The World Health Organization has issued fresh clinical advice for treating Covid-19 patients, including those displaying persistent symptoms after recovery, and also advised using low-dose anti-coagulants to prevent blood clots. 

"The other things in the guidance that are new are that Covid-19 patients at home should have the use of pulse oximetry, that's measuring the oxygen levels, so you can identify whether someone at home is deteriorating and would be better off having hospital care," WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told a UN briefing in Geneva. 

The WHO also advised clinicians to put patients into the awake prone position, on their front, shown to improve the oxygen flow, she said. 

"Also we recommend, we suggest the use, of low-dose anti-coagulents to prevent blood clots forming in blood vessels. We suggest the use of lower doses rather than higher doses because higher doses may lead to other problems," Dr Harris said. 

A study by the Office for National Statistics in the UK estimated that one in five people has Covid symptoms that persist after five weeks.

One in ten has symptoms for 12 weeks or longer after acute coronavirus infection.

An article published in The Lancet medical journal last month by healthcare workers affected by long Covid listed ongoing symptoms including renal impairment, new-onset diabetes and lung disease.

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Dr Harris declined to comment on reports of delays in the roll-out of vaccines in the European Union.

She said she had no specific data and the WHO's priority was for health workers in all countries to be vaccinated in the first 100 days of the year.

WHO experts have cautiously backed delaying second injections of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine in some situations, and insisted international travellers should not be prioritised for Covid-19 jabs.

The WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE) said it was best to adhere to the tested interval of 28 days between doses of the Moderna vaccine, but that in "exceptional circumstances" the doses could be spaced as far as 42 days apart.

Dr Harris also said a WHO-led team of independent experts, currently in the central Chinese city of Wuhan where the first human cases were detected in December 2019, is due to leave quarantine in the next two days to pursue work on the virus origins.

Loss of taste, smell due to 'nerve damage, secondary to Covid'

An ENT consultant at Dublin's Beaumont Hospital has said the loss of taste and smell experienced by people who have had Covid-19 is "direct nerve damage, secondary to Covid".

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Professor James Paul O'Neill said the virus intercepts the cells and affects the olfactory and gustatory receptors.

He said from the early published research on Covid-19, the loss of smell and taste is very common among Covid patients and between 20% to 90% will experience some degree of anosmia, or a lack of smell, and this can affect their taste as well.
One study shows that within a month, 72% of people will recover their sense of smell, while 84% will recover their sense of taste. 

A small group of patients will have long term issues, he said, which has a massive impact on quality of life.

Aisling Gaffney said her sense of taste and smell has not fully returned since she contracted Covid-19 last March and while it improved in July, everything that comes out of the oven still tends to smell like "hot cardboard".

Speaking on the same programme, she said still cannot taste garlic and nothing smells like food, and it was "really stressful, as you have to eat, but there's no enjoyable food."

She said sweet things are sickeningly sweet.