MANILA— The Department of the Interior and Local Government said Thursday it would issue a "reiteration memorandum" directing local government units to penalize their residents not practicing minimum public health protocols as the country detected the presence of 2 highly contagious COVID-19 variants.
"The emphasis there is this is the only way to prevent the spread of the virus regardless of the variant," Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing told ANC.
Through an ordinance, localities can impose sanctions such as imprisonment of up to 5 days, a fine and community service, he added.
"I may be suggesting those who violate may serve as what we call marshals in certain public areas in their locality to tell people to practice minimum public health protocols," Densing said.
The DILG official said there was a need to reiterate its call to penalize violators of COVID-19 rules as many people had become "complacent."
Nearly a year into the pandemic, the Philippines has logged over 582,000 coronavirus infections, among the highest in Asia. More than 12,000 people have died from the disease.
It began administering COVID-19 shots Monday to health workers and uniformed personnel, trailing dozens of countries in starting its coronavirus vaccination rollout. It used vaccines donated by China's Sinovac Biotech.
Health experts have raised concerns over the presence of 2 more contagious variants of the classic virus - the B.1.1.7 (UK) and B.1.351 (South Africa).
To date, some 87 cases of the UK variant have been recorded in the country.
Meanwhile, the Philippines on Tuesday detected its first 6 cases of the South Africa variant. Three of them were found in Pasay City and 2 others from returning Filipino migrant workers from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The health ministry is still verifying the location of the other case.