Get vaccinated against COVID-19 or face arrest. To avoid arrest, you better leave the country. So said Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who has threatened to send to jail anti-vaxxers — people who refuse to get the coronavirus jab.
In a televised address from Davao City late on Monday (June 21), the Philippine leader said names of people who declined to take coronavirus shots would be collected in a “tally”, and labelled as potential carriers of the virus. He then threatened to “sequester” them.
“For as long as you are here and you are a human being and can carry the virus, eh magpabakuna ka (so get yourself vaccinated). Otherwise, I will order all the barangay captains (village heads) to have a tally of the people who refused to be vaccinated,” said Duterte.
A “barangay” is a small territorial and administrative district forming the most local level of government.
“I’ll task the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) to do that to look for these persons. Kung hindi (if not), I will order their arrest, sa totoo lang (truth be told). Why? Because if you are a person na hindi ka vaccinated (who is unvaccinated), you are a potential carrier. To protect the people, I have to sequester you in jail,” he added.
“Mamili kayo (You choose)”, Duterte said. “Magpabakuna kayo o ipakulong ko kayo sa selda (Get vaccinated or I’ll put you in jail).”
A former prosecutor, Duterte said he would “think it over very hard legally”. But he affirmed his threat to arrest the people who refuse to get the coronavirus jab.
Get vaccinated or leave the country
He appealed to the anti-vaxxers not to “force his arm” and resort to such extreme measure. He advised those reluctant to get vaccinated to leave the country instead. “Kung hindi kayo magpabakuna, umalis ka na sa Pilipinas (If you don't get vaccinated, just leave the Philippines). Go to India, somewhere, America,” he said.
It was not immediately clear what Duterte had to say about the other part of the anti-vaxxer camp: people who spread disinformation about coronavirus vaccines.
Duterte showed growing “exasperation” with some Filipinos who refused to heed the government’s plea for vaccination. He said the government’s goal is to ensure the safety and health of the people.
The Philippines kicked off its COVID-19 vaccines drive in March. At least 2 million people — out of a population of 110 million — had already completed their two-dose shots.
Yet many still refuse to get themselves vaccinated, citing unverified stories of “adverse reactions”.
The Philippines reportedly signed a deal for 40 million Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses while around 300,000 Moderna vaccine doses are set to arrive on Friday (June 25), with “bigger shipments” due in July. Additional doses from AstraZeneca (2.2 million doses via COVAX facility) and Sinopharm are also expected in the coming days.
Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje told the official PTV station that 1 million Sinovac doses will be delivered per week from July to September. She also said paediatric vaccinations (12 to 18 year olds) will start later this year.
In its effort to achieve herd immunity, the Philippine’s Department of Health seeks to inoculate up to 70 million Filipinos by end-2021. Cabotaje said paediatric vaccinations will start later this year.