More Australians will be eligible for COVID-19 antiviral drugs from Monday in an attempt to reduce the number of people in hospital.

About 4,000 people are receiving medical care for the virus across the country, with health authorities concerned the cases will continue to rise in the weeks ahead.

Known as Lagevrio and Paxlovid, the drugs cost $6.80 for a concession card holder and around $40 for others. Treatment needs to begin as soon as possible after symptoms appear.

Any Australian who tests positive to COVID-19 and is over the age of 70 will be able to access the antivirals on the PBS from Monday.

People aged over 50 with at least two risk factors for severe disease, as well as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged 30 and older with at least two risk factors will also be eligible.

“These oral antivirals dramatically reduce the risk of severe disease particularly for older Australians and will help keep people out of hospital.” said Health Minister Mark Butler

Australians who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take antivirals and those with severe kidney or liver disease should avoid Paxlovid.

The medical advice recommends that anyone on birth control should use extra contraception if they are taking antivirals.

Anyone interested in the treatment should speak to their GP.