Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to send people to jail for refusing to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, as the government has placed border controls in the country on “heightened alert” over new cases of the Delta variant .
“You can choose: you get the vaccine or I will send you to jail,” Duterte said in Tagalog in a prerecorded address Monday evening.
The Philippines started their vaccination program in March, but low participation rates were reported at several vaccination centers across the country, although people are also reportedly scrambling to secure the limited supply of Pfizer BioNtech vaccine.
Admitting that he gets more and more exasperated by “these imbeciles”, who refused to be vaccinated, Duterte then threatened to inject them “with stings intended for pigs”.
“You are all stubborn. “
Duterte also threatened to shoot Filipinos found in violation of lockdown restrictions during the pandemic. Since this threat, there have been several cases of of offenders allegedly killed by the authorities, including an elderly man and a former soldier, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Of the country’s 110 million people, only about 1.95% were fully vaccinated on Monday, according to vaccine tracker Herd Immunity PH.
According to a separate government report on Monday evening, 8.4 million doses of the vaccine were administered. At least 6.2 million people have received their first dose, while 2.15 million are fully immunized.
As of Monday, the Philippines had reported 1.3 million cases of the coronavirus, with nearly 56,000 still active. Many new cases are attributed to the upsurge in infections in the political stronghold of Duterte, Mindanao.. More than 23,700 died, including 138 on Monday.
Duterte said those who refused to be vaccinated would simply have to “leave the country” and travel to either India or the United States.
The Philippine medical community has stepped up efforts to encourage citizens to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, opening vaccination sites in churches, shopping malls and movie theaters to give Filipinos easier access to vaccines.
The government resorted to incentives to get vaccinated against COVID, including donation of livestock.
Vaccination is voluntary and not compulsory.
The vaccine hesitancy arises from the following reasons:
1. Lack of massive awareness campaign on the merits of vaccination
2. Lack of preferred vaccines
3. Perceived adverse effects of vaccines
– Tony Leachon MD (@DrTonyLeachon) June 22, 2021
But the president’s latest statement was immediately condemned by the Filipino medical community.
In a statement to Al Jazeera, Harold Chiu, an endocrinologist at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, said it is “against the autonomy of patients to force and incarcerate people for refusing to intervene. “.
“I encourage everyone to get vaccinated because vaccines work and they prevent us from contracting severe Covid-19. “
Cristina Palabay, who heads the Karapatan rights group, said Duterte’s threat “has no legal basis.”
“The legal basis for such a statement is highly questionable, and morally and socially unacceptable,” Palabay said, adding that Duterte’s approach would only frighten people.
“This will have far-reaching implications for how we promote and improve a truly comprehensive health system in this country,” she told Al Jazeera.
“There is a crisis”
“There is a crisis in this country. There is a national emergency, ”Duterte added, while warning that he could order all village chiefs in the country to compile a list of all unvaccinated people.
Earlier today, the Philippine health department reported that it had detected four new cases of the highly infectious Delta variant, prompting the government to raise restrictions to the “heightened alert” level.
“We want to prevent further entry of this Delta variant,” Health Ministry spokeswoman Maria Rosario Vergeire told a press conference on Monday.
“All are on heightened alert,” added Vergeire, saying all local governments have been ordered to be “on their guard”.
The four new cases are from Filipinos returning overseas, bringing the total number of officially detected cases to 17, with one death and one still in hospital.
The Delta variant was first detected in India, which faces a health crisis following an increase in cases and tens of thousands of deaths this year.
To help contain the spread of the variant, the Philippines will maintain a ban on arrivals from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Oman and the United Arab Emirates until June 30.
Philippine laboratories also reported 14 more cases of the Alpha variant first detected in the UK and 12 more cases of the Beta variant first detected in South Africa.
At the same address Monday evening, Duterte also directed his anger at the International Criminal Court, which examines the evidence before deciding whether to investigate his administration into allegations of “crimes against humanity” linked to its war on drugs in which thousands of people have died.
“This ICC is b ****** t. Why should I defend myself or face a charge in front of white people? You must be crazy, ”the Philippine president falsely said of the international tribunal, which is made up of 18 judges of different nationalities, ethnicities and genders.
“Our laws are different. Our criminal procedures are different. How are you supposed to get justice there? “