Getting to grips with . . .

How the Queen may be treated for ‘mild’ Covid

Newly approved oral antiviral drugs could aid the monarch’s recovery

The Queen has tested positive for Covid-19, Buckingham Palace confirmed yesterday. The palace said the triple-vaccinated 95-year-old was experiencing “mild cold-like symptoms” and is not expecting senior royals to change their plans in light of her diagnosis.

Both Prince Charles, 73, and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, 74, have tested positive in recent days. The Prince of Wales had met with his mother on 8 February, two days before a routine test revealed that he had coronavirus. 

The BBC’s health correspondent Jim Reed suggested that newly approved oral antiviral drugs, including molnupiravir, could aid the monarch’s recovery if needed. 

‘HRH WFH’

Despite testing positive for Covid-19, the Queen is planning to continue carrying out “light duties” at Windsor over the coming week, according to the palace, inspiring today’s Sun newspaper headline: “HRH WFH”.

These engagements include her weekly audience with the prime minister, which will be conducted over the phone. 

Britain’s longest-reigning monarch is famous for her stoic approach to illness, rarely cancelling any appointments despite being in her mid-90s. Even during the pandemic, she kept up with her commitments via Zoom and other virtual platforms. 

Last October, after “regretfully” pulling out of hosting a major reception with world leaders at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow due to ill health, she still delivered an address to the assembled delegates via a recorded video message.

Even on the day that Buckingham Palace announced her Covid-19 diagnosis, the Queen “signed and sent a message of congratulations to Team GB’s curling teams” at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, reported The Telegraph.

The Queen doesn’t have an in-person engagement scheduled until 2 March, when she is due to attend a diplomatic reception at Windsor Castle. Later that month, she is due to attend services at Westminster Abbey, including one on 29 March to commemorate her late husband, Prince Philip. 

Antiviral treatment

Last November, the UK become the first country to approve the use of molnupiravir, an oral medication that can be taken at home to treat the virus. Health Secretary Sajid Javid described it as “a game-changer for the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed”.

The antiviral has been approved for use by patients with mild to moderate cases of Covid who also present at least one risk factor, for example being elderly, diabetic or someone with heart disease. Clinical trial data has showed that the pill can reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death by about 50%. 

On 31 December, the UK approved Paxlovid, an antiviral pill developed by Pfizer, for patients with a mild to moderate Covid infection who are at high risk of their illness worsening.

A third treatment called sotrovimab, developed by the drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline, has been approved for high-risk Covid patients, with data suggesting that it works well against the Omicron variant. 

It is “not clear” whether an antiviral treatment like molnupiravir, Paxlovid or sotrovimab will “definitely” be offered to the Queen, said the BBC’s Reed. However, these drugs are a “key way to cut the risk of vulnerable people needing hospital treatment”.

Although being a nonagenarian makes her more vulnerable, the Queen is not thought to have any of the conditions that specifically increase the risk from Covid. But even if she does end up requiring any antiviral treatment, it’s unlikely that the general public will be told. 

“The Queen’s health is usually kept as a firmly private matter,” said the BBC’s royal correspondent Sean Coughlan, “with only the barest of details being revealed”.

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