The Australian government has committed new funding for research into long COVID.
Mark Butler, the Minister for Health and Aged Care, on Monday announced that 50 million Australian dollars (33.3 million U.S. dollars) from the Medical Research Future Fund will be made available for research into post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC).
Butler said the funding would help improve the knowledge of PASC, commonly known as long COVID, and provide evidence to inform policy and health responses.
The announcement was made to coincide with the release of a parliamentary report into the health, economic and social impacts of long COVID.
The standing committee on health, aged care and sport called for the establishment of a single national COVID-19 database under the Australian Center for Disease Control and a nationally-coordinated research program into COVID-19 and long COVID.
“Long COVID is an emerging health issue, both in Australia and internationally,” Butler said in a statement.
“I have tasked my department with developing a national plan to respond to long COVID, taking into consideration the committee’s findings.”
The World Health Organization defines long COVID as the continuation or development of new symptoms three months after the initial infection, with these symptoms lasting for at least two months with no other explanation.
Monday’s report said Australia should continue to use that definition for the time being but work on reviewing it as research becomes available.
Mike Freelander, the chair of the committee, said the inquiry was hampered by a lack of specific data on long COVID in Australia.
“It is clear that long COVID is a significant problem and estimates vary, indicating that between 2 percent to 20 percent of those infected with COVID-19 may develop long COVID,” he wrote.
“At this stage it does seem that specific treatments require more evidence of benefit before being specifically recommended, but this will become clearer over time.” ■