President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday expressed support for proposals to make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory and to reimpose the face shield requirement amid the threat of the new virus variant Omicron.
Duterte raised the possibility of enforcing the two policies during his televised meeting with local experts and other members of the national task force against coronavirus, which he convened two days after the World Health Organization (WHO) flagged the Covid-19 Omicron variant.
During the meeting, the President lamented that some Filipinos have remained hesitant to get Covid-19 jabs despite the government’s massive inoculation efforts.
“I may agree with the task force if they decide to make it mandatory,” he said, as vaccination remained optional in the country. “It’s for public health.”
Duterte issued the statement after the kick off rites of the state’s three-day massive inoculation drive, as he cited the importance of vaccination and health standards to contain the spread of coronavirus.
“I call on every Filipino for your continued cooperation in fighting Covid-19 by getting vaccinated and continuing to follow our minimum public health standards,” he said in his speech.
“It is very important for us to take a whole-of-nation approach to win against the coronavirus that has sorely plagued our country for almost two years,” Duterte added.
Meanwhile, he directed the task force to study whether the public should be advised again to wear face shields outdoors as he described the gear as an “added layer of protection” against Covid-19 transmission.
“This shield, as a layman, I would say that an added cover could be an added protection,” Duterte said.
“I would suggest to the task force to make a statement whether or not really — if Omicron enters, since we have a dearth of data — we would just dictate, maybe we could be strict again,” he added.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who told the President that the Omicron variant will inevitably enter the Philippines, also agreed to the possible reimposition of the face shield policy.
Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. echoed Duque’s sentiment.
All government officials and infectious disease experts who attended the meeting had conceded that the government should continue its strict border controls, genomic sequencing initiatives, enforcement of health protocols, and vaccination efforts to address the threat of the Omicron variant.