Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, has announced that the country will buy 300,000 courses of Merck & Co’s experimental antiviral pill.
This comes after Victoria, the second smallest state in Australia, recorded the highest number of daily COVID-19 infections amongst other states in the country since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Reuters.
The pill, Molnupiravir, which would be the first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19 if it gets regulatory approval, could reduce the chances of dying or being hospitalised for people most at risk of contracting severe COVID-19 by 50%, according to experts.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “These treatments mean that we are going to be able to live with the virus.” He said this just as the country targets the reopening of its borders next month for fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents.
The Molnupiravir capsules are expected to be available in Australia by early next year upon approval by the country’s drug regulator and the drugs have to be taken twice daily for five days by adult patients for a course of 10 days, the Prime Minister said.
The drug company producing Molnupiravir Capsules, Merck & Co Inc. has announced that it expects to produce 10 million courses of the treatment by the end of this year.
In Australia, vaccination rates have been improving as its two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, its largest cities, and the capital Canberra have been on weeks-long lockdown which was imposed as a move to combat the highly infectious Delta variant.
In total, 1,763 new infections were reported in Victoria on Monday, exceeding the previous daily high of 1,488 on Saturday.
The state has said it will look to start reopening once full vaccination levels in its adult population reaches 70%, expected around the end of October, from 53% now.
However, the newly elected premier of New South Wales, Dominic Perrottet, said on Tuesday, that the state is due to exit lockdown on October 11, the first Monday after it expects 70% of its population over 16 to be fully vaccinated. The state recorded the lowest daily infections in seven weeks today at 608 cases.
Despite the spike in Delta variant infections, Australia still has relatively low coronavirus numbers, with around 115,800 cases while the total deaths stand at 1,357.
Meanwhile, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and Malaysia have also indicated interest to purchase the potential treatment, while the Philippines has already commenced running a trial on the pill.