Access and eligibility changes for Covid-19 antivirals

From Monday 18 July, the number of people who can get access to Covid-19 medicines increased.

People who get Covid-19 and who are are at a higher risk of hospitalisation can be prescribed antiviral medications that can be taken at home. The medication is best taken as soon after testing positive as possible and within 5 days of getting Covid symptoms.

There are specific access criteria for the medication which includes some immunocompromised people, people with Down syndrome, people with sickle cell disease and people with a number of combined risk factors.

Eligibility for access to antivirals is extended to anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 and:

  • is over 75 years of age
  • or has been admitted previously to an Intensive Care Unit directly as a result of COVID-19

The eligibility for Māori and Pasifika has also changed to make treatment more accessible. The Pharmac website has more detailed information on the eligibility criteria.

You can check with your GP if you meet the eligibility criteria or check Pharmac’s online eligibility tool.

Please note - we have heard that some people have been told they are not eligible and then sought a second opinion are told they are, so if you are concerned at all it may be worth seeking a second opinion.

People who are at high risk for acute respiratory illnesses can also be preapproved by their doctor for Covid-19 medicines and receive a prescription in advance that they can use should they need the medicine immediately. People are advised to talk to their GP about whether they are eligible for this.

The availability of oral therapeutics at pharmacies without a prescription is being phased in over the next few weeks as it involves legislation changes and providing training.

The Covid-19 Health Hub has more information.

Free RATs

People no longer need to have Covid-19 symptoms or be a household contact to get free rapid antigen tests (RATs).

The free RATs are available from community collection sites. You can order RATs online at before going to pick them up -

People are encouraged to only order what they need and to go to larger community collection sites to pick up RATs if possible as they often have the most stock on site.

Free face masks including P2 / N95s

Free face masks are now available at some Community Collection Sites.

Both medical masks and P2/N95 particulate respirator masks are being made available, with those people at highest risk of severe illness being prioritised for P2/N95 masks. You can pick up the masks when you pick up RATs from a testing centre.