Faced by a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant, Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the arrest of unvaccinated people who violate stay-at-home orders.

"Because it's a national emergency, it is my position that we can restrain people who have not go their shots.

"I am now giving orders to the (village chiefs) to look for those persons who are not vaccinated and just request them or order them, if you may, to stay put," the president told a televised address to the nation yesterday.

"And if he refuses and goes out of the house and goes around in the community or maybe everywhere, he can be restrained. If he refuses then the [official] is empowered to arrest the recalcitrant persons," Duterte added, reported The Guardian.

Under the current restrictions in place until mid-January, unvaccinated residents are only allowed to leave home to buy essentials and exercise. Restaurants, parks, churches and beauty salons can operate at lower capacity, while face-to-face classes and contact sports are suspended.

This is not the first time, Duterte, a lawyer by profession, has been attributed to harsh measures when dealing with lawbreakers.

He has been previously linked to a bloody "war on drugs" that has seen thousands of drug addicts and pushers perish in sometimes extrajudicial killings.

Duterte's government tightened restrictions in the country's capital Manila and several provinces and cities this week, after coronavirus cases tripled in the last few days.

For the record, less than half of the Philippines' 109 million population have been vaccinated, a fact that has "appalled" Duterte.

More than 2.9 million Filipinos have caught COVID-19 to date, and almost 52,000 of them have died.

Cases in the country slowed down late last year, causing the country to loosen restrictions, but spiked up after families and friends got together for the Christmas holidays. The Omicron strain also contributed to this spike.

Source: The Guardian
Photo source: Reuters