Prime Minister Hun Sen has sought to allay fears that there is an insufficient supply of Covid-19 medicine and vaccines, saying health officials had always purchased a surplus to requirements, as the recent spike in Omicron cases across Cambodia drives a surge in demand for the products.

Speaking while presiding over the annual meeting of the Ministry of Interior on February 23, Hun Sen said he had approved a medicine purchase request that had been made by Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth after a large portion of the Kingdom’s stock had been used up to treat patients.

The premier clarified that Pornmoniroth had put forward the request to him after the Ministry of Health sought to release reserved medicine of 7,000 doses for use.

“This is because another batch of medicine will arrive on February 24 or 25. It’s medicine for treating Covid-19 patients,” he said, referring to the antiviral treatment Molnupiravir.

Health ministry technical director-general Hok Kim Cheng said on February 24 that Cambodia still has enough supplies of the US-made antiviral treatment. He said the working group in charge of medicine supply strategy had already put in an order to the drug company.

Cheng added that the public can purchase the medicine for personal use at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications at a reasonable price and to ensure the product is genuine.

On February 23, the health ministry’s working group visited several pharmacies in Phnom Penh selling the Covid-19 treatments to carry out inspections verifying the authenticity of medicines on sale.

Amid reports of price gouging, the group’s members personally urged individual pharmacies not to increase prices for the drug.

Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine has warned pharmacies and pharmaceutical importers that those caught violating laws on fair medicine pricing will face punishment.

“Those who violate the Law on the Management of Pharmaceuticals will be held accountable according to the laws in force,” she said.

Vandine reiterated her call for the public to limit unnecessary travel and to reduce the size and number of gatherings, and to practise the government-instituted health measures including the ‘three dos and three don’ts.

“The situation now is such that we need to join hands to break the chain of Covid-19 transmission and to cut the spread in the community as best as we can,” she said.

Vandine also refuted the view that Omicron is akin to a typical flu. She said people must not underestimate the effects of the variant as it has the potential to be life threatening, and urged continued vigilance in practicing health measures and avoiding crowded places.