This content is not available in your region

COVID in Europe: Greece begins fining those over 60 who are unvaccinated

Access to the comments Comments
By Josephine Joly  with AFP, AP
Three elderly men wearing FFP2 face masks to curb the spread of coronavirus, sit on a bench in Athens, Greece, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022
Three elderly men wearing FFP2 face masks to curb the spread of coronavirus, sit on a bench in Athens, Greece, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022   -   Copyright  Credit: AP   -  

From today, older people in Greece that are not vaccinated face monthly fines.

Those over the age of 60 and without the jab will have to pay a €50 penalty in January, rising to €100 in February.

The decision comes as the country's public health system struggles to cope with an increase in cases and the government starts to run out of patience with those who are still unvaccinated against COVID-19.

However, the lack of available vaccine appointments has left some feeling frustrated.

"I booked an appointment on January 11 in order to get vaccinated but authorities only offered me an appointment for January 31. Why didn't they give me an appointment earlier? It's not my fault, but now they say that I should pay a fine. Why?," a Greek resident asked.

Medical professionals who are not vaccinated have also been suspended and face the prospect of being sacked if they fail to comply with rules which say they require vaccination.

On Sunday, Greece reported 10,783 new daily infections. Around 67% of the population is already fully vaccinated, 18,3 million vaccine doses have been distributed, and almost 22,000 people have died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the outbreak.

France's parliament approves vaccine pass bill

After two weeks of debate, the French parliament adopted a controversial bill introducing the vaccine pass on Sunday, despite much resistance from both the right and the left.

Out of a total of 280 deputies, 215 voted in favour of the measure, which the government wants to come into force as soon as possible in the midst of a resurgent wave of COVID-19.

The bill will see people who aren't vaccinated being excluded from restaurants, movie theatres, sports arenas, and other venues.

The new "vaccine pass" bill is central to government efforts to protect hospitals from being overwhelmed, amid record numbers of infections.

More than 91% of French adults are already fully vaccinated, and some critics have questioned whether the "vaccine pass" will make much of a difference.

Up to now, a COVID-19 pass was required in France to go to restaurants, movie theatres, museums, and many sites throughout the country, but unvaccinated people were allowed in if they showed a recent negative test or proof of recent recovery.

The new law requires full vaccination for such venues, including tourist sites, many trains, and all domestic flights, and applies to everyone 16 and over. Some exceptions could be made for those who recently recovered from COVID-19.

The law also imposes tougher fines for fake passes and allows ID checks to avoid fraud.

More than 76% of French ICU beds are occupied by virus patients, most of them unvaccinated, and some 200 people with the virus are dying every day

Austria introduces mandatory vaccination for all adults

Starting from February, Austria will become the first European country to make coronavirus vaccination compulsory for all adults.

The Austrian government presented revised plans for its proposed COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Sunday, changing the age limit to all residents 18 and over, after the newly appointed Chancellor Karl Nehammer said there had been concern about teenagers being punished, hence the change in the lower age limit from 14 to 18.

Nehammer added that the new measure was "a sensitive topic" but that those who do not comply will face a hefty fine of up to €3,600.

"There will be an introductory phase to give people the opportunity to be vaccinated, to be convinced," the Austrian chancellor went on.

"With this vaccine mandate, we will succeed in achieving these important additional percentage points in the vaccination rate."

Key aspects of the plan remain in the final version, which the government aims to have parliament approve on Thursday, but officials said consultations with two opposition parties and others showed the need for significant changes to details.

Peaceful protests in Amsterdam

Meanwhile, thousands of people marched peacefully through the capital of Amsterdam on Sunday, to protest the Dutch government's lockdown measures.

The protesters — some holding balloons, umbrellas, and banners — walked through the streets before ending at the Museumplein.

During the march, police separated a small group of anti-fascist protesters and moved them on by bus to a different location.

Dutch radical right-wing groups often join demonstrations against COVID-19 restrictions, and police wanted to make sure there was no confrontation with anti-fascist activists.

While the country has been under strict lockdown since December 19, 20201, the government has eased its virus lockdown on Friday, allowing non-essential stores, universities, sports clubs, and "contact businesses" like hairdressers to reopen for the first time in nearly a month.

But while many businesses could open Saturday until 5 pm, bars, restaurants, museums, and theatres remained shut as cases rise steeply.