Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned the public to continue to follow social distancing rules amid growing concerns surrounding the long-term effects of the novel coronavirus.

The warning comes alongside a the release of a new film released today as part of the wider national Hands, Face, Space campaign.

It highlights the symptoms of ‘long COVID’, which includes fatigue, protracted loss of taste or smell, respiratory and cardiovascular symptoms and mental health problems.

In addition, a new study from King’s College London shows that one in 20 people with COVID-19 are likely to have symptoms for eight weeks or more.

The study, which used data from the COVID Symptom Study App and ZOE, also found that ‘long COVID’ affects around 10% of 18-49 year olds who become unwell with COVID-19.

Public Health England has also discovered that around 10% of COVID-19 cases who were not admitted to hospital have reported symptoms lasting more than four weeks.

A number of hospitalised cases also reported continuing symptoms for eight or more weeks following discharge.

Although most individuals will recover from COVID-19 without needing special treatment, with majority of symptoms clearing after approximately two weeks, some people have reporting persistent health problems which persist for weeks and months following initial diagnosis.

“I am acutely aware of the lasting and debilitating impact long COVID can have on people of all ages, irrespective of the seriousness of the initial symptoms,” said Hancock.

“The findings from researchers at King's College London are stark and this should be a sharp reminder to the public – including to young people – that COVID-19 is indiscriminate and can have long-term and potentially devastating effects.

“The more people take risks by meeting up in large groups or not social distancing, the more the wider population will suffer, and the more cases of long COVID we will see,” he added.

The new evidence combined with expert advice has led to the following Hands, Face, Space campaign recommendations:

Washing your hands: While coronavirus is not likely to survive for long periods of time on outdoor surfaces in sunlight, it can live for more than 24 hours in indoor environments. Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day will reduce the risk of catching or passing on the virus.

Covering your face: Coronavirus is carried by tiny respiratory droplets. Larger droplets can land on other people or on surfaces they touch while smaller droplets, called aerosols, can stay in the air indoors for at least five minutes, and often much longer if there is no ventilation. Face coverings reduce the dispersion of these droplets, meaning if you’re carrying the virus, you’re less likely to spread it when you exhale.

Making space: Transmission of the virus is most likely to happen within two metres, with risk increasing exponentially at shorter distances. While keeping this exact distance isn’t always possible, remaining mindful of surroundings and continuing to make space has a powerful impact when it comes to containing the spread.