Two shipments of petrol and two of diesel using an Indian credit line could provide relief in the next few days, Ranil Wickremesinghe said, but the country is also facing a shortage of 14 essential medicines.

Sri Lanka only has enough petrol stocks to last a single day, with the possibility of power outages lasting up to 15 hours a day, the country’s new prime minister has warned.

In his first address to the nation since his controversial appointment last week, Ranil Wickremesinghe said there is also “grave concern” about the shortage of 14 medicines, with a particular lack of heart disease drugs and the anti-rabies vaccine – the latter of which has no alternative treatment.

“Payments have not been made for four months to suppliers of medicine, medical equipment, and food for patients,” said Mr Wickremesinghe.

He warned that the next couple of months “will be the most difficult ones of our lives. We must prepare ourselves to make some sacrifices and face the challenges of this period”.

It comes as the country’s power minister, Kanchana Wijesekera, told people not to join the long fuel queues that have galvanised weeks of anti-government protests.