Greece said on Tuesday it would make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for people aged 60 and over, a drastic step for the country grappling with a new surge in coronavirus cases.
Authorities said they would impose a 100 euro ($114) fine on every individual over the age of 60 who was not vaccinated.
Greeks over the age of 60 who have not been vaccinated must, by January 16, book an appointment for their first dose, or else they will face a 100 euro administrative fine every month.
The measure would apply each month from January 16 onwards.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek Prime Minister, said he struggled with the decision, but it was necessary to protect more than half a million elderly Greeks who had failed to get the jab.
“It's the price to pay for health,” he said.
About 63% of Greece’s around 11 million population is fully vaccinated. While vaccine appointments have picked up in recent weeks, health ministry data shows there are 520,000 people over the age of 60 who have failed to get a jab.
“We are focusing our efforts on the protection of our fellow citizens and for this reason, their vaccination will be mandatory from now on,” Mitsotakis told a cabinet meeting.
“Greeks over the age of 60 who have not been vaccinated must, by January 16, book an appointment for their first dose, or else they will face a 100 euro administrative fine every month,” Mitsotakis told his cabinet.
He did not say how this would be enforced. A 100 euro fine is a hefty chunk of the average monthly 730 euro pension.
“[The decision] tortured me, but I feel a heavy responsibility in standing next to those most vulnerable, even if it might fleetingly displease them,” he said.
Greece this month barred unvaccinated people from indoor spaces including restaurants, cinemas, museums and gyms as daily Covid-19 cases hit record highs.
It has recorded 931,183 infections and 18,067 deaths since the start of the pandemic last year.