Boris Johnson is facing fresh calls to offer compensation to frontline workers suffering from the debilitating long-term effects of coronavirus.
More than 60 MPs and peers have written to the Prime Minister urging the Government to recognise so-called long Covid as an occupational disease.
Sufferers report severe fatigue, loss of taste or smell, and respiratory and cardiovascular problems long after recovering from the virus.
The Government has announced plans to pour £18.5 million into research around long Covid, with one in 10 people estimated to continue experiencing symptoms after 12 weeks.
But the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus renewed its calls for compensation scheme for key workers struggling to work due to the long term effects of the disease.
Chairwoman Layla Moran described long Covid as the “hidden health crisis” of the pandemic and called for more support for people whose long-term health had been impacted by the virus.
The group wants the UK to follow France, Germany, Belgium and Denmark by formally recognising Covid-19 as an “occupational disease”.
Ms Moran said: “Long Covid is the hidden health crisis of the pandemic, and it is likely to have an enormous impact on society for many years to come.
“When it comes to frontline NHS, care and key workers, they were specifically asked to go to work and save lives while everyone else was asked to stay at home.
“They were exposed to an increased level of risk of catching the virus, often without adequate levels of PPE.”
She said many frontline heroes were suffering the debilitating effects of long Covid and were unable to return to full-time work.
“The Government cannot abandon them now or ever,” the Liberal Democrat MP said.
“The least the Government can do is recognise their sacrifice by recognising their condition as an occupational disease, launching a compensation scheme, and save the livelihoods of those who save lives.”
Tory MP Dr Dan Poulter, vice chair of the group, said doctors had gone beyond the call of duty during the pandemic but many were now facing “terrible health consequences”.
“The Government asked frontline medical staff and key workers to look after us during the pandemic, now it is government’s turn to look after the heroes of the pandemic by launching a comprehensive compensation scheme for those of them living with long Covid,” he said.
The call has been backed by Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) Council, who said a compensation scheme to support healthcare staff is “only right”.
He added: “After being exposed to increased risk working on the front line during the Covid-19 pandemic, there are now healthcare workers across the country living with the long-term, debilitating impacts of having caught the virus.
“We have heard harrowing stories from doctors suffering with long Covid, who are often unable to work, threatening their financial stability and affecting their lives at home.
“The dedication and selflessness shown by healthcare workers over the last year, and the debt of gratitude owed to them, cannot be under-estimated.
“While the Government and employers must increase efforts to protect staff now and stop them contracting Covid-19 in the first place, for some it is already too late.”
It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said four major studies into the long-term effects of coronavirus will be boosted by £18.5 million of Government funding.
He said: “I am acutely aware of the lasting and debilitating impact long COVID can have on people of all ages, irrespective of the extent of the initial symptoms.
“Fatigue, headaches and breathlessness can affect people for months after their COVID-19 infection regardless of whether they required hospital admission initially.
“In order to effectively help these individuals we need to better understand long COVID and identify therapeutics that can help recovery. This funding will kickstart four ambitious projects to do just that.”