Greece is now imposing fines on people age 60 and older who are unvaccinated – even as COVID-19 cases have been declining. 

As of last week, people 60 and older who refuse to get vaccinated will be fined 50 euros – equivalent to around $56.60. That fee will then rise to 100 euros in February and every month afterward.

Health officials say the threat of a fine has helped increase the take-up rate to more than 90% of this age group, Reuters reported.

A man wearing a face mask to curb the spread of coronavirus sits on a bench as pedestrians walk outside Evangelismos Hospital in Athens, Greece, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. 

A man wearing a face mask to curb the spread of coronavirus sits on a bench as pedestrians walk outside Evangelismos Hospital in Athens, Greece, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Health Minister Thanos Plevris said the fines would be collected through the tax office with the money going to help fund state hospitals. 

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“The age factor is important because of its impact on the public health service,” Plevris told the Greek outlet Open TV last Sunday. 

The new mandate has divided opinion, with some supporting the decision amid a rise in the omicron variant and others expressing frustration. One Greek resident who spoke to Euronews said they were being unfairly punished for not being able to book a vaccination appointment ahead of the mandate taking effect. 

People walk on the snow-covered Syntagma square during a snowstorm in Athens, Greece, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. 

People walk on the snow-covered Syntagma square during a snowstorm in Athens, Greece, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

“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?” the resident told the outlet. 

Panagiotis Chatzigiannis, 73, told Reuters that the mandate was good because it will keep people from dying, but it will be “a bit hefty for pensioners.” 

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Pensioners, who have been dealt a blow over the last decade with the country’s debt crisis, make up about a fifth of Greece’s population of 11 million people. 

On Sunday, Greece reported more than 12,100 new cases and a nearly 19,000 seven-day average – down from its peak in early January. 

Pedestrians wearing face masks to curb the spread of coronavirus pass in front of the mural "Waves" by the artist Adioshpe in Athens, Greece, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.

Pedestrians wearing face masks to curb the spread of coronavirus pass in front of the mural “Waves” by the artist Adioshpe in Athens, Greece, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.
(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Roughly two-thirds of the population is fully vaccinated, while the EU average is just over 70%. COVID-19 deaths and daily hospitalizations have increased following the arrival of the highly contagious omicron variant, though pressure on ICU capacity has eased slightly. 

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Many European countries have been enacting stricter policies to address hospitals filling up with virus patients. 

On Monday, a new law came into effect in France requiring a “vaccine pass” for residents to enter restaurants, bars, tourist sites and sports venues unless they recently recovered from the virus. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report



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