On Tuesday Greece rolled out its first vaccination mandate order targeting the elderly portion of the population, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announcing in a televised statement that the COVID-19 jab will now be required by law for people aged 60 and over.
He cited the national "vigilance" now required as the new omicron variant has emerged, and also lamented the huge numbers of still unvaccinated elderly in the country. But more shocking is the penalty unveiled for not being in compliance, which will take effect starting next year. The prime minister said that for every month citizens 60-years and up go without a coronavirus vaccine, they will be slapped with a 100-euro ($114) fine.
In Orwellian fashion Mitsotakis said "It is not a punishment," but instead, "I would say it is a health fee." He said that to avoid the fine, "Greeks over the age of 60... must book their appointment for a first jab by January 16," according to his statement to the cabinet.
He underscored of the demographic, "Their vaccination is henceforth compulsory." Lawmakers will likely approve it after a parliamentary vote, given officials have lately sounded the alarm over the overstrained health system, also as data shows over a half-million people over 60 remain unvaccinated. Greece's overall vaccination rate stands at about 63%.
Over the course of the pandemic, more than 18,000 Greek citizens have died due to Covid-19. Mitsotakis cited the rising numbers while saying the new mandate "tortured" him, but he still felt a "heavy responsibility in standing next to those most vulnerable, even if it might fleetingly displease them".
The fine, which over the course of a full year would tally to a hefty 1,200-euros, is seen as particularly steep for the over-60 population. As Forbes noted, citing Greek media figures:
The fine would represent a "hefty chunk" of the average monthly pension payment, which is about €730 ($830), the outlet reported.
PM Mitsotakis said further in the prepared statements Tuesday: "Unfortunately, of the 580,000 unvaccinated of our fellow citizens over the age of 60, only 60,000 set up appointments to get vaccinated in November." He added, "But it is mainly people over 60 who require hospital treatment and sadly lose their life. These deaths are unnecessary."
The opposition left-wing Syriza party slammed the government for in effect shifting its own failings and blame for pandemic woes onto the common people. It said in a statement that Athens is now "targeting people over 60 ... with punitive and financially debilitating measures that haven’t been implemented anywhere else in the world."
🚨🚨 Mandatory vaccines for over 60s in Greece.— Jamie Jenkins (@statsjamie) November 30, 2021
If you don't have one you get a 100 Euro fine EVERY MONTH.
➡️ What next - lower pension payments if you don't have vaccines, or boosters? https://t.co/2AFwJRVvT7
Indeed such a monthly assessed fine levied on older citizens is unprecedented, and it's also entirely uncertain just how government authorities will identify the unvaxxed on a monthly basis. Should the drastic policy and law in the end result in seeing the target group get the vaccine in droves, it's very likely other European governments would take note, and roll out their own similar punitive measures.