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Unvaccinated Greeks aged 60 and older to face fines
Greek adults ages 60 and older will face fines if they do not get vaccinated, according to a new initiative unveiled by the prime minister that is meant to increase inoculations among older individuals.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced on Tuesday that Greek individuals aged 60 and older will face a monthly fine of 100 euros if they do not book their first COVID-19 shot by Jan. 6, according to The New York Times.
The monthly fine will go towards financing state hospitals that have been strained amid the pandemic, the Times reported.
Mitsotakis during a Cabinet meeting said the new requirement is "an act of justice for the vaccinated," adding that he hopes adults will view the new policy as "encouragement, not repression."
"I felt a duty to stand by the most vulnerable, even if it might temporarily displease them," Mitsotakis said, according to the Times.
Roughly 500,000 Greeks ages 60 and older have still not received the COVID-19 jab, the Times reported, citing Mitsotakis. More than 60 percent of the country's population is fully inoculated.
The country, however, is now averaging more than 6,400 new COVID-19 cases per day, which is the highest number of new daily cases it has seen since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Times.
The new policy in Greece comes as health experts worldwide are becoming increasingly concerned about the omicron strain, which the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled a variant of concern last week. It was first detected in southern Africa but has since spread to a number of countries.
While Greece has not reported any cases of the highly mutated variant, five Greek citizens who recently returned from Africa were ordered to quarantine, despite testing negative for the virus, according to the Times.
The country has since imposed travel restrictions on individuals seeking entry from nine African countries. Only essential travel is allowed from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Eswatini, Zambia and Malawi.
Earlier this month Greece announced that unvaccinated individuals would not be permitted to enter cinemas, theaters, museums and gymnasiums, taking away the proof of a negative test option for individuals who have not been inoculated, the Times noted.
Health experts across the globe are now working to gather information on the new variant, especially to learn more about its transmissibility and severity. Officials are also interested in understanding if existing COVID-19 vaccines offer protection against the new strain.