Manila: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has warned that Filipinos who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus will not be allowed to leave their homes as a safeguard against the more contagious delta variant.
Duterte said in televised remarks Wednesday night that there is no law mandating such a restriction but added he is ready to face lawsuits to keep people who are “throwing viruses left and right” off the streets.
The brash-talking president added that for people who don’t want to be vaccinated, “well, for all I care, you can die anytime.’”
However, more than public hesitance, the Philippines has been grappling with vaccine shortages.
Nearly 7 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated and more than 11 million others have received their first dose. That is a fraction of the government’s target of 60 million to 70 million people.
Duterte also ordered his government to open the coronavirus vaccination campaign to anyone who wants a shot.
“Give the vaccines to those who want to be vaccinated,” Duterte said in the late-night address, expressing concern over the contagious Delta variant, which is ripping through Southeast Asia, now a global epicentre for the virus.
It was not immediately clear if his directive meant that the vaccines could now be given to Filipinos not included in the government’s priority groups.
Given limited supplies, it is prioritising healthcare workers, elderly, people with existing medical conditions and working age adults.
The country has so far reported 119 cases of the Delta variant, first detected in India, but health experts say there could be more undetected cases because of the slow pace of the country’s genome sequencing capacity.
Daily reported infections have recently started to rise, and authorities this week suspended travel from Malaysia and Thailand, as well as tightened curbs in and around Manila.
- with inputs from Reuters