MANILA, Philippines ( Associated Press) – People who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 were banned on Monday from riding public transport in the Philippine capital region, whose labor and human rights groups protested.
The Philippines’ vaccination campaign has been marred by public hesitation and delays, while the highly contagious Omicron variant has recently led to a surge in infections. After less than a thousand new cases were reported daily during the Christmas holidays, the Health Department on Saturday set a record high of more than 39,000.
Under the Department of Transportation’s “No Wax, No Ride” policy, passengers who have not been fully vaccinated are allowed to ride public jeeps, taxis, buses, sea ferries and commercial aircraft in and within metropolitan Manila unless they show evidence that they are on urgent work or that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. The restrictions will last until at least the end of January and were part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s warning that non-vaccinated Filipinos who defy stay-at-home orders to reduce community transmission could face arrest. Is.
“There are actually valid reasons for aiming to vaccinate as many people as possible. However, these reasons should not deter people from freedom of movement,” said Butch Olano of Amnesty International in the Philippines. Experts say that The validity of this policy can be questioned in the Supreme Court.
There were concerns about how poor drivers of Jeepneys, Manila’s popular public transportation icon, could effectively enforce the ban and check vaccination certificates while driving with passengers who, they thought, were far behind. exit from. Police warned that travelers showing false proof of vaccination could be fined or jailed.
The Department of Transportation said the policy is intended to promote public health and prevent the public commuter train system from closing again like last year, when many of its workers became infected. “For those who find the ‘no vaccination, no ride-entry’ policy in public transport is anti-poor, harsh or punitive, we believe it is more poor and anti-life if we do not intervene that will prevent the causes of non-vaccination.” Loss of life,” it said.
More than 54 million of the nearly 109 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated, in a government campaign that was initially saddled with delays and public hesitation.
The Philippines has confirmed more than 3.1 million coronavirus infections, with 52,858 COVID-19 deaths, the worst in Southeast Asia. As in other countries, the figures are considered an undercount.