About Time: Quebec to tax on unvaccinated Canadians

A Canadian child getting vaccinated

The Canadian province of Quebec will charge a health tax to residents who are not vaccinated against Covid-19. Quebec, which has seen the highest number of Covid-related deaths in Canada, is currently struggling with a surge in cases.

On Tuesday, the premier announced that it would be the first in the nation to financially penalize the unvaccinated. Only about 12.8% of Quebec residents are not vaccinated, but they make up nearly half of all hospital cases. According to federal data, just over 85% of Quebec residents had received at least one vaccine dose by 1 January.

Premier Francois Legault said during a news conference that people who have not received their first dose of vaccine will have to pay a “contribution”. The fee has not yet been decided, but will be “significant”, he said. “I think right now it’s a question of fairness for the 90% of the population who made some sacrifices,” Mr Legault said. “I think we owe them this kind of measure.”

Last week, the province announced that it would require proof of vaccination to shop in government cannabis and liquor stores. A curfew is also in place, the second one of the pandemic, running from 22:00 to 05:00 each day. On Tuesday, Quebec’s death toll from Covid-19 reached 12,028. It comes after 62 deaths were recorded in the previous 24-hour period. The daily figure represents a similar rate to January 2021, before widespread vaccinations had begun in the province.

The percentage of Covid-19 patients in intensive care who have not been vaccinated is 45%, provincial data shows. The premier’s press conference was attended by his interim public health director, who took over after the long-serving previous director resigned over criticism of his handling of the latest Omicron-driven surge. Hospitals in Montreal, the province’s largest city, are nearing 100% capacity and have already started limiting non-Covid related care.

Over 200 members of the city’s unhoused population have also tested positive, indicating an outbreak. It comes amid a severe cold snap, which is overwhelming shelters. Quebec reported 8,710 new cases on Tuesday. The figure represents a 20% positivity rate. There are currently 2,742 Covid-19 patients in Quebec hospitals, including 244 in intensive care.

While rare, Quebec is not the only region in the world seeking to impose a financial penalty on those unwilling to get jabbed. Starting later this month, Greeks over age 60 are being required to pay a €100 (£85; C$142; $113) fine for each month that they remain unvaccinated.

Singapore has required Covid-19 patients to pay for their own medical bills if they are not vaccinated.

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