Long COVID

Long COVID, also known as post-COVID, refers to long-term health problems some patients experience after recovering from COVID-19. Much is still unclear about this syndrome. There is an urgent need for effective treatment to reduce or eliminate the long COVID symptoms.

Long COVID syndrome

Long COVID is diagnosed when the patient’s health problems persist for more than 3 months after recovering from COVID-19. These health problems range from mild to severe and may include persistent symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath and difficulty concentrating, as well as long-term effects such as damage to the heart, lungs and brain. Persistent symptoms often negatively affect social functioning, the ability to work, and overall quality of life.

Long COVID: Research Programme, Knowledge Infrastructure and Expertise Network

ZonMw has now received approval from the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) for the Long COVID: Research Programme, Knowledge Infrastructure and Expertise Network programme. This programme focuses on increasing and sharing knowledge and expertise on long COVID for diagnosis, treatment and optimisation of patient care. As much as € 32 million has been made available for the programme and its implementation. The programme has been designed along 2 programme lines: 1) Research infrastructure and collaboration, and 2) Research programme.

1. Long COVID Research and Expertise Network

A national research and expertise network in the Netherlands will be established within this programme line. The network aims to establish a research infrastructure to expedite research on long COVID. The network will also play a vital role in building expertise on long COVID and getting available knowledge and results from research to healthcare professionals and patients as quickly as possible. Within the Long COVID Research and Expertise Network funding round the project "Post-COVID Netwerk Nederland" was granted funding and will start soon.

2. Research Programme

This programme line is focused on developing much-needed knowledge about the mechanisms involved in long COVID syndrome, as well as further development of diagnostics, treatment, and optimisation of care for long COVID patients. Knowledge questions in the overarching long COVID Knowledge Agenda will further shape the research to be funded within the research programme.

European collaboration

Besides cooperation within the Netherlands, it is also important to work together and share knowledge internationally. The European Commission (EC) has therefore initiated a European collaboration on long COVID in the form of a network of expertise (Network of Expertise on Long COVID under the Expert Group on Public Health). The Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) has nominated the Dutch Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU), C-support and ZonMw to participate in this network. The kick-off meeting with all potential members of the network took place on 2 May 2023. The EC has made a budget of € 50 million available for this European network.

Long COVID research

ZonMw facilitates comprehensive scientific research into COVID-19, long COVID, and their effects on Dutch]  society. We do this in collaboration with commissioning bodies, policymakers, researchers, patients, practitioners, data professionals in the Netherlands as well as international partners. See the long COVID projects here.


Funding within different programmes/sub-programmes and funding rounds
The COVID-19 programme was set up in 2020 commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS). Within the funding rounds of the COVID-19 programme, some projects were already included in 2020 that conduct research into disease progression after a COVID-19 infection and also focus on the longer term. In 2021, the ‘Persistent Complaints and Aftercare’ sub-programme was set up. 4 funding rounds specifically related to long COVID were launched under this programme. Additionally, there are research studies tangential to long COVID funded from the ‘COVID-19 Treatment’ and ‘COVID-19 Vaccination’ sub-programmes. And recently, a ‘Diagnostics and Treatment of long COVID’ funding round was opened within the ‘COVID-19 Treatment’ sub-programme. The purpose of this round is the continued development and/or application of innovations that benefit the diagnosis and/or treatment of long COVID.

These studies have multiple research objectives: from a better subtyping of patient categories and researching the underlying mechanisms of long COVID in one specific organ, for example, to the effectiveness of interventions. Most research studies are ongoing; some have already been completed. For more information about the project or the project results, take a look at the different programmes/sub-programmes and funding rounds below.

Blog series "I am researching long COVID"

Published blogs can be found on this page.

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