ATHENS, Greece ( Associated Press) – Greece imposed a vaccination order on Monday for people aged 60 and older, as the country’s vaccination rate remains below the European Union average and a spike in infections has put continued pressure on Greek hospitals. .
Older people who do not get vaccinated will face penalties, starting in January with a 50-euro ($57) fine and then a 100-euro ($114) monthly fine.
About two-thirds of Greece’s 10.7 million people have been fully vaccinated, compared to the European Union average of more than 70%. But the arrival of the highly infectious Omicron variant has led to an increase in COVID-19 deaths and daily hospitalizations, although the pressure on ICU capacity has eased slightly.
Health Minister Thanos Pleveris said the fine would be collected through the tax office to help fund the state’s hospitals.
“The age factor is important because of its impact on public healthcare,” Pleveris told private Open TV on Sunday.
Greece implemented a vaccination mandate for health care workers last year. And from February 1, the vaccination certificate for adults will expire after seven months unless the holder receives a booster shot.
New infections rose sharply in early January, but decreased in the past week.
The vaccination mandate for the age group 60 and over was announced in late December and according to government data, 41.5% of the 530,000 people targeted by the measure are now fully vaccinated. Opinion polls suggest strong public support for the mandate, but some lawmakers across party lines have questioned the legitimacy of isolating a specific group. The government defended the measure as constitutional, citing a 2020 High Court decision allowing public day care centers to refuse children who were not vaccinated for childhood diseases.
Government spokesman Giannis Oikonomo said only people with valid health exemptions, who had recently contracted infections and were late applying for home vaccination appointments, would be spared the fine.
“The law will be fully implemented,” Oikonomo said.
According to the US-based Population Reference Bureau, Greece has the seventh oldest population in the world, as measured by the share of residents aged 65 and over. It has seen nearly 22,000 virus-related deaths in the pandemic.
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