Philippines to give vaccinated elderly more freedom to encourage inoculation

A health worker administers a dose of the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, as economic workers queue to get vaccinated at Robinsons Place, in Manila, Philippines

The Philippines will exempt elderly people who have been fully vaccinated from stay-at-home orders to encourage more to get inoculated and help authorities meet COVID-19 immunisation targets, officials said on Friday.

Seniors living in areas under looser quarantine restrictions will be allowed to go out from Wednesday, but will still need to wear masks, face shields and practice social distancing, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

The elderly, who account for four-fifths of COVID-19 deaths in the country, were among priority groups in the government’s vaccination drive that began on March 1.

But as of June 6, only 1.54 million, or 16%, of an elderly population of more than 9 million, had got their first shot, while more than 343,000 had received their second doses.

“Get vaccinated to enjoy the incentive of going out to exercise and chat with your fellow senior citizen,” health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a news conference.

On Friday, the government’s coronavirus task force also allowed non-contact sports venues like gyms, fitness studios and historical sites and museums to reopen but with a limited number of guests.

Recording nearly 1.3 million infections and more than 22,300 deaths, the Philippines is battling the second-highest COVID-19 caseload in the region, next to Indonesia.

The Philippines started vaccinating around 35 million people working outside their homes this week to curb virus transmission and help open the economy, but the inoculation drive was hit by a delay in vaccine deliveries.

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