Thousands sign petition calling on feds to recognize COVID-19 long-haulers

As more information about COVID-19 and its long-term effects become known, many who have recovered from the disease are now calling on the federal government to recognize long COVID as a condition and provide financial help for people who can’t work because of it.

Terrabrie Stewart is one of those people.

“I received a positive, official diagnosis from the infectious disease doctor that I saw in January.”

It took about three weeks for Stewart to recover from the initial sickness.

“I was bedridden the entire time. Severe breathing difficulties, very confused, I couldn’t read a whole credit card out without stopping to breathe in the middle.”

After recovering from the disease, Stewart looked forward to getting back to every day life.

“After about three weeks I kept feeling like well I’m out of bed now can I go back to work, but I wasn’t able to pass the screening test because my breathing difficulties were still so pronounced.”

“That’s when the lung pain started and just this feeling like I just sprinted 200 metres without training and the deep, aching, cold, burning feeling in my lungs without exerting myself.”

Stewart also experienced fatigue, a persistent rash, and headaches.

She finally returned to work half days in May, and started three quarter days in September, but she still needs to nap every day. She hopes to return to work full time next month. The mother of three said she’s lived off her credit cards for months, and is now about $3,000 in debt.

“I couldn’t access any other services at that time, they said that COVID wasn’t recognized as a disability, and I love my job so much I didn’t want to risk losing it.”

Stewart isn’t alone. Chandra Pasma also has long COVID.

“There are people who are looking at declaring bankruptcy, there are some people who are about to lose their homes and it’s very frustrating because the solutions are so easy.”

Pasma is hoping that a petition that will soon be tabled in the House of Commons will help those who need financial relief after struggling with long-term symptoms.

“We have existing programs like EI sickness benefit that could be extended. The government has already committed to a small extension, they just haven’t implemented it and we have the Canada Recovery Benefits which with some small tweaks could be available to these long haulers.”

The petition also calls for an immediate investment into research for long COVID.

More than 800 Canadian residents have signed the petition. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Amanda Anderson.