His comment came as sources said the Hospital Authority plans to purchase 500 treatments of the new antiviral drug molnupiravir developed by American pharmaceutical company Merck & Co.

The drugmaker said on Friday that its experimental pill for people sick with Covid-19 reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half.

If cleared by regulators, it would be the first pill to treat Covid-19, adding a whole new, easy-to-use weapon to an arsenal that already includes vaccinations.

The company said it will soon ask health officials in the US and around the world to authorize the pill’s use. A decision from the US Food and Drug Administration could come within weeks after that, and the drug, if it gets the green light, could be distributed quickly soon afterward.

In a TV program this morning, Hui said the new drug will cost about US$700 (HK$5,500) for a five-day treatment.

“Young Covid-19 patients without chronic illness usually only have mild symptoms or even don’t have any symptoms. So I believe the drug can be used by the elderly or those with long-term illness, who are prone to complications,” Hui said.

“If we give this drug early to those at high risk, the elderly or chronic patients, we can reduce their admission rate,” he said.

Hui added the drug should be given to patients within five days after they develop symptoms, and it may not be as effective if it’s given to patients after the five days.

“The earlier the doctor prescribes, the better the treatment will be,” Hui said.

Health experts will have a meeting about introducing the new medication as the drug has not yet been registered in Hong Kong and is expensive, Hui said.