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Quebec’s plan to impose a “significant” healthcare tax on unvaccinated people — who account for a large portion of COVID-19 hospital admissions — quickly resulted in a rush of new appointments this week, health officials say.
“It’s encouraging!” said Quebec Minister of Health Christian Dubé in a tweet Announcement of the new profits.
Dubé said the number of new vaccination appointments had skyrocketed in the 48 hours surrounding the announcement, setting what he called a record for several days.
Quebec has reported the highest number of COVID-19 deaths of any Canadian province, with more than 12,000 people losing their lives. As omicron fuels new infections, officials recently ordered school closures and an 10pm curfew.
When Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced plans for a levy on the unvaccinated, he said only about 10% of Québec’s population was unvaccinated, but it was getting better 50% of all intensive care cases.
Health officials also found that the average cost of a hospitalized COVID-19 case is CA$23,000. For critical care, the cost increases to $50,000.
The PM says he owes it to the vaccinated population
“Those who refuse to receive their first doses in the coming weeks will have to pay a new health contribution,” Legault said Tuesday. “The majority demands that there be consequences. … It’s a matter of fairness to the 90% of the population who have made some sacrifices. We owe them one.”
The health penalty would not apply to people with legitimate medical exceptions, Legault said. He did not give a date when the penalty will be imposed.
Legault said late Wednesday that Quebec schools and colleges are now cleared to reopen on Monday. There are also reports that the curfew will be lifted on the same day.
The tax is just a strategy to increase vaccination rates
Quebec has attempted to increase vaccination rates in a number of ways — including requiring a vaccination card for anyone visiting a liquor or cannabis store. In the province, about 90% of the eligible population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Canada’s COVID-19 tracker.
In another sign of the fallout from vaccines in the province, a judge recently temporarily suspended a father’s visitation rights to see his child because he is unvaccinated.
The special health tax immediately sparked controversy among vaccine skeptics and civil rights groups questioning whether it is legal and how it might be fairly enforced. When asked about Quebec’s plan on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was too early to comment.