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Philippines may be back to normal in 2023 —Duterte

With the Philippines having spent nearly one year under community quarantine, President Rodrigo Duterte said the country may have to wait until the first or second quarter of 2023 before the situation reverts back to normal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press conference on Sunday evening, Duterte said the country will fast-track its immunization program against the deadly illness following the arrival of the initial shipment of 600,000 doses from China.

"In about maybe early year [2023,] not in [2022]. Ito ngayon hanggang katapusan ng buwan, paspasan tayo. Early in the first maybe first or second quarter of year 2-3, 2023, baka, tulong ng Diyos," he said.

The Philippines on Sunday afternoon received the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines, making it the last country in the ASEAN region to provide vaccinations for its residents. The first shots are scheduled to be inoculated in several hospitals across Metro Manila on Monday, March 1, 2020.

In the same briefing, Duterte said the Philippines is expected to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus disease 2109 (COVID-19) in early 2022, but admitted that he has "incomplete and inadequate" knowledge on the matter.

He added that the country would have difficulty in achieving herd immunity given its being archipelagic in nature, as well as the apprehension to get inoculated by vaccines.

"Ang herd immunity para sa akin personally, mas maganda kung contiguous ang territory because you only have to do a circle, paliit nang paliit, paliit nang paliit hanggang towards the center of gravity," he said.

Duterte also noted that not all individuals would opt to be inoculated with vaccines, which would hinder the country from achieving herd immunity or when a large part of the population of an area is immune to a specific disease.

"We have to take into account the freedom of an individual on what happens to his body. Nobody but nobody can tinker with him human life kung hindi siya," said the president, who led a bloody campaign against illegal drugs which has claimed the lives of thousands.

"Kung ayaw niya, that makes it doubly hard for us but that is also one which we have to take into account in dealing with the problem of COVID-19," he elaborated.

Duterte, however, did not provide any resource for his statement as he said this was based on the articles he read.

"If you ask a doctor he would give you the same answer. Maybe, maybe not, I'm wrong, pero sabi ko, 'yun lang nabasa ko, what I've red from the national magazine. I must confess my incomplete and inadequate knowledge dito sa bahay na 'to," he said. — BM, GMA News