BRITAIN has boosted its arsenal of antiviral Covid pills seven-fold, ordering enough for another 4.25 million people.
Ministers are buying up the drugs, which slash the risk of severe illness by more than half, to arm the NHS against Omicron.
Scientists expect the pills to work just as well against the surging new variant and they can be given to people at home to keep them out of hospital.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This is a mammoth deal for the UK Government and for patients across the country, who are set to benefit from these antivirals over the coming months.”
Antivirals are already available on the NHS to all over-50s and high-risk people who test positive for Covid and aren’t in hospital.
Orders are in for 2.5million extra courses of Paxlovid, made by Pfizer, which trials showed slashed the risk of severe illness or death by 89 per cent.
And for 1.75m more courses of molnupiravir, made by pharma company MSD, which cut the risk by 30 to 50 per cent.
The new batches come after the NHS has already stocked up on enough to treat 730,000 people.
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Eddie Gray, who led the Antivirals Taskforce that bought the drugs, said: “Both antivirals could be vital tools against Omicron, with current evidence showing they will be effective against the variant.”
People who are eligible for the antiviral drugs can get them from their GP or online through a clinical trial called Panoramic.
They must be aged over 50 or be 18 to 49 and in a Covid risk group, and have tested positive with symptoms starting less than five days ago.
The very highest risk groups, such as care home residents, may be offered the pills outside of clinical trials.
Those at highest risk were also offered the coronavirus vaccine first and will also have to have a fourth dose.
The best way to stay safe and get protected against Covid is vaccinations and all Brits have been urged to come forward for their booster doses.
A booster shot is the best protection against Omicron, with early data suggesting it pushes efficacy back up to 75 per cent.
Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA Chief Executive said: “Once again, we urge everyone who is able to get a booster jab to come forward and do so. It is the best defence we have against this highly transmissible new variant.”
The Sun is also urging readers to sign up to the Jabs Army campaign to make the rollout as smooth and fast as possible.