Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

The policy covers all domestic public transportation to, from and within Metro Manila, but critics say the order is discriminatory.

The Philippine government has banned unvaccinated residents of the capital Manila and surrounding districts from public transportation amid a new surge of COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant.

In an order published Wednesday, the country’s transportation secretary, Arthur Tugade, said the “no vaccination, no ride” policy covers all domestic public transportation to, from and within Metro Manila.

Public transport operators, including land, air and sea, “will allow access or issue tickets only to fully vaccinated persons”, and passengers must provide proof of their identification and vaccination status.

The order added that people are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, or two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine.

The mayors of Metro Manila have earlier agreed to restrict the mobility of unvaccinated people in the capital, including a ban on access to shopping malls and other facilities, although some legal experts have questioned the constitutionality of the restrictions.

President Rodrigo Duterte has criticized after ordered that unvaccinated people be arrested who will violate stay-at-home orders aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, which has caused a new wave of record cases since the beginning of the year.

On January 10, an estimated 52.86 million Filipinos were completely vaccinated, according to the government, equivalent to 48 percent of the country’s total population of 110 million.

The Philippines reported 28,007 new COVID cases on Tuesday, slightly lower than Monday’s record-breaking 33,000 new cases.

‘Illegal, absurd’

The Department of Transportation’s new order said any violations “would be considered a violation of applicable general safety and health regulations” imposed since the pandemic in the country.

There are a few exemptions on the order, including people with medical conditions that cannot be vaccinated and individuals designated by their household to buy essential goods outside their home.

However, the order provoked strong opposition. In a statement, opposition and rights group leader Renato Reyes called it “publicly illegal and absurd”.

“Won’t half the population now be allowed to move? What about people who go to their vaccination sites? Are they expected to walk ?, “he wrote on social media.

Transport advocacy group AltMobility PH questioned the order, saying it was discriminatory.

“You discriminate against the movement of people taking public transportation,” he said. “What about those in private vehicles? Why are they allowed to go through the city without any control, ”the group’s director, Ira Cruz, said on the ABS-CBN website.

“Is it really easy for people to be vaccinated? “We still hear stories of people who spend an entire day at a vaccination site getting vaccinated,” Cruz said.

Since the pandemic hit the Philippines in 2020, Duterte has instituted measures that have been criticized by critics as too restrictive and not based on data and science.

Duterte had previously threatened to arrest those who violated the country’s lock-in measures, and those who refused, warned to be vaccinated that they would go to jail amid the spread of Delta variant last year.

When the government first imposed restrictions on the country in April 2020, Duterte also warned that he would order the country’s police and army to shoot anyone dead “which creates trouble”.

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