Money, money everywhere but not a drop to spare
A year ago, in December 2021, the government had announced plans to impose an administrative fine of 100 euros on everyone over the age of 60 who refused to get vaccinated against Covid-19. We had suggested that it name it the Irresponsibility or Foolishness fine, underlining that unvaccinated people directly or indirectly add more pressure and costs to the National Healthcare System (ESY) and should be held accountable. Smokers, after all, pay large taxes on tobacco that go into the state coffers, not to mention airline passengers for their carbon footprint.
The 100-euro fine was halved in January and the government decided that it should not be held back from salaries and pensions, meaning that just 44,000 of the 317,000 who were issued a fine paid it that first month. Then the measure was abolished entirely on April 15 of that same year. It was a three-month miracle that was introduced on January 15, 2022 and scrapped on April 15, 2022.
We do not know whether and to what degree that short-lived measure contributed to stemming the spread of the coronavirus. The data compiled by the National Organization for Public Health (EODY) have become so difficult to access by those wishing to shed light on different aspects of this nightmare, it may as well be confidential. What we do know is that the country’s hospitals seriously struggled to cope with the number of unvaccinated people needing intubation and intensive care. Just for the record, the average cost of care at a public hospital’s ICU ranges from 500 to 800 euros a day.
Now elections are on the way and money is, apparently, plentiful, so the government has decided: 1) to allow unvaccinated ESY doctors and nurses back to work; 2) to give a surprise bonus of 600 euros to police and coast guard officers; 3) to extend the measure allowing cafes, restaurants and bars almost unlimited use of public sidewalks and squares; 4) to legalize unlicensed buildings and structures in forests and on beaches; and 5) to hire tens of thousands of civil servants, even though the new tools launched by Digital Governance Minister Kyriakos Pierrakakis were supposed to free up thousands of public administration staff who were involved in the business of issuing various documents. And then there’s 6) the government decided to write off the unpaid fines of the unvaccinated.
Even if we can let it all go, there are some questions that still need to be answered. What are we to say to the unvaccinated who are having a party right now because they feel, in their clouded judgment, vindicated by the government’s decision? What are we going to do when a new pandemic, which the World Health Organization says is inevitable, comes along? And how are we going to convince the naysayers about the necessity of any measure down the line, when they know how generous the state can be, especially when elections are just around the corner?
Published in eKathimerini.com 19.12.2022