May 26, 2022

Covid clinics: hope and high prices on the long road to recovery

Yoga, mud baths and liver compresses… Welcome to the world of luxury wellness and long...

Yoga, mud baths and liver compresses… Welcome to the world of luxury wellness and long Covid. Amelia Tait reports on the extreme wealth divide in the search for a cure

Underneath the shadow of the snow-topped Austrian Alps, in front of a forest of thick green trees and behind a pure azure lake, sits a sprawling chalet that has seen everyone from Kate Moss to Michael Gove pass through its wide glass doors. The VivaMayr health resort in Altaussee, Austria, has long been the picturesque home of celebrity detoxes – strict bans on caffeine and alcohol, combined with stricter rules about the number of times you need to chew your food (40, naturally) have helped numerous celebrity clientele lose weight. The detoxing might sound harsh, but tranquillity oozes through the resort’s Instagram page, where enchanting mists tickle thick evergreen trees and women pose with mugs in sleek, pine interiors. It’s not the image that comes to mind when you think “long-Covid clinic”, but it is one. For £2,700 a week (excluding accommodation), sufferers can attend VivaMayr’s post-Covid medical programme, which promises a “better quality of life”.

There is currently no cure for long Covid – the condition in which individuals continue to suffer Covid-19 symptoms for months after first being infected – but there are plenty of treatments. There is an entire network of specialist NHS long-Covid clinics across the United Kingdom – here, patients can undergo rehabilitative programmes to help them improve their stamina, breathing and cognitive functions (for many, long Covid is characterised by fatigue, breathlessness, and concentration problems). Yet in September, the Office for National Statistics estimated that 1.1 million people in the UK currently suffer with long Covid, while between July and August, only 5,737 people were referred to specialist NHS clinics. With the Omicron variant threatening more lives, there’s a gap in the market for long-Covid care, and plenty of private practitioners are happy to fill it – for a price.

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