Whole of population-based cohort study of recovery time from COVID-19 in New South Wales Australia

Lancet Reg Health West Pac. 2021 Jul;12:100193. doi: 10.1016/j.lanwpc.2021.100193. Epub 2021 Jun 25.


Background: COVID-19 results in persisting symptoms but there is little systematically collected data estimating recovery time following infection.

Methods: We followed 94% of all COVID-19 cases diagnosed in the Australian state of New South Wales between January and May 2020 using 3-4 weekly telephone interviews and linkage to hospitalisation and death data to determine if they had recovered from COVID-19 based on symptom resolution. Proportional hazards models with competing risks were used to estimate time to recovery adjusted for age and gender.

Findings: In analyses 2904 cases were followed for recovery (median follow-up time 16 days, range 1-122, IQR 11-24).There were 2572 (88.6%) who reported resolution of symptoms (262/2572 were also hospitalised), 224 (7.8%) had not recovered at last contact (28/224 were also hospitalised), 51 (1.8%) died of COVID-19, and 57 (2.0%) were hospitalised without a documented recovery date. Of those followed, 20% recovered by 10 days, 60% at 20, 80% at 30, 91% at 60, 93% at 90 and 96% at 120 days. Compared to those aged 30-49 years, those 0-29 years were more likely to recover (aHR 1.22, 95%CI 1.10-1.34) while those aged 50-69 and 70+ years were less likely to recover (aHR respectively 0.74, 95%CI 0.67-0.81 and 0.63, 95%CI 0.56-0.71). Men were faster to recover than women (aHR 1.20, 95%CI 1.11-1.29) and those with pre-existing co-morbidities took longer to recover than those without (aHR 0.90, 95%CI 0.83-0.98).

Interpretation: In a setting where most cases of COVID-19 were ascertained and followed, 80% of those with COVID-19 recover within a month, but about 5% will continue to experience symptoms 3 months later.

Funding: NSW Health Emergency Response Priority Research Projects.

Keywords: COVID-19; Cohort study; Recovery.