MANILA (Reuters) – People coming to work in offices in the Philippines will have to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested frequently, the president’s office said on Friday, as the country battles one of Asia’s worst outbreaks.
A little over a quarter of the Philippines’ 110 million population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The government says there are enough stocks available and has been urging people to take the shots.
The new rules for in-office employees will take effect from Dec. 1, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement. Roque said employees who have not taken the shots even though vaccines are available in their area would be required to undergo tests at their own expense.
Public transportation services will be required to have their employees fully inoculated as a condition to continue their operations, he said.
Public and private establishments may refuse entry and deny services to unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals, except in cases of emergency, he added.
The slow pace of vaccinations is complicating government efforts to fully reopen the economy and get growth back up. People in some of the far-flung provinces are hesitant to take the shots, officials said.
“The greater challenge is how we can get the jabs to the arms of as many Filipinos as soon as possible,” Carlito Galvez, who handles the government’s vaccine procurement, said at a vaccine forum.
To ramp up its vaccine roll-out, the government will hold a three-day mass inoculation drive from Nov. 29 to immunise 15 million people.
The Philippines has reported more than 2.8 million COVID-19 infections and close to 45,000 deaths, among the highest in the Southeast Asian region.
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)