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8 Feb, 2021 16:48

‘Don’t touch the vaccines’: Duterte warns communists & customs agents to keep their hands off Covid-19 jabs during transit

‘Don’t touch the vaccines’: Duterte warns communists & customs agents to keep their hands off Covid-19 jabs during transit

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte has warned communist rebels and his government’s own customs agents not to delay transport and delivery of Covid-19 vaccines to isolated areas of the country.

At a meeting with the nation’s pandemic task force on Monday, Duterte called on customs personnel not to unduly slow down the movement of the jabs as they check the imported deliveries.

“Your job, Customs, is to look. You have no business opening things up. You are not allowed to do that. I am not allowing anybody in the airport to open things up,” he noted, adding that the police should be utilized to speed up the vaccines’ transit.

Duterte also singled out the country’s Communist Party for potentially posing a threat to the rapid distribution of inoculations, saying “don’t touch the vaccines” and urging it to guarantee the safe transport of the jab “to areas where there are no city health officers or medical persons.”

“Allow the vaccines to be transported freely and safely,” he said. "I am asking you now to observe that rule." 

The Philippines has been dogged by decades of conflict between the central government and a communist insurgency. Duterte, who is due to step down next year, declared that the government will hold no peace talks with the rebels while he remains in office. He has labeled the insurgency as the number one threat in the country.

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The Philippines is currently waiting for the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines from the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility. The first 117,000 doses will be the jab made by Pfizer-BioNTech and are due to arrive in the Philippines in mid-February. 

At least 5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine are expected to be delivered there by COVAX in the first quarter. The country has also secured more jabs from other developers, including 20 million from Moderna.

As of Monday, the country’s Department of Health said there were over 27,000 active Covid-19 cases in the Philippines. To date, 11,231 deaths have been recorded there since the start of the pandemic.

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