By Ismail Shakil and Anna Mehler Paperny
(Reuters) – Quebec, Canada’s second most populous province, plans to force adults who refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine to pay a “health contribution” in a move that could spark a rights debate individual and social responsibility.
Prime Minister Francois Legault told reporters at a Tuesday briefing that the proposal, the details of which were still being finalized, would not apply to those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.
Unvaccinated people impose a financial burden on others and the provincial finance ministry determines a “significant” amount that unvaccinated residents would be required to pay, Legault said, adding that such an amount would not be less than C$100. ($79.50).
Governments around the world have imposed movement restrictions on unvaccinated people and few have imposed fines on the elderly, but a sweeping tax on all unvaccinated adults could be a rare and controversial move.
While such a tax could be justified in the context of a health emergency, said Carolyn Ells, professor of medicine and health sciences at McGill University, its survival in a legal challenge would depend on the details.
But Ells said he was surprised the government was taking such a “dramatic” step now, when options such as expanding vaccination mandates remained.
Across Canada, provinces are grappling with an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases that has forced tens of thousands into isolation and weighed down the healthcare sector.
The highly transmissible variant of Omicron has made it difficult to adopt restrictive measures to curb the spread and health experts have stressed the importance of getting two or three shots.
Quebec has been one of the hardest hit, routinely recording the highest daily number of coronavirus cases of any province and having several thousand healthcare workers furloughed.
“The vaccine is the key to fighting the virus. This is why we are looking for a health contribution for adults who refuse to be vaccinated for non-medical reasons,” said Legault.
Legault said that while the province has about 10% unvaccinated people, they make up about 50% of those in intensive care units.
Legault and his CAQ party face a provincial election in October.
On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government had obtained enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for all eligible Canadians to receive a booster as well as a fourth dose.
Last month, Quebec said it had “no choice” but to allow some essential workers to continue working even after testing positive for COVID-19 to prevent staff shortages from worsening. hamper its health services. He also imposed curbs on the gathering.
($1 = 1.2578 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Editing by Grant McCool, Jonathan Oatis and Marguerita Choy)
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