A cheap drug used to treat depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) may significantly reduce the risk of severe COVID disease, a study in The Lancet Global Health has found.
‘High-risk’ COVID participants taking the treatment known as fluvoxamine (sold under the brand name Luvox) were less likely to progress to severe disease or require hospitalisation.
The medication, which is a popular anti-depressant, was thought to have anti-inflammatory and anti-viral effects.
The study of patients in Brazil was undertaken in a search for inexpensive, widely available, and effective therapies against COVID-19, particularly “repurposing” existing medications.
In the randomised controlled trial, 741 patients were allocated to fluvoxamine and 756 to placebo.
“Treatment with fluvoxamine (100 mg twice daily for 10 days) among high-risk outpatients with early diagnosed COVID-19 reduced the need for hospitalisation defined as retention in a COVID-19 emergency setting or transfer to a tertiary hospital,” the study reported.
“Given fluvoxamine’s safety, tolerability, ease of use, low cost, and widespread availability, these findings might influence national and international guidelines on the clinical management of COVID-19,” researchers concluded.
Victoria travel freedom
The treatment breakthrough comes as Victoria recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic’s third wave on Thursday, with a further 25 COVID-19 deaths and 1923 local cases reported.
Meanwhile more freedoms are on the cards on Friday when statewide travel resumes and Melburnians are expected to flock to Victoria’s regions for an unofficial long weekend.
The metro-regional border will reopen from 6pm, ahead of the state hitting its 80 per cent full vaccination target.
It’s feared the late afternoon rules change could cause traffic chaos, with thousands fleeing the city for the unofficial Melbourne Cup long weekend.
But Chief Commissioner Shane Patton has indicated those planning to get a head start might not be penalised.
“Rather than everyone heading off … at the six o’clock starting line, if it was a fraction earlier we’re not going to be very worried about that,” he told Melbourne’s 3AW radio on Thursday.
He says police will instead use discretion as long as people only leave an hour or so beforehand.
Premier Daniel Andrews, however, has asked Victorians to follow the rules right up until the last minute.
When restrictions ease at 6pm on Friday, masks no longer need to be worn outdoors, indoor entertainment venues, gyms and retail can reopen for fully vaccinated patrons, and capacity limits increase for restaurants, pubs and cafes.
And more freedoms for the ACT
The ACT is also breaking free from major COVID restrictions as the territory prepares for the resumption of further cross-border travel next week.
From Friday, masks will no longer be required to be worn outdoors, while the number of people that can gather at a home will double from five to 10.
Outdoor gatherings can now have up to 30 people.
The eased restrictions, which kicked in from midnight, also allowed for density limits to increase for pubs, restaurants and cafes.
Many places that have been closed to the public since the start of the Canberra lockdown in August will also be allowed to reopen to the public.
Among them are cinemas, performance venues, food courts, dance classes, entertainment venues and attractions such as museums, galleries and zoos.
Hairdressers and beauty services, churches, community centres, gyms, swimming pools and casinos will also be allowed to let in more people, subject to density limits.
It comes ahead of the resumption of travel to all of NSW and Victoria on November 1.
The move is in line with NSW relaxing travel restrictions to regional areas on that day for Sydney residents.
Previously, Canberra could only travel to approved postcodes in NSW and were barred from visiting Victoria.
November 1 will also mark the return of all students to ACT schools.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr flagged further changes, earmarked for the end of November, could be brought forward to the middle of next month, as the territory’s vaccine rate continues to lead the country.
The latest figures showed 91.4 per cent of Canberrans aged 12 and over were fully vaccinated.
There were a further eight cases of COVID reported in Canberra on Thursday, the lowest daily case number in more than a month.
There are 10 COVID patients in ACT hospitals, seven of them in intensive care and five on a ventilator.
Sydney vaccine hub to close
A makeshift vaccination hub at a Sydney stadium that administered more than 360,000 COVID-19 jabs will soon shut its doors.
The Qudos Bank Arena Vaccination Centre was a key vaccine administration point in NSW’s devastating Delta outbreak.
It will deliver its last doses on Sunday November 7.
With more than 86 per cent of eligible NSW residents now fully vaccinated, the stadium will return to hosting music concerts and events.
Since it opened on August 9 the hub has administered more than half of all vaccine doses in the hard-hit Western Sydney Local Health District.
The area now has some of the highest vaccination rates in the state.
Economic toll of lockdowns
Coronavirus lockdowns in NSW, Victoria and the ACT are expected to have landed heavy blows on retailers, with this impact a key factor in a widely anticipated contraction in the September quarter.
Economists’ forecasts point to a five per cent slump in retail spending for the September quarter when the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases its figures on Friday, wiping out the modest 0.8 per cent gain in the previous quarter.
Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy told senators this week his department expects the economy contracted by around three per cent in the September quarter.
This would be the second-largest drop in output in the history of the national accounts, the record being the seven per cent slump in the June quarter of last year.
Some market economists expect the September quarter contraction could be as large as four per cent.
For the month of September, economists are expecting a modest 0.3 per cent rise in retail spending.
In August, retail trade fell 1.7 per cent, the third consecutive monthly decline.
A small rise in spending in September would have coincided with some easing of restrictions in regional NSW and Victoria.