MANILA: In attempt to impede the spread of the contagious delta variant of COVID-19 Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has told unvaccinated Filipinos to not leave their homes.
The country last week confirmed the presence of the delta strain, prompting the government to reinstate strict coronavirus measures in the metropolitan Manila area — the capital region with more than 13 million inhabitants — and four other provinces until Aug. 15. The Philippines has so far recorded 119 delta cases.
With nearly 1.6 million coronavirus cases and more than 27,000 deaths, the Philippines has the second-worst outbreak in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.
“To those who do not want to get vaccinated, I’m telling you, do not leave your house — if you do, I will tell the police to escort you back because you are a walking spreader,” Duterte said in a televised address on Wednesday night.
He added that the unvaccinated should not go out as “they are throwing viruses left and right. We’re talking about our nation here, so if you don’t want to help by having the vaccines, then you should just stay at home.”
While the Philippine leader admitted there was no law restricting the movement of unvaccinated people, he said he is ready to face legal complaints against his directives.
“Should I wait for it when many people are dying already? That’s the problem. There is no law, but the law of necessity is there,” he said.
The order, however, is seen as problematic and not legally binding.
Attorney Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), said there was no legal basis to restrict the movement of those who had not been vaccinated.
“The fact is, this again cannot be legally justified in the absence of a valid law or ordinance specifically governing such a situation. There is no legal basis to arrest, much less detain, an unvaccinated person because it is not a crime nor a misdemeanor penalized by any law or ordinance,” he said on Thursday.
Duterte has directed his government to give coronavirus shots to anyone who wants it, but long queues at vaccination centers show demand is high and health authorities are struggling to meet it.
On Tuesday, the Philippines recorded its highest daily vaccination rate, with 659,029 jabs administered nationwide, but with only 6 percent of the country’s 110 million people fully inoculated against COVID-19, millions remain vulnerable to infection. The government is aiming to fully vaccinate 70 percent of the population before the year ends.
“Are there enough vaccines? Is the rollout efficient and distributed correctly? And is there still significant (COVID-19 vaccine) hesitancy up to now? Because there are long queues,” Olalia said.
“While we agree that firm, not strongarm, measures must be employed to arrest the pandemic, invoking the ‘law of necessity’ is dangerous as it is nebulous and can be subjective and arbitrary, and therefore, open to abuse and misuse.”