Australian Federal Health Minister Gives OK to UK Virus Treatment

June 17, 2020 Updated: June 17, 2020

An anti-inflammatory drug that has been successfully used to treat severe COVID-19 infections in the UK is likely to be used by doctors in Australia.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt was briefed on the findings by Oxford University scientists by the nation’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy on June 16.

“It’s not going to prevent you getting it, it’s not going to cure it, but the early but high-quality evidence out of UK is that people who are very, very sick, it gives them a much better chance of survival,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on June 18.

The UK reported this week trials showed dexamethasone – a drug used to reduce inflammation in other diseases such as arthritis – reduced death rates among the most severely ill coronavirus patients by around 35 percent.

The widely available drug, worth about $10 over the pharmacy counter in Australia, could be used to treat the three coronavirus patients in Australia in intensive care. Two are on ventilators.

“We’re very concerned for them,” Hunt said.

“We know we now have an option for the doctors in intensive care to consider. There are no barriers to them using it.”

Meanwhile, Qantas has cancelled international flights until late October except for services to New Zealand.

The decision comes after Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham confirmed international borders won’t be open for travel until next year.

“That’s a devastating blow, I know, to much of our tourism industry but we need to encourage Australians to travel at home. That’s what will best support tourism businesses and tourism jobs,” he told Sky News.

While travel for tourism is off the cards, international students will fly to the ACT next month as part of a pilot program arranged by the government.

Australia’s Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan has reinforced the need to contain COVID-19 through social distancing and good hygiene.

“We must remember that even if a treatment has been found … that does not in any way detract from the need for us to continue to prevent the spread across Australia,” she said on Wednesday.

There were 23 new cases recorded across Australia on Wednesday, taking the national infection tally to 7370.

Almost all were in Victoria, which had its largest daily spike in a month with 21 new cases including several from community clusters.

McMillan said it was to be expected there would be small outbreaks and Victoria had done well to contain them quickly.