Canberra: The Australian Government said on Sunday July 10 that eligibility for “potentially lifesaving” Covid-19 antiviral treatments will be widened from Monday July 11.
Health Minister Mark Butler confirmed that all Australians aged over 70 who test positive for Covid will be able to access antivirals on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which means the Government will subsidize the treatments, reports Xinhua news agency.
Access will also be expanded to people aged over 50 with two or more risk factors for severe disease, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged over 30 with two or more risk factors for severe disease.
Immunocompromised people over 18 may also be eligible.
It comes as the Covid infections continue to surge in Australia in the current winter months, when community transmission of both coronavirus and influenza is placing stress on the health system.
There were about 4,000 cases being treated in Australian hospitals recently.
“Covid cases and hospitalization numbers are climbing, particularly with the new variants,” Butler said in a statement on Sunday.
“These oral antivirals dramatically reduce the risk of severe disease, particularly for older Australians, and will help keep people out of the hospital.”
Antiviral treatments, taken as a tablet or capsule, help to stop Covid-19 infection from becoming severe, but they need to be started early after testing positive, according to the Health Minister.
Australians aged 30 and older will be eligible to receive a fourth Covid vaccine dose from Monday.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese urged as many people as possible to take up the opportunity.
“I intend myself to get this additional booster shot. People if they’re eligible should do it. It minimizes the impact and people should follow that health advice,” he told reporters.
“The pandemic isn’t over.”
On Sunday morning, Australia reported more than 20,000 new Covid-19 cases and 10 deaths.