THE first at-home Covid pill could be available by CHRISTMAS in a bid to combat the Omicron variant.
Sajid Javid is reportedly set to launch a national pilot of the “game changer” oral treatment – the Molnupiravir anti-viral pill, also known as Lagevrio – in the coming weeks.
Last month, the UK’s drugs regulator declared the pills as “safe and effective” at slashing hospitalisations and deaths in people who have caught the killer bug, becoming the first country in the world to license its use – a move described as a “game-changer” by Mr Javid.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that under the plans, the NHS is expected to deliver courses of the tablet to clinically vulnerable and immunosuppressed patients within as little as 48 hours of them testing positive for Covid.
It said hospitals and GPs have been told a series of Covid medicines delivery units were being established to ensure the treatment gets to patients as quickly as possible once it is confirmed they have the virus.
But just over a week ago, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned its use may have to be reconsidered in the light of the emergence of Omicron.
He told a No10 news conference: “I think we probably need to do a rethink of it just to make sure with the new variant, we’re targeting in the right direction.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The UK has proven itself to be a world-leader in identifying and rolling out effective treatments for Covid-19, including through Government-backed national trials.
“The Government’s antivirals taskforce was launched to identify treatments for UK patients who have been exposed to Covid-19 to take at home, stopping the infection spreading and speeding up recovery time.
“There are a number of exciting opportunities in the pipeline and we will provide further details in due course.”
US drug firms Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics revealed their antiviral drug molnupiravir cut rates of severe Covid by 50 per cent in a study.
Study results were taken from tests of the drug on 775 people who had recently tested positive for the virus but were not seriously ill.
They showed 7.3 per cent of people given molnupiravir ended up going into hospital, compared to 14.1 per cent of people who were not given the drug.
It comes as Boris Johnson rejects calls for Christmas Covid curbs as he urged Brits to carry on with festive fun.
The PM, 57 has insisted there is no need to cancel gatherings, family meet-ups or nativity plays over fears of the new variant.
He begged confused Brits not to panic as he sought to calm the chaos by saying of the tougher restrictions claims: “There’s no need for that at all. That’s not what we are saying.
“Please, we’ve got to take a balanced and proportionate approach to this. We want people to continue as they are.”
The PM’s intervention came after several days of conflicting advice from ministers and top doctors across the airwaves as concerns over the Omicron variant ramp up.
HOPE FOR XMAS?
But WHO has revealed that no one has died from the Omicron “super mutant” Covid strain amid growing fears of a Christmas lockdown.
The organisation has warned, however, it could take weeks to determine how infectious the variant is, whether it causes more severe illness and how effective treatments and vaccines are against it.
“We’re going to get the answers that everybody out there needs,” the WHO emergencies director, Michael Ryan, said.
Despite growing worries over the spread of the Omicron variant, Covid cases in the UK have remained steady.
Yesterday, there were 127 deaths recorded in the UK today bringing the total number to 145,551 since the beginning of the pandemic – the lowest Saturday figure in two months.
There have been 104 Omicron cases in England with more than half found in double jabbed.
The number of Omicron cases in the UK has risen to 134 – including the first confirmed case in Wales.
Meanwhile, new figures show that more than 90 per cent of Covid patients needing the most specialist care are unvaccinated.
Doctors and nurses say they are still under pressure despite the vaccine rollout successfully driving down hospitalisation rates.
Up to 30 per cent of critical care beds in England are taken by Covid sufferers, and at least 75 per cent of those have not been jabbed according to the latest data up to July this year.
It comes after it was reported the UK is in talks to bring out an all-in-one test that can detect Covid, flu and RSV to help lessen the squeeze felt by the NHS during the winter months.
The test would work in the same way as the Covid PCR one with a nasal swab but would also be able to detect other viruses.
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