Philippines' Duterte Orders Arrest of Unvaccinated Who Leave Their Homes

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday threatened to arrest unvaccinated people who violate stay-at-home orders, as part of measures aimed at tackling a surge of COVID-19 infections in the country, largely fueled by the Omicron variant.

As COVID-19 infections in the Philippines hit a three-month high, Duterte issued a stern message to the unvaccinated in a televised address to the nation, Reuters reported.

He warned that he had instructed community leaders to ensure that people who have not taken COVID-19 shots are confined to their homes.

"If he refuses, if he goes out 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. "I am responsible for the safety and well being of every Filipino."

He challenged those who disagree with his order to file a lawsuit against him, according to Reuters.

The Philippines on Thursday recorded its highest daily COVID-19 infection numbers since September, with 17,220 cases. The figure brought the nation's total cases to over 2.88 million, while total deaths stood at more than 51,700 as of Thursday, the Health Ministry said.

According to the ministry, 49.8 million people, or 45 percent of the country's population had been fully vaccinated at the end of 2021.

Currently, those who are unvaccinated in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, are only permitted to leave their homes for essential reasons, such as going to work, buying necessities and medical care.

The measure was announced by Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Benhur Abalos on January 3.

"Despite the availability of vaccines, there is a number of individuals who adamantly opt not to be vaccinated," the MMDA said in a statement at the time of the measures, which are expected to be enforced until January 15.

"This is just temporary while the cases are rampaging," Abalos added. "So this is just to protect our unvaccinated."

Duterte's message to the nation came as health officials warned COVID-19 infections would peak by the end of January.

"Because it's a national emergency, it is my position that we can restrain" the unvaccinated, Duterte said, according to Agence France-Presse.

"I am now giving orders to the [village chiefs] to look for those persons who are not vaccinated and just request them or order them, if you may, to stay put," he added.

Duterte said he was "appalled" by how many are yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, saying that they are putting "everybody in jeopardy."

COVID-19 is "galloping in our community, in our country and in the world," he added.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte holds up a vial of Sinovac Biotech's COVID-19 vaccines as he witnesses the arrival of a shipment of the vaccines at Ninoy Aquino International Airport on February 28, 2021 in Manila, Philippines. On Thursday, he threatened to arrest unvaccinated people who violate stay-at-home orders, amid a rise in cases driven by the Omicron variant. Ezra Acayan/Getty Images