National Cabinet discusses new oral anti-viral treatments, Covid-related matters

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference following a national cabinet meeting, at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, January 13, 2022. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING

 National Cabinet received an update from Adjunct Professor John Skerritt of the Therapeutic Goods Administration on approvals for the first oral treatments for COVID-19 in Australia, Lagevrio® (molnupiravir) and Paxlovid® (nirmatrelvir + ritonavir).

Lagevrio and Paxlovid are oral anti-viral treatments that have been found to be effective in treating people with mild to moderate COVID-19 who have a high risk of progressing to severe disease, reducing admissions to hospital and ICU and potential death. The Commonwealth Government has secured access to 300,000 treatment courses of Lagevrio® and 500,000 courses of Paxlovid® for supply throughout the course of 2022, with the first deliveries of both medicines anticipated over the coming weeks. These oral antiviral treatments need a prescription and are taken every 12 hours for five days. They are designed to interfere with the virus’ ability to multiply.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has further granted provisional approval of Novavax for its COVID-19 vaccine, NUVAXOVID for primary course vaccinations. This is the first protein COVID-19 vaccine to receive regulatory approval in Australia. The Commonwealth Government has ordered 51 million doses of the Novavax vaccine which will be available as a primary course vaccine, with supplies available in coming weeks following deliveries and further batch testing.

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AHPPC Updated Advice on Use of RATs  

Rapid Antigen Tests are to be used for three purposes:

  1. As a diagnostic test as an alternative to PCR for those at high risk of having COVID-19
  2. To manage outbreaks
  3. To help early indication of cases in high risk settings

Use of RATs to detect cases in high risk settings is recommended in residential aged and disability care settings where there is high community prevalence, healthcare settings managing very high risk patients (e.g. transplant ward, hematology unit, oncology ward, renal dialysis units) and other critical services (e.g. other parts of health care and emergency services). Rapid Antigen Tests are not routinely recommended to detect cases early for other industries, businesses and organisations.

Essential Workforce

National Cabinet considered the trucking industry’s proposals to support the freight and logistics effort including reducing the age of eligibility to apply for a forklift license, recognition of New Zealand truck driver licenses in Australia and having experience or competency based licencing for heavy vehicle driver licenses.

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New Zealand and Australian driver license matters have been referred to the National Cabinet Infrastructure and Transport Reform Committee for consideration and National Cabinet agreed not to progress the industry’s proposed forklift license changes.

National Back to School Framework

State and Territory Governments will release their operational plans for schools. These plans will be in line with the National Framework for Managing COVID-19 in Schools and Early Childhood Education and Care that were agreed and released last week.

State and Territory Governments will determine what level of Rapid Antigen Testing is advised in school and early childhood settings. The Commonwealth will support these arrangements through 50:50 cost sharing under the COVID-19 National Partnership Agreement.

COVID-19 Related Requests for ADF Support

National Cabinet noted the revised Protocol for Defence Assistance to the Civil Community in COVID-19 (DACC) management support that the Commonwealth will apply when assessing requests for ADF support to the COVID-19 outbreak. These conditions and thresholds have been recalibrated following the changing operating environment arising from the Omicron variant of COVID-19.