Older Australians and people vulnerable to COVID-19 should have a plan to combat the virus before they test positive, the chief medical officer says.
Like asthma and other respiratory illnesses, people should have a treatment plan in place if they’re more at risk of severe disease from the coronavirus, Professor Paul Kelly said.
“Don’t wait for the time you may be diagnosed with COVID because early treatment is the key,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Two oral antiviral treatments – Lagevrio and Paxlovid – are available for people vulnerable to severe effects of COVID-19.
Since the treatments were added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme there has been increased use, but more people are eligible, Prof Kelly said.
“Now is the time if you’re in those vulnerable groups to have that conversation … (so you) know exactly where you can access those medications and know exactly how to use them,” he said.
But he stressed the oral treatments were not a substitute for being vaccinated.
“(Treatments are) not for everyone. It’s not needed for everyone,” he said.
“Most people with COVID will have a relatively mild disease, particularly if they’ve been vaccinated … This is an extra protection for vulnerable people.”
Meanwhile, fixing a teacher shortage due to the impacts of COVID-19 and the flu is high on Education Minister Jason Clare’s agenda.
The shortage was getting worse due to the particularly cold winter, Mr Clare said.
“(It’s) led to teachers being at home crook rather than being in the classroom looking after kids,” he told reporters in Darwin on Thursday.
“We’ve got a teacher shortage right across the country that’s getting worse, not better.”
He said he would raise the issue with state and territory education ministers when they next met.
“I think different states and territories will make their own decisions in the months ahead about what the rules are around vaccinations and teachers.”
The Age newspaper has reported unvaccinated teachers will be back in classrooms in Victoria next week, and parents will not have the right to take their children out of school because their teacher is not vaccinated.
Mr Clare acknowledged the teacher shortage issue was broader, with fewer young people entering the teaching profession and baby boomer teachers retiring soon.
LATEST 24-HOUR COVID-19 DATA:
NSW: 9203 cases, 26 deaths, 1500 in hospital with 53 in ICU
Victoria: 7461 cases, nine deaths, 411 in hospital with 23 in ICU
Tasmania: 1043 cases, two deaths, 46 in hospital with two in ICU
WA: 5351 cases, eight deaths, 260 in hospital with 12 in ICU
SA: 2762 cases, two deaths, 212 in hospital with 10 in ICU
Queensland: 4970 new cases, five deaths, 512 in hospital, six in ICU
ACT: 1134 new cases, no deaths, 88 in hospital, one in ICU
NT: 260 cases, no deaths, 14 in hospital with one in ICU