Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday warned violators of coronavirus lockdown measures they could be shot for causing trouble and said abuse of medical workers was a serious crime that would not be tolerated. Of such protesters, he said, “I will bury you.”

In a televised address, Duterte said it was vital everyone cooperates and follows home quarantine measures, as authorities try to slow the coronavirus contagion and spare the country’s fragile health system from being overwhelmed.

The Philippines has recorded 96 coronavirus deaths and 2,311 confirmed cases, all but three in the past three weeks, with infections now being reported in the hundreds every day. It is getting worse. So once again I’m telling you the seriousness of the problem and that you must listen,” Duterte said late on Wednesday.

“My orders to the police and military … if there is trouble and there’s an occasion that they fight back and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead.”

“Is that understood? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I will bury you.”

His comments came after media reports of a disturbance and several arrests on Wednesday of residents in a poor area of Manila who were protesting about sufficient government food aid.

They also follow outrage among the medical community about social stigma and instances of hospital workers suffering physical abuse and discrimination, which Duterte said must be stopped.

‘Deeply alarming,’ says Amnesty

Responding to Duterte’s call, Amnesty International on Thursday said the Philippine leader’s statement was “deeply alarming” and warned, “Deadly, unchecked force should never be used in an emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Referring to Wednesday’s incident in San Roque village in Quezon City, Amnesty International noted that when residents were informed that a government relief distribution had run out of supplies, they decided to stay in the area and stage a protest to demand relief.

The residents told Amnesty International that the police then “resorted to violently dispersing the protestors and hit them with wooden sticks”.

Activists deride Duterte over his fierce rhetoric and accuse him of inviting violence and vigilantism, as shown in his war on drugs, during which police and mystery gunmen have killed thousands of people accused of using or selling drugs.

Police say their actions in the anti-drug campaign have been lawful.

Duterte’s office typically calls his remarks hyperbole to underline his point.

The national police chief on Thursday said police understood that Duterte was demonstrating his seriousness about public order, and no one would be shot.