Home, community and disability care providers have been encouraged to support clients to access antiviral treatments if they test positive for COVID-19.

Since 11 July, many Australians can access subsidised antiviral treatments if they test positive for COVID-19. They include anyone aged 70 or over, and younger people who have certain risk factors, which include living in residential aged care or living with disability with multiple conditions or frailty.

More than 1,000 people joined Monday’s webinar to receive a Department of Health and Aged Care update for providers on COVID-19 in aged care.

Professor Michael Kidd

Deputy chief medical officer Professor Michael Kidd said COVID cases and hospitalisations were rising “very dramatically” across the country with 4,600 people hospitalised with COVID 19, up from 3,200 a week ago.

“So that’s risen very dramatically, and the number of people in intensive care is increasing as well. We now have 144 people with COVID 19 in intensive care, compared to 118 people just a week ago. We’re seeing a rise in community cases of COVID-19, we’re also seeing a very significant rise in the number of residential aged care homes managing active outbreaks,” Professor Kidd told providers.

Home and community care providers were encouraged to put arrangements in place with GPs and support their clients to access antivirals if they test positive.

Professor Kidd emphasised the expanded access to oral antiviral treatments for COVID-19 after the Australian Government accepted a recommendation from the pharmaceutical benefits advisory committee to expand the eligibility criteria.

“It has been broadened to include people with chronic respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, moderate or severe asthma, and also greater access for adults living with disability, who have multiple medical conditions whether they’re living in their own homes or in disability care.

“The very important aged care eligibility has been revised with now people aged 70 years and above are eligible for these treatments, regardless of whether they have any other risk factors, and regardless of whether they have any symptoms. So anyone aged 70 and above, if they test positive on a rapid antigen test or PCR test regardless of symptoms is eligible to immediately oral therapy,” Professor Kidd said.

“And it’s very important these antiviral treatments are started as quickly as possible, ideally on the day that somebody tested positive.”

The treatments need to start within five days for them to be effective and are most effective when started as early as possible and before people become significantly unwell, he said.

Home and community care providers were also encouraged to read the government’s winter plan for aged care launched by Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells last Thursday.

The Winter Plan – A guide for residential aged care providers presents a framework for the sector during 2022 to adapt its current outbreak preparedness and response, and the supports provided by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care Department.

It sets out provision for infection control training and supplies of PPE, RATs and antivirals and includes separate preparedness checklist for the home aged care sector.

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