Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced in a televised address on Thursday that Filipinos unvaccinated against COVID-19 will be arrested if they disobey nationwide stay-at-home orders, Reuters reported.
Duterte said he was entrusting community leaders to enforce the stay-at-home orders, which allow the unvaccinated to leave their homes only for essential trips or exercise, according to The Guardian.
''Because it's a national emergency, it is my position that we can restrain'' people who have not received their shots, Duterte said in the recorded message.
''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,'' Duterte said. ''And if he refuses and goes out of the house and goes around in the community or maybe everywhere, he can be restrained. If he refuses, then the [official] is empowered to arrest the recalcitrant persons.''
The president added that restaurants, parks, churches and beauty salons will operate at lower capacity until mid-January. In-person schooling and contact sports are suspended during the period as well.
The drastic enforcement of the lockdown comes as infections hit a three-month high in the Southeast Asian country.
The nation's Department of Health reported that daily COVID-19 cases hit 17,220 on Thursday, the highest since Sept. 26. The number brought the total cases to over 2.88 million.
Health experts say the new cases are driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant, The Guardian reported.
Only 46.5% of the Philippines population is fully vaccinated, roughly 51.7 million out of 111 million people, according to data from the Philippine Department of Health.
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