Preah Sihanouk province will become the second after Siem Reap to have a laboratory to test for Covid-19 after a plan was approved to build one at the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Referral Hospital.

On Sunday, Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng, Minister of Environment Say Sam Al and provincial governor Kouch Chamroeun inspected the hospital in Commune IV, Sihanoukville. The laboratory is set to start construction soon.

Bun Heng said the equipment for the laboratory will be shipped in from China.

Provincial Department of Health director Lim Samean told The Post on Monday that the laboratory will be used to test for general diseases and Covid-19.

The laboratory will eliminate the need to send samples to Phnom Penh to be analysed. An average of 200 to 300 samples are shipped from Preah Sihanouk to the capital every day.

“Every day, Preah Sihanouk province still has [passenger] flights landing regularly. Sometimes we send 300 to 400 samples to test in Phnom Penh [per day]. And some days there are only 50-60 samples,” he said.

Provincial hall spokesman Kheang Phearum said people travelling from abroad, including investors and tourists,especially from China, have to send their samples to be tested at the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge (IPC) in Phnom Penh.

“It takes at least two days to receive the results. It does not meet the necessary and practical needs in Preah Sihanouk province which is why we need the laboratory,” he said.

Phearum said the province accepts three flights per week from abroad, although some weeks fewer than that arrive. He said most of the flights carry Chinese investors, as tourists are still scarce due to Covid-19.

Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine didn’t respond to The Post’s queries on Monday.

Two weeks ago, Siem Reap province launched a laboratory at its provincial referral hospital capable of Covid-19 testing.

Siem Reap provincial Department of Health director Kros Sarath said an old laboratory was renovated to allow for Covid testing.

He said the laboratory can test between 50 and 60 samples per day but currently processes about 20 per day, mostly from Cambodians returning from Thailand.