Quebec’s announcement that it will impose a healthcare tax on unvaccinated residents has prompted a fierce debate, as the province looks to salvage its crumbing healthcare system amid the latest Covid wave.
The Canadian province’s premier, François Legault, said on Tuesday that those who had chosen to remain unvaccinated would pay a “health contribution”, acknowledging growing friction in the province as the unvaccinated draw on a greater share of the scarce medical resources.
The Quebec news site La Presse warned the tax could target vulnerable members of society who often lack the resources or information needed to access vaccines. Minorities, including Black and Indigenous residents, also have a long history of discrimination in the province’s healthcare system.
“They must not become the scapegoats of the collective fed up,” the paper wrote.
But La Presse concluded the tax was necessary tool in the fight against the virus.
“In this exceptional context, asking non-vaccinated people to pay a reasonable price can be explained. It’s a question of fairness. Everyone must contribute to the war effort.”
The province has not released a timeline for when it could impose the tax – the first of its kind in North America – or how much it might charge. Austria, which rolled out a similar tax in November, requires residents over 14 years of age pay €3,600 (US$4,100) every three months they remain unvaccinated.
Get the full story here: Quebec health tax for unvaccinated residents prompts fierce Covid debate
In case you missed it earlier, I’d like to highlight once again the story we all deserve – of a Chinese woman who became an overnight sensation after she posted video diaries documenting her life after being stuck at a blind date’s house.
Ms Wang went for dinner on Sunday at her blind date’s residence in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, where a recent outbreak of Covid cases sent thousands into quarantine in parts of the city. As she was finishing her meal, the area was put under lockdown.
She was unable to leave her date’s house as result, she told the Shanghai-based news outlet the Paper this week, saying she had gone to the city for a week-long trip to meet potential suitors from the southern province of Guangdong.
Here is my colleague Vincent Ni’s story: Woman’s diary goes viral as lockdown in China forces her to stay with blind date
Schools going virtual, airlines canceling flights, pharmacies and testing centres closing temporarily, shelves emptying in grocery stores because of transportation delays, blood donations dropping to crisis levels for the first time ever and the country’s hospitals are becoming stretched. This is the US in the grip of the Omicron variant.
Omicron may cause milder symptoms in some people, but its effects are ricocheting throughout America and creating some of the greatest challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have supply shortages, we have transportation shortages, that are a result of people being out because of Covid, and especially Omicron being so infectious. And that is obviously limiting the workforce, and limiting the workforce is creating some of the havoc that we’re all experiencing,” said Ezekiel Emanuel, vice-provost at the University of Pennsylvania.
Joe Biden has vowed to keep businesses and schools open, but some experts wonder if that’s possible given the nature of Omicron and the lack of adequate measures to combat it.
“The economy cannot stay open and schools cannot stay open when so many people are getting sick,” said Margaret Thornton, an educational researcher at Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. “We must take action to slow the spread in order to keep schools running, to keep businesses running,” she said – but much of that action has been slow to happen.