People living in the Canadian province of Quebec will soon have to pay an additional health contribution tax if they are not vaccinated, the regional government announced on Tuesday.
The so-called health fee will be imposed on adults who continue to refuse to receive the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, which the government said is key in the fight against the pandemic. Quebec is one of the provinces hardest hit by the Omicron wave in Canada.
“Even though unvaccinated adults only make up 10% of the population, they make up half of the Covid-19 hospitalisations in intensive care. This means that unvaccinated adults are nine times more likely to be hospitalised than vaccinated adults,” Quebec Premier François Legault said, expressing his frustration with this group of people.
“This is a huge burden on our health network, and it is not up to all Quebecers to cover this cost, which is why we are considering a payable health contribution for all adults who refuse, for non-medical reasons, to get vaccinated.”
He added that the amount had not yet been decided, as discussions with the finance minister and legal advisers are ongoing, but it will be a “significant amount.”
Quebec is not the first to make people pay for not getting vaccinated. In November, the government in Austria, which is also known in Europe to impose stricter measures, announced that from February, residents who refuse to get vaccinated could face fines of up to €7,200.
In a post on a Facebook group for unvaccinated people in the region, the decision was described as “psychological warfare.” It was said the move would be challenged in court, according to reports from CTV News.
Staff shortages as situation worsens
On 10 January, the Quebec region, which has a population of about 8 million, recorded a total of 8,710 new cases. Some 2,700 people are currently in hospital as a result of an infection, according to the latest coronavirus update.
“We continue to see an increase in hospitalisations in Quebec, like elsewhere in the world,” Legault stated. The eastern province’s biggest struggle at the moment is finding staff, as many doctors and nurses are either in isolation or quarantine as a result of an infection or high-risk contact.
“We calculate that to get through the next few weeks, we’re going to need 1,000 more employees in hospitals and 1,500 more employees in residential care centres.”
The region is seeing its cases increase despite having implemented strict measures, including a curfew on all people between 22:00 and 5:00 introduced on 30 December.
A vaccination passport has also been in place since September 2021 and is required to gain access to bars, restaurants, cultural venues sports activities and others. Legault said the region would also look at extending the use of this health pass.