Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to jail Filipinos who refuse coronavirus vaccine doses as the government tries to ramp up jabs to prevent the spread of the more contagious Delta variant.
In a late-night public address, Duterte also said that “stupid” people who do not want to get vaccinated should just leave the country so they don’t end up infecting more Filipinos.
“There is a crisis being faced by the country,” he said. “There is a national emergency. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I will have you arrested.”
Duterte said he will ask village officials to keep a list of people who refuse to be vaccinated.
“You have to choose, get vaccinated or I’ll send you to jail,” he added.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday clarified that there is no law that criminalizes the refusal of vaccination.
“I believe the president merely used strong words to drive home the need for us to get vaccinated and reach heard immunity as soon as possible,” Guevarra told reporters.
“As a lawyer, he knows that getting vaccinated is a legal choice,” he added.
More than 2.1 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated since the government launched the vaccination drive in March.
The Philippines’ total coronavirus caseload rose to 1,364,239, with 5,249 cases reported on Monday, the Department of Health said. The death toll was up by 128 to 23,749, it added.(dpa/NAN)