People who are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 have been banned from riding public transport in the Philippine capital region in a desperate move that has sparked protests from labour and human rights groups.
The Philippines’ vaccination campaign has been dogged by public hesitancy and delays, while the highly contagious Omicron variant has fuelled a recent spike in cases.
From less than 1,000 new cases daily during the Christmas holidays, the Department of Health counted a record of more than 39,000 on Saturday.
Under the Department of Transportation’s “no vax, no ride” policy, commuters who are not fully vaccinated will not be allowed to ride public jeepneys, taxis, buses, sea ferries and commercial planes to and from and within Metropolitan Manila unless they show proof that they are on urgent errands or cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.
The restriction will last at least until the end of January and is an offshoot of President Rodrigo Duterte’s warning that the unvaccinated who defy orders to stay at home to ease community infections could face arrest.
“There are indeed legitimate reasons for aiming to vaccinate as many people as possible. However, these reasons should not prevent people from freedom of movement,” said Butch Olano of Amnesty International in the Philippines.
Experts say the policy’s legality could be questioned before the Supreme Court.
There were concerns over how poor drivers of jeepneys, Manila’s popular public transport icon, could efficiently enforce the restriction and check vaccination certificates while driving with passengers constantly getting on and off at the back exit away from their view.
The Department of Transportation said the policy aimed to foster public health and prevent public commuter train systems from being shut down again like last year after many personnel got infected. — AP