Treatments for coronavirus (COVID-19)
Getting your coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself from the virus. However, there are treatments available for those with coronavirus who are thought to be at greater risk of being admitted to hospital and possible serious COVID-19 illness or death.
Groups of people at the highest risk
The Health and Social Care (HSC) Service is offering antiviral and antibody treatments to people with COVID-19, who are at highest risk of becoming seriously ill.
The types of COVID-19 treatment available are:
- neutralising monoclonal antibodies (nMAB):
- Sotrovimab a biological medicine
These treatments can help some people manage their COVID-19 symptoms and reduce the risk of becoming seriously ill.
They are available in each of the five Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts in Northern Ireland.
Who can have these new COVID-19 treatments
The treatments available are for people who have symptoms and have tested positive, using a lateral flow test for COVID-19 and are at highest risk of getting seriously ill.
This includes some people who have:
- Down's syndrome, or another chromosomal disorder that affects your immune system
- certain types of cancer or have received treatment for certain types of cancer
- sickle cell disease
- certain conditions affecting your blood
- chronic kidney disease (CKD) stage 4 or 5
- severe liver disease
- had an organ transplant
- certain autoimmune or inflammatory conditions
- HIV or AIDS and have a weakened immune system
- a condition affecting your immune system
- certain lung conditions or treatment for lung conditions
- certain conditions affecting the brain or nerves, such as:
- multiple sclerosis
- muscular dystrophy
- motor neurone disease
- myasthenia gravis,
- Huntington's disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- certain types of dementia
This list is a summary and does not cover everything.
A doctor or specialist will confirm if you are eligible for treatment.
A full list of eligible groups and details on how they were identified are available at:
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) COVID-19 rapid guideline is available at this link:
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) COVID-19 rapid guideline: managing COVID-19
How to get a COVID-19 treatment
It is strongly recommended that everyone who may be eligible for a COVID-19 treatment should stay alert to the symptoms of COVID-19 and get rapid lateral flow tests to keep at home in case you develop symptoms.
If you develop any symptoms of COVID-19, even if your symptoms are mild, you should test as soon as possible with a lateral flow test.
It is important that every lateral flow test result is reported if you may be eligible for COVID-19 treatments, especially if your result is positive.
You need to report that result and include a phone number, to be assessed for a COVID-19 treatment.
These additional treatments need to be given quickly after you get a positive lateral flow test result to be most effective.
Information on where to get lateral flow tests and how to report the results is available at:
If your first lateral flow test is negative, but you still have symptoms, you should take another lateral flow test on each of the next two days.
If all three lateral flow test results are negative and you have COVID-19 symptoms you should contact your GP.
If any of your lateral flow tests are positive and you have reported the result, you will receive a message about your positive test result.
If there is information in the HSC central record systems showing that you may have a condition or are taking a medicine that might make you eligible for a COVID-19 treatment, you may receive a further text message, advising that your local HSC Trust will be told and that medical staff will review information in your medical records.
If you test positive for COVID-19 and you do not receive a text message about treatment but feel you may be eligible, you can contact your GP practice to discuss this. Your GP practice can contact the trust on your behalf.
If your local HSC Trust identifies you as suitable for treatment, they will be in contact to discuss this further. This call may be from an unknown or withheld number.
If you have received a text message about treatment, but do not receive a follow up telephone call from your local trust within a couple of days and feel you may be eligible, you can contact your GP practice to discuss this. Your GP practice can contact the trust on your behalf.
It is important that you carefully review the information on eligibility before making contact with your GP practice.
Detailed guidance about patient groups at highest risk of COVID-19 and therefore eligible for COVID-19 treatments, can be found at:
If you have not tested positive for COVID-19 using a lateral flow test, you are not eligible for these treatments.
HSC treatments for COVID-19 are free of charge and you will never be asked for your bank account or card details or asked to pay for treatment.
Which treatment you will have
Your local HSC Trust will advise which treatment, if any, is suitable for you once you have been reviewed by a doctor.
Treatment will be on the advice of a clinician and could be either:
- Antiviral Paxlovid (may be known as nirmatrelvir plus ritonavir)
- nMAB treatment Sotrovimab
- Antiviral Remdesivir (Veklury)
- Antiviral molnupiravir (Lagevrio)
If you are given the antiviral treatment Paxlovid or molnupiravir, it comes as either tablets or capsules you swallow.
These can be taken at home and your local HSC Trust will advise how this medication will be made available to you.
The nMABs treatment Sotrovimab, or the antiviral treatment remdesivir are given to you through a drip in your arm (infusion) and will be given at a hospital site. Once you have been reviewed by a doctor, you will receive instructions on where and a suitable time to get the treatment, as well as advice on how to safely get to the hospital as you are COVID-19 positive.
If you find out that you're pregnant, or became pregnant while taking Paxlovid, Remdesivir or Molnupiravir, or shortly after, report this by contacting the UK COVID-19 Antivirals in Pregnancy Registry by phoning 0344 892 0909.
Also speak to your healthcare professional.
More information is available at this link:
Questions about treatment
If you test positive for COVID-19 and have a question about treatments, you can contact your GP practice to discuss this.
GPs and out of hours GPs can advise you on eligibility for treatment and can refer eligible patients directly for treatment at their local HSC Trust.
It's important that you carefully review the information on eligibility before contacting your GP practice.
Accessing treatment elsewhere in the UK and Ireland
If you're travelling within the UK and need access to COVID-19 treatment, Outpatient COVID-19 Treatment service (OCTs) clinicians can directly refer you to the same service in England, Scotland and Wales to allow you to access treatment within the recommended time.
If you are travelling to or from the Republic of Ireland, you can access treatment by contacting the nearest GP who can prescribe treatment for you in an equivalent manner to that available for their own patients.
PANORAMIC clinical trial
Antiviral medicines are also being studied through a national trial called PANORAMIC, which is run by the University of Oxford.
The PANORAMIC study has recruited over 26,000 participants since opening on 8 December 2021, with over 1000 participants from Northern Ireland. Recruitment for the antiviral Molnupiravir arm of the study closed on 27 April 2022.
An additional antiviral, Paxlovid, is now being investigated in the study.
Recruitment to the Paxlovid arm initially began in England only and now has sites open across the UK, including Northern Ireland.
Since 23 November 2022, members of the public in Northern Ireland can register for the Paxlovid arm of the study.
PANORAMIC is open to anyone that meets all the following criteria:
- you are currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, beginning in the last five days
- you have had a positive PCR or Lateral Flow test for COVID-19
- you are aged 50 or over, or aged 18 or over with a listed pre-existing condition
For more information on who can access the study, or if you wish to sign up to take part, visit the PANORAMIC trial website.
If you are in an eligible group and wish to take part in the study you can collect lateral flow tests from participating pharmacies.
You should not collect tests from a pharmacy if you have symptoms. You should ask someone who does not have symptoms to collect the lateral flow tests on your behalf.
The study tests whether these new oral antiviral treatments can help higher-risk people in the early stages of the coronavirus illness recover faster and therefore reduce the number of people admitted to hospital.
Half of the participants will receive antivirals and half will not, as happens in most trials related to new treatments.
This is so the study team can see any difference in the health of those who received the antiviral treatment compared to those who did not.
All participants take part from their own homes, without needing to visit a clinic or hospital. The oral treatment will be delivered directly to their home by the trial team.
All participants will still be able to access any health care that they would normally expect to receive.
Find out more about the University of Oxford COVID-19 antiviral trial at: