The Canadian province of Quebec announced Tuesday that residents who have refused a Covid-19 vaccine will soon have to pay a fine.
The fines will be a way for the unvaccinated to contribute to an overburdened public health care system, authorities said.
“Right now, these people, they put a very important burden on our health care network, and I think it’s normal that the majority of the population is asking that there be a consequence,” Quebec Premier François Legault said at a news conference Tuesday.
“It’s a question also of fairness for the 90% of the population who made some sacrifices – and I think we owe them this kind of measure,” he added.
The fine would not apply to those with a medical exemption, and no details have been announced. However, Legault said the amount to be levied would be “significant.”
Nearly 90% of eligible Quebecers have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Quebec government.
Public health officials say the vast majority of patients in Quebec hospitals remain unvaccinated. Officials have not said how many hospitalized Covid patients are unvaccinated.
Last week, Quebec announced that residents would have to be vaccinated to buy alcohol or cannabis. Quebec’s health minister, Christian Dubé, said in a tweet that after the announcement, vaccine appointments spiked.
“In just a few days, appointments for the 1st dose went from 1.5K per day to over 6K yesterday. Thank you to everyone who decided to get vaccinated. It is not too late to get your 1st dose. Protect yourself,” Dubé said.
Quebec, where nearly a quarter of all Canadians live, was one of the first provinces in Canada to introduce a vaccine passport. Proof of vaccination is required in order to eat in restaurants, go to the gym or attend sporting events.
And last month, an evening curfew was imposed for a second time to curb the spread of the virus.
Quebec is not the first to take such measures to encourage people to get the vaccine.
Last week, Italy made vaccination against Covid-19 mandatory for people 50 and older.
Proof of vaccination is already mandatory for teachers and health workers in Italy. And all employees have been required to show proof of vaccination or show a negative test before entering their workplace since October.
The new vaccine decree for those 50 and older removes the option to take a test instead of getting vaccinated. Those who refuse to get vaccinated risk a fine of 600-1,500 euros (approximately $680-$1,700), a government source told CNN on Thursday.
After five days they will lose their salary but will not be fired from their position. This means they can receive pay again if they get vaccinated, the source said.
For unvaccinated people who are 50 and older and who are unemployed or retired, there will be a fine of 100 euros, the source said.
Two days after the government announced the new measure, Italy registered a threefold increase of the vaccines administered daily to those from the age of 50, the vaccination campaign commissioner, Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, said Saturday.
Austria has also announced plans to make vaccination mandatory for those older than 14 starting next month. And over-60s in Greece will also have to get the vaccine starting January 16.
CNN’s Livia Borghese and Kara Fox contributed to this report.