or being delayed due to funding problems. According to the UWV, this is a problem because much is still unclear about the treatment of long-term corona complaints. Anxiety complaints or depression in lung covid patients can be treated better. But there is not yet a successful treatment for, for example, the pain and fatigue complaints.

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