President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has threatened to imprison those who refuse to obtain the coronavirus vaccine, citing the country’s low immunization rate.
During a cabinet meeting late Monday night, Duterte aired his frustrations on vaccine hesitancy.
“If you don’t want to get vaccinated, leave the Philippines,” he said, as quoted by the PNA news agency. “Go to India if you want, or somewhere to America. But for as long as you are here and you are a human being and can carry the virus, you should get vaccinated.”
The president asked the government to identify those who refuse to get the shot. “I will order their arrest, to be honest,” he said. “Choose – get vaccinated or get imprisoned?”
Duterte, who is known for using straightforward and crass language in public, was quoted by the Rappler news website as saying, “If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I’ll have you arrested [and] then I’ll inject a vaccine into your buttocks.”
Low turnout forced the country’s capital, Manila, to scrap its ‘no walk-in’ vaccination policy on Monday. Rappler reported that authorities invited 28,000 people to vaccination sites via text message, but only 4,402 showed up. Mayor Isko Moreno said that the city will return to the original open-door method, where anyone can show up for a shot.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters on Monday that regional and local officials were instructed to boost border control against the Delta variant, which was previously known as the Indian variant and is more transmissible than the original strain of the coronavirus.
On Monday, Philippine health officials reported 5,249 new cases and 128 deaths. More than 1.36 million people have been infected with the coronavirus, with 23,749 people dying as a result.
According to PNA, 2,210,134 Filipinos have been fully vaccinated as of Saturday. According to the United Nations, the Philippines’ population is close to 111 million people.