If you believe you're at higher-risk of becoming unwell with COVID-19, you should make a treatment plan with your GP before you get sick to discuss access to testing and antiviral medicines if you test positive. You need to begin taking antivirals for COVID-19 within 5 days of symptoms starting.
About COVID-19 treatments
Medications are available to some people who test positive for COVID-19. These medications are referred to as antiviral medicines, or simply ‘antivirals.’ Antiviral medicines must be prescribed by a medical doctor or a nurse practitioner.
Antiviral medicines do not replace the need to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccination remains the best way to keep yourself, and your loved ones, protected against severe COVID-19 infection.
Some antiviral medications for COVID-19 can be taken orally (by mouth) which means you can take these medicines at home, and don’t have to go to a hospital for treatment.
Not everyone with COVID-19 will need, or is eligible for antiviral medication. These medications are of most benefit to people who are at higher-risk of severe illness.
Who is eligible for antiviral medicines?
Senior Australians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may be eligible for antiviral treatments if you are:
- 70 years and older, regardless of risk factors and with or without symptoms
- 50 to 69 years with ONE additional risk factor
- Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, 30 years or older and with ONE additional risk factor.
Risk factors for these groups include:
- living in residential aged care
- living with disability with multiple conditions and/or frailty (but not limited to living in supported accommodation)
- neurological conditions like stroke or dementia and demyelinating conditions e.g., multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barre Syndrome
- chronic respiratory conditions including COPD, moderate or severe asthma
- obesity or diabetes (type I or II requiring medication)
- heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies
- kidney failure or cirrhosis
- living remotely with reduced access to higher level healthcare
- past COVID-19 infection resulting in hospitalisation
People aged 18 years and older
If you test positive for COVID-19 and are moderately to severely immunocompromised, you may be eligible for antiviral treatments.
- blood cancer or some red blood cell disorders (thalassemia, sickle cell disease)
- transplant recipient
- primary or acquired (HIV) immunodeficiency
- chemotherapy or whole-body radiotherapy in the last 3 months
- high dose corticosteroids or pulse corticosteroid therapy in the last 3 months
- immunosuppressive treatments in the last 3 months
- taking rituximab in the last 12 months
- cerebral palsy or Down Syndrome
- congenital heart disease
- living with disability with multiple conditions and/or frailty.
Even if you have a higher chance of severe illness from COVID-19, antiviral medicines may not be right for you. Your doctor will assess whether antiviral medicines are needed and safe for you to take. They will also consider other medical conditions you may have, and any other medications you are taking.
Antiviral medication used to treat flu is different to the medication that is used to treat COVID-19. Find out if you are eligible for antiviral medication to treat flu.
Advice for people at higher risk
If you believe you are at higher risk, you should:
- make a treatment plan with your GP or health care provider before you get sick about how you will get tested and then access antivirals if you test positive. This is because you need to begin taking antivirals for COVID-19 within 5 days of symptoms starting.
- if you get any symptoms, contact your regular GP or health care provider as soon as possible and get tested. People at higher risk of sever disease are recommended to get a PCR test, but both a positive PCR or RAT can be used to access antivirals.
- Remember to register a positive RAT test online or by phoning the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.
- If you do test positive, let your GP or health care provider know straight away.
- If you do not have a regular doctor or they are not available, you can phone the COVID@homeplus team on 1800 973 363 to discuss your care options. Alternatively, the National Coronavirus Helpline 1800 020 080 can provide general guidance on antivirals, or you can contact an afterhours doctors service.
Antiviral medication dispensed in Tasmania
Find the latest statistics on the number of COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments dispensed by jurisdiction on the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care’s COVID-19 case numbers and statistics webpage.