LAYING DOWN THE LAW
YOU South Africa|13 January 2022
Soon you might not have a choice about whether to have the Covid vaccine. We take a look at what countries around the world are doing
NASIFA SULAIMAN

IT’S easily the most contentious topic of recent months and has divided families, cancelled friendships and caused heated discussions on social media.

But governments around the world are increasingly stepping up to take the issue of whether to get the Covid-19 jab or not out of the hands of the people.

Policies that make vaccines either compulsory or mandatory are being signed into law in several countries and our government is considering a mandate too.

“The most powerful tool we have is vaccination,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said recently.

The powers that be are making it harder for people to live their lives as usual if they refuse to get the jab – and for good reason.

The more people refuse to get vaccinated, the greater the chance of more variants emerging and the greater the pressure remains on healthcare workers.

There are also several knock-on effects on the economy – and the longer it lasts, the greater the overall damage to everyone, experts say.

One of the ways to increase vaccinations is to implement mandatory jabs.

Countries that have instituted mandates have seen vaccination rates increase, says Professor Susan Goldstein, public health specialist and deputy director at the South African Medical Research Council’s Centre for Health Economics and Decision Science.

AUSTRIA

The country announced plans to make vaccines compulsory from 1 February 2022.

But health minister Wolfgang Mückstein said the specifics, such as the ages of those who’ll need to get jabbed, must still be approved by parliament.

The Austrian government intends to send vaccination-appointment invitations to the two million people in the country who aren’t yet fully vaccinated, and after 1 February those who haven’t got their jab will have to pay fines of around €3 600 (R64 800).

Unvaccinated people have been banned from public places such as hotels, cafés, hair salons and restaurants since 8 November, making Austria the first Western democracy to institute such a move.

ITALY

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s cabinet approved one of the world’s strictest anti-Covid measures in September: the introduction of a “green pass”.

This makes it compulsory for all working adults to either show proof of vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery from infection.

Workers without the pass will be suspended without pay – without any disciplinary procedures – and face a fine of up to €1 000 (R18 000) if they try to carry on working from the workplace.

Unemployed people, pensioners and those who have a medical certificate showing they can’t be vaccinated are exempt from the green pass.

Employed adults can continue to work from home but hybrid return-to-work policies – where they’re required to be in the office some days – is increasingly being enforced by Italian businesses.

INDONESIA

Vaccines were made mandatory for all adults in February last year.

Those who don’t get vaccinated are cut offfrom any social assistance or government services and face fines of R5 500.

While some believe this is a harsh penalty, Jakarta’s deputy governor Ahmad Riza Patria says it’s the country’s last-ditch effort to encourage vaccinations. “If you reject it, there are two things: social aid won’t be given, [and a] fine will need to be paid.”

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