Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, in a late-night speech, threatened to have Filipinos forcibly inoculated against COVID-19 in their sleep if they were reluctant to receive vaccinations, but the presidential palace later brushed off the comments as a “joke.”
In remarks made during a televised cabinet meeting on Monday evening, Duterte expressed frustration over the spread of COVID-19, which has infected more than 2.6 million Filipinos since the pandemic began.
“I know a lot of people do not want to be vaccinated,” Duterte said. “That is the problem, those who refuse vaccination.”
The president called for village officials to scour neighborhoods for people refusing to be vaccinated.
“Let’s enter their homes while they are sleeping and inoculate them,” he said. “I will lead the journey.”
Duterte insisted that everyone who is eligible for vaccines be inoculated. He said it was their “civic duty to protect others and also allow us to turn the page to get everyone back on track to normalcy.”
This was not the first time the president, whose six-year term ends in 2022, has made controversial statements or threats.
In June, he caused a stir when he threatened Filipinos who refused to be inoculated to leave the country.