With Covid infections in the Philippines hitting a three-month high, President Rodrigo Duterte took a firm approach to the unvaxxed, threatening to arrest such “recalcitrant persons” if they violate a confinement order.
In a televised address to the nation on Thursday, Duterte declared that, as he is “responsible for the safety and well-being of every Filipino,” he has been forced to take a firm approach to people who have still failed to get jabbed.
The strong stance by Duterte reflects concern in the Philippines about the rising number of Covid cases, which medical professionals fear could overwhelm the country’s healthcare system, risking a rise in fatalities.
On Thursday, daily Covid cases in the Philippines hit their highest level since September, with 17,220 new infections recorded, according to the health ministry.
That daily case number is more than triple the number recorded earlier in the week, with the country having experienced the second-highest number of Covid infections of any state in Southeast Asia. Officials stated that most of the new cases were caused by the spread of the Omicron variant.
Duterte has previously been vocal about his anger at anti-vaxxers, warning last year that, if people refuse to get jabbed, they could face prison time or a forced injection of Ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug that, among other things, is used to treat animals.
“If he refuses, if he goes out of his house and goes around the community, he can be restrained. If he refuses, the captain is empowered now to arrest recalcitrant persons,” Duterte said, referring to those who fail to get vaccinated.
At the end of 2021, government figures showed that 49.8 million individuals in the Philippines were fully vaccinated. That number is less than half of the country’s 110 million-strong population.