Cops threaten to cane social distancing rule violators

POLICE threatened to cane people who violate social distancing protocols as the South-East Asian nation fights the spread of Covid-19 during the festive season.

The Philippines celebrates one of the world’s longest Christmas seasons, starting as early as September, and crowds have started to flock to sprawling malls and shopping centres despite the pandemic.

Police general Cesar Binag, commander of the Covid-19 taskforce, told a news conference that police and soldiers will patrol in public areas in the capital Manila, the hotspot of Covid-19 cases, carrying one-meter rattan sticks to measure personal distancing.

“It can be used to cane the hardheaded, ” Binag said, adding that “social distancing patrols” would focus on high-traffic areas such as transport hubs and markets.

The plan will likely raise eyebrows from human rights advocates who have criticised the government’s militaristic approach to the pandemic.

Authorities have apprehended, warned and penalised around 700,000 people since March for violations such as ignoring physical distancing and not wearing masks, police data show.

President Rodrigo Duterte imposed one of the world’s strictest and longest Covid-19 lockdowns in mid-March, grinding the economy to a halt.

Restrictions were partially removed in June to allow more businesses to reopen. — Reuters

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