According to health experts, as high as 50% of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 have experienced its long haul effects.

Herbosa said there is no treatment available yet for the weakness for cases of long COVID. “So your performance level, if you’re an athlete, it will definitely affect your performance level in whatever sport you are performing.”

Rehabilitation — physical and pulmonary — may help patients improve their body functions. For those with pulmonary fibrosis, there are also medicines that work by preventing the regeneration of fibroblast in the lungs.

Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, the country's treatment czar, also suggest patients with long COVID may benefit from doing simple exercises such as walking, and getting proper sleep and nutrition. He also suggested doing mental exercises such as playing chess. Listening to classical music and meditation could also help their minds relax.

This is why her doctor advised Bethel Guansing to take daily walks at least 30 minutes each morning, a practice she continues to this day.

With pride evident in her voice, Bethel shared that the 30-minute walks have increased to over an hour.

“The doctor said this was good news. Sometimes I try to run. I remained fine. I didn’t really have difficulty breathing.” Not a beat later, Bethel corrected herself, “I had trouble breathing, but it wasn’t that bad.”

Her pulmonologist Dr. Jubert Benedict advised her to do breathing exercises to help with this struggle. “I just talked to her and asked her to focus on what she can do. Celebrate the small victories,” he told GMA News Online.

Meanwhile, Año is still undergoing therapy for his left arm, which became “frozen” after being inserted by an intravenous (IV) to his heart for months.

He recalled not being able to dress up on his own and even had to have his polo shirts customized with a zipper on the sides just so he could wear them.

He said he has also been doing stretching exercises and undergoing physical rehabilitation twice a week.

Like the soldier that he was, Año is back on his feet, doing activities like trail walking and golfing, but with more caution now considering his long battle with COVID-19. He has also returned to his post as the DILG secretary, serving out his remaining months in office before the term of President Rodrigo Duterte ends on June 30.

In January 2022, he contracted the virus anew amid the more transmissible Omicron variant surge. But unlike his first two infections, Año was in much safer hands in his third bout with COVID-19 as he was already fully vaccinated.

Limpin believes this is best way to avoid getting long COVID. “The one big way or the big and effective, preventive, management of long COVID will be to get vaccinated. Because the vaccine will prevent severe COVID,” she said.

Herbosa echoed this, adding that it is indeed vital to get the anti-COVID jabs, especially among children and adolescents so as to prevent the long COVID’s “lifetime effect.”

Both doctors already warn that long COVID may have a longterm impact not just on individuals, but on the country’s productivity and workforce. The Philippines’ has tallied nearly 3.7 million COVID-19 infections at the end of May.

“Among these post-COVID cases, many are 65 years old, but we also saw many who are still young and yet continue to have persistent symptoms,” Limpin said.

“IIf you have a workforce that has a chronic illness, that has chronic COVID or long COVID, what will happen is they will be in and out of the hospital. Number two, they cannot function as an individual of that same age,” Herbosa added.

Based on the NTF’s latest report, at least 64 million Filipinos are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 11 million individuals have received booster shots or additional doses.

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