Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has been widely criticised by labour groups after he ordered police to shoot dead residents who break quarantine rules.
His violent threat follows the arrest of 21 people who had apparently taken to the streets of Metro Manila’s Quezon City to demand help from the government.
Police said the group had protested without a permit, though the website Rapper reported that it is not clear if all residents were demonstrating or if some were simply looking for food.
There is growing concern about how the poorest people in the Philippines will survive a month-long lockdown that has been imposed on the country’s main Luzon island.
Many of its 48 million residents live hand-to-mouth and depend on daily work to feed their families.
The government has promised that 18 million low-income households will receive support, but this has not been released due to administrative hurdles.
On Wednesday night, Duterte told people to wait for assistance, adding: “Even if it’s delayed, it will arrive and you will not go hungry. You will not die of hunger.”
Quarantine measures, he said, would be strictly enforced. “I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military, also the barangay, that if there is trouble or the situation arises that people fight and your lives are on the line, shoot them dead. Do you understand? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I’ll send you to the grave,” he said in a televised address.