Sunday, November 28, 2021

$300m jab at better COVID treatment

New Zealanders who test positive for COVID-19 will be better supported through the rollout of the COVID Care in the Community model and a $300 million funding boost to Pharmac to purchase new medicines to treat the virus, Health Minister Andrew Little said today.

“Delta is here so we are changing our strategy for how we deal with the virus. Supported recovery at home and greater access to medicines to stop people getting very sick are the cornerstones of the Care in the Community model,” Mr Little said.

“As we move to the Traffic Light System, reduce restrictions, and remove the Auckland boundary, people will be travelling around the country in the months to come and we will see more cases across the country.

“The vast majority of people who get COVID will have mild to moderate symptoms and won’t require hospital care, but we need to make sure those recovering at home have the support and medicine they need to recover safely, and that others in the household are safe as well,” the Minister said.

He said the COVID Care in the Community model provides the framework for how the end-to-end community support will be provided as cases increase throughout the country, and sets out the expectations of health and welfare providers.

For someone with COVID-19 who can isolate at home, Care in the Community will include: 

  • An initial contact from a healthcare provider within 24 hours of a positive result notification, to discuss any health, accommodation and wellbeing requirements. Household contacts will also need to isolate, they’ll be supported with health advice and getting tested as well.   
  • A designated point of contact, most likely from a local healthcare provider, who will be responsible for looking out for the person’s health and wellbeing needs, including making a plan for checking in regularly while the person is infected. 
  • A health pack tailored to the individual’s health needs delivered within 48 hours to help the person manage recoveryOngoinglinical monitoring over the duration of the isolation period to make sure the person is coping with symptoms and is safe to continue being cared for in the community.
  • A health assessment at Day 10 to determine whether the person can safely end time in isolation.

At this point, household contacts will need to stay at home for at least 10 days, to make sure they remain free from the virus. The households’ dedicated health contact will continue to check in on them during this time, the Minister said.

Everyone can also do their bit now to help themselves and their loved ones by using the Readiness Checklist to plan and prepare, he said.

As part of the shift to Care in the Community, the Government is providing $300 million for the national drug-buying agency Pharmac to buy more new medicines to treat COVID-19.

“Medicines are being rapidly developed and can stop most people getting so sick they need to go to hospital,” Mr Little said.

“Vaccinations are still the first and best line of defence against the virus, but we want to make sure people who do contract COVID-19 have access to new treatments as soon as possible.

“New Zealand is at the front of the queue for these medicines. We were one of the first countries in the world to secure supplies of the new anti-viral drug molnupiravir for treating people with mild-to-medium COVID infections, and Pharmac is talking to other pharmaceutical companies about their medicines.

“Cabinet has agreed to provide an extra $300 million so the purchase of COVID drugs doesn’t affect Pharmac’s ability to keep buying medications and treatments for other conditions,” he said.

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