President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered the police to intensify arrests and detentions of those who violate government rules on wearing masks and social distancing, as coronavirus cases continue to surge.
“A simple violation of not wearing mask seems trivial, but during times of health issues, it can be a serious crime,” Mr. Duterte said in a taped meeting with Cabinet officials aired Tuesday. “We don’t have any qualms on arresting people.”
The government will buy as many masks as possible and distribute them to the public for free, he added. Mr. Duterte also said he’s willing to borrow more or sell government property to buy vaccines against the coronavirus once available.
The Philippine leader has tapped the police and military to implement health protocols during the pandemic, with retired soldiers leading anti-virus efforts. He told authorities in April to shoot protesters attempting to riot during the lockdown.
The Philippines aims to conduct coronavirus tests on 10 million individuals or a tenth of the population by next year, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said at the same televised meeting. More than 1 million have been tested so far, with 68,898 positive results as of Monday.
As the economic impact of the pandemic continued to bite, only a quarter of private school students enrolled for the school year that’s slated to start in August, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said at the meeting. Most of them have transferred to state-funded schools, although only 77% of all students have enrolled for classes with limited face-to-face interactions. — Bloomberg