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Australia announces A$50m for long Covid research

Funding follows inquiry that recommended national approach to “poorly understood” health challenge

Australia’s government is to pour an extra A$50 million from the Medical Research Future Fund into research on long Covid.

The announcement on 24 April was a response to a report from the parliamentary Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport, which received more than 500 submissions on the issue.

The report recommended a “nationally coordinated research programme for long Covid and Covid-19”. It said the programme would ideally be led by Australia’s yet-to-be-established Centre for Disease Control.

Releasing the report, committee chair Mike Freelander said: “People with long Covid suffer from a lack of information and treatment options. Healthcare professionals, who worked tirelessly over the acute phase of the pandemic, are now in a difficult situation trying to support patients with this new and poorly understood condition.”

Tania Sorrell, a professor at the Sydney Infectious Diseases Institute, said the inquiry’s nine recommendations were “key and much needed”.

Health minister Mark Butler said the new research funding would “help improve our knowledge of long Covid in the Australian context and generate evidence to inform policy and clinical guidance, improve health outcomes and increase awareness of the condition in the community”.

Limited understanding

During its 2022 hearings and submissions, the inquiry heard from health professionals about difficulties in researching long Covid, including lack of access to funds.

The report noted evidence that adequate studies of the condition across the population had not been done, leading to “a limited understanding of the frequency and severity of psychological symptoms potentially associated with long Covid”.

New research programmes should “span basic science, clinical trials, models of care, health promotion and implementation science”, it said.

Although its scope was limited to long Covid, it said that “a wide-ranging summit into the pandemic, as well as the government response, should be held”.

The health department is also drawing up a national plan for long Covid research.