Duterte accepts Russian offer of virus vaccine

In this photo taken on November 19, 2019, Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte talks during a late-night press conference at Malacanang Palace in Manila. (File/AFP)
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Updated 12 August 2020

Duterte accepts Russian offer of virus vaccine

  • Tough-talking Philippines leader says he will be ‘first to volunteer for trial’

MANILA: Philippine  President Rodrigo Duterte has accepted a Russian offer to provide a coronavirus vaccine and volunteered to be the first to be “experimented on” once it arrives in the country.

“I’m very happy that Russia is our friend. They want to provide a vaccine, so we are accepting it,” Duterte said in a late-night public address. The Philippines leader offered his “trust and gratitude” to Moscow for its willingness to “share its technology” and cooperate with Manila in the fight against the pandemic.

Taking it up a notch, the tough-talking former mayor of Davao City volunteered to take the first shot of the vaccine. “When the vaccine arrives, I will have myself injected in public, so people won’t say anything. I’ll be the first to get experimented on. It’s fine with me,” Duterte said, before relaying a message for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I have great trust in your studies in combatting COVID-19, and I believe that the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity,” he said.

Duterte was hopeful that with prospects of a COVID-10 vaccine, such as those being developed by Russia, the world would be free from coronavirus “as early as December.”

“Vaccines are to be distributed worldwide by September, October. It will be slowly released. Hopefully, we will have a COVID-free December and can enjoy the Christmas season,” he said.

His comments follow a statement by Putin on Facebook on Tuesday, saying that the “world’s first vaccine against coronavirus” will be registered in Russia within days.

“Russian scientists passed necessary test stages and proved the safety and effectiveness of the drug. Our medicine has adequately coped with the epidemic and now gives hope not only to our country but to the whole world. Once the Soviet satellite paved the way for humanity into space, now the Russian vaccine will pave the way to the future without COVID-19, masks and social isolation,” he said.

Another statement issued by Duterte’s office on Tuesday said the Philippines “appreciates Russia’s offer of cooperation to combat the COVID-19 pandemic jointly” and the government “stands ready to work with Russia on clinical trials, vaccine supply and production.”

“Like similar bilateral and multilateral arrangements, all cooperation initiatives will be consistent with protocols for testing and health standards. International cooperation is key to combat this global pandemic effectively,” the statement read.

Malacanang said that in keeping up with Duterte’s independent foreign policy, the Philippines government will continue to work with partners across the world to ensure access to a “safe vaccine.”

Russian Ambassador to Manila Igor Khovaev said on Friday that Moscow is willing to “closely cooperate with its Philippine partners” for the production of the drug.

“Regarding the Philippines, we have three options for cooperation: First, clinical trials if our Philippine partners consider it necessary; second, we are ready to supply vaccine to the Philippines; and third, the most promoted option, is local production of vaccine here in the Philippines,” Khovaev told reporters in a virtual press briefing.

He added that “this unique opportunity should not be missed.”

The Russian COVID-19 vaccine was developed by the Gameleya National Research Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology, which Khovaev said was the same laboratory that created a vaccine against Ebola virus and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS.

Citing Russian scientists, he said the results from clinical trials on the coronavirus had been “promising.”

“Believe me, we don’t like risky undertakings. That’s why I’m saying again that the vaccine is effective and safe. It’s a necessary precondition that was articulated by Russian President Putin. We are responsible people,” he said. 

Khovaev said about 20 countries had confirmed their interest in cooperating with Russia on the vaccine.

Heavily armed man arrested at Washington security checkpoint

Updated 33 min 32 sec ago

Heavily armed man arrested at Washington security checkpoint

WASHINGTON: A heavily armed man has been arrested in Washington at a security checkpoint near the US Capitol, where President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated next week, authorities said.
Wesley Allen Beeler, of Virginia, was taken into custody after police found him with a handgun and more than 500 rounds of ammunition, shotgun shells and a magazine for the gun, according to a police report obtained by AFP.
He had tried to pass through the checkpoint using fake inaugural credentials, CNN reported, citing a law enforcement source.
Washington is under a high state of alert ahead of Biden’s Wednesday inauguration, after a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6.
Five people died in the assault, including a police officer.
Security officials have warned that armed pro-Trump extremists, possibly carrying explosives, pose a threat to Washington as well as state capitals over the coming week.
Thousands of National Guard troops have been deployed in Washington and streets have been blocked off downtown with concrete barriers.
The National Mall, which is normally packed with people every four years for presidential inaugurations, has been declared off-limits at the request of the Secret Service, which ensures the security of the president.