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Governments Place Pressure on Unvaccinated as Omicron Surges

Credit: Marco Verch/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Governments around the world are scrambling to deal with their unvaccinated citizens as they grapple with hospitals that are nearly full of patients and healthcare staff who are exhausted and traumatized after two years of fighting the coronavirus.

The groundbreaking decision of the US Supreme Court ruling that the American government, via OSHA, does not have the power to force US companies which have more than 100 employees has given more fuel to the fire in those who refuse to be vaccinated for a host of reasons.

The power of federal governments, like that of the US and Australia, which today decided to revoke the visa of tennis’ No. 1 player, Novak Djokovic, is being wielded around the world in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19.

As of now, the nations of Austria, Greece, Ecuador and the Canadian province of Quebec have some of the most stringent vaccination policies of any governments in the world, with all those over the age of 60 in Greece fined if they do not accept inoculation.

Now, all those over that age who have not been vaccinated must pay a hefty fine of $114.00 — every month. The draconian legislation led to enormous increases in inoculations for that age cohort in Greece.

But at what cost to the concept of individual liberty does this come about?

Although most countries now have mandates for all those who work in healthcare, the concept of universal mandates for an entire population is a difficult legal matter, with the idea of personal liberty differing from nation to nation.

Professor Devi Sridhar, the chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, tells The Telegraph “Governments are frustrated. If all adults were vaccinated who were offered it, (the) pandemic would be over.

“ICUs are full of people who chose not to get vaccinated, then regret it later,” she explained, asking “Is that fair to doctors and nurses? And to those who need care for heart attacks and other life-threatening conditions?”

Austria first nation to impose universal vaccine mandate; still not in effect

Austria was the first European nation to propose a blanket vaccination mandate for its entire population; however, the plan has not yet been put into practice. It may become law later on this Spring, although what the penalties may be for those who refuse the shot are unknown at this time.

A nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated began there last November, at the same time that the government floated the idea of a general vaccine mandate.

That country has taken by far the strongest measures against the pandemic, with the Austrian government planning to fine all citizens over the age of 14 €3,600 for every three months that they continue to refuse the shots.

Two months ago, when the country made the ruling, the percentage of Austrians who had received one shot came to 68 percent; now it has risen to 74 percent.

The Austrian government still plans to pursue a universal mandate, which, if passed, would be the first in Europe. While technical problems may mean that the program will not take effect until April, if the initiative is implemented it will be binding until the year 2024.

Austrians already must show proof of recovery from the virus or proof of vaccination with at least two shots before they are allowed to enter most public venues.

The Philippines sees 2000% increase in Covid-19 cases

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered that all those who are unvaccinated who violate stay-at-home orders will be arrested and thrown into prison. That nation has experienced an increase of Covid-19 cases of almost 2,000 percent since the beginning of this month. However, prisons in that country are notoriously overcrowded, which would inevitably lead to more infections.

Duterte declared last week that he was “appalled” at the paltry vaccination numbers in his country; only around 51 percent of Filipinos have had at least one shot, and only 34 percent are fully vaccinated there.

Whether using strong-arm tactics like that will work is up for debate. Some say that these measures only make martyrs out of figures such as Djokovic, adding fuel to the fire in the antivaxxer movement.

Others state that there are metrics showing that — as in Greece — such rulings do indeed prompt the public to become vaccinated, for the greater good of society.

Singapore, one of the largest economic engines in the world, is focusing on workers in its fight against the pandemic, ruling that beginning on January 15, only fully vaccinated employees or those who have recovered from an infection within the past 180 days will be allowed to work.

Singapore now has 90% vaccination rate after work mandate imposed

Dr. Alex Cook, from Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, says the new strictures are indeed fulfilling their purpose in famously law-abiding Singapore. “The intent of these measures has been to disincentivise remaining unvaccinated, and it has worked: over 90 percent of those aged five or more have been vaccinated in Singapore, and about half have received their booster jab,” he stated to The Telegraph.

The Canadian province of Quebec, which saw by far the worst coronavirus infection rates over the course of the pandemic, is pulling no punches in its newest efforts to rein in the pandemic, fining all those who continue to refuse the shot.

Premier François Legault announced on Wednesday that the province will impose what he calls a “health contribution” on all those who remain unvaccinated.

Legault made an appearance at a vaccination site this week, where he stated that “in this exceptional context, asking non-vaccinated people to pay a reasonable price can be explained.”

It is still unknown exactly how this would play out or even exactly how much the fine would be, but vaccine appointments are now being made at a feverish pace in the province.

In addition, much like the case in Greece, in which parents may lose custody of their children after refusing to send them to schools during the pandemic, an unvaccinated  father in Quebec lost visitation rights for his 12-year-old child after a judge ruled that it would not be in the child’s “best interest” in the “current epidemiological context.”

Germany to mull nationwide vaccine mandate in January

Germany is also floating the concept of a universal mandate; vaccinations were also made compulsory there for healthcare professions in December. Later in January, the German Bundestag will debate whether or not to impose a full nationwide mandate.

Although the Supreme Court shut down the Biden mandate for all workplaces employing over 100 people, in effect the mandates for federal workers, including the military, amounts to a de facto across the board mandate. This accounts for 3.5 million individuals alone; added to the widespread healthcare worker mandates all over the US, this constitutes a large portion of all people who are working age.

US Supreme Court shoots down Biden vaccine mandate; cities impose own rules

As of Friday, 62.8% of all Americans are vaccinated, although in some states — mostly in the Northeast — the rates are much higher, coming to 78.4 % in Vermont. Due to the power of individual states and cities, however, some have taken matters into their own hands, imposing mandates for indoor venues.

New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, along with a host of smaller cities, already have vaccination mandates in place for all those wishing to patronize indoor spaces such as restaurants, bars and gyms. In New York City, the mandate now even includes children as young as five years old.

France, initially a hotbed of antivaxxer sentiment, is now seeing a crackdown on those who still remain unvaccinated, with French President Macron telling those hesitant to become inoculated to “piss off” last week.

After he made that remark, as well as another, when he stated that “irresponsible” people “were not citizens” of France, the new rulings that were before Parliament passed, in effect barring all those who are unvaccinated from entering any public places.

Dr. Thomas Hale, an associate professor of Global Public Policy at Oxford University, says strategies like these do indeed work in prompting hesitant people to finally become inoculated.

“My reading of the evidence is that requirements to get vaccinated clearly increase the number of people who get vaccinated,” he stated, adding “Such strategies may be particularly effective in places where there is a large degree of apathy toward or mild skepticism of vaccines.”


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