New COVID-19 treatment granted approval

A treatment newly approved for hospital patients who require oxygen slows the effects of COVID-19.
A treatment newly approved for hospital patients who require oxygen slows the effects of COVID-19.

Medical regulators have approved a new antibody treatment for COVID-19 as the prime minister urged for calm over the Omicron variant.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration granted approval for the use of tocilizumab, a treatment for patients hospitalised with COVID-19 who require oxygen.

It's the fourth treatment for the virus given the green light for use by the administration.

The treatment has been shown to reduce inflammation by blocking receptors and slowing the effects of the virus.

"Tocilizumab has been shown to decrease duration of hospitalisation, risk of being placed on medical ventilation and risk of death for those with severe COVID-19," the administration said in a statement.

"Tocilizumab is not intended to be used as a substitute for vaccination against COVID-19."

The treatment had previously been approved for use to treat inflammatory conditions and types of arthritis.

The approval comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison said lockdowns would not return despite a growing number of Omicron variant cases being detected in the country.

"Everything we were doing up until now, we are going to keep doing," he said.

While the new variant appears to be more transmissible than the Delta variant, there is an indication the strain causes a milder infection.

There have been six cases of the new variant detected in NSW, with Premier Dominic Perrottet also calling for calm.

The new variant has led to a two-week pause of the return of visa holders to Australia without them needing to apply for a travel exemption.

International arrivals will need to quarantine for 72 hours, while Australians returning from southern African countries will need to quarantine for two weeks.

It comes as more than 92,000 COVID-19 vaccines were administered on Tuesday, with the latest figures revealing 87.2 per cent of people over 16 are fully vaccinated.

NSW on Wednesday reported 251 new cases.

South Australia reported two new cases, with former premier Jay Weatherill reportedly testing positive to COVID-19 after attending a high school reunion on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, three people have been caught in the Northern Territory accused of breaking out of the Howard Springs quarantine facility early on Wednesday.

Victoria recorded 1179 additional cases and six more deaths, while the ACT had four more cases.

One new was case detected in Queensland on Wednesday, that was infectious while at Black Friday sales in a Gold Coast shopping centre.

Australian Associated Press