Austrians who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 can be fined £3,000

Not getting a vaccine in Saudi Arabia can get you fired from any job

Singapore is no longer paying for unvaccinated people’s COVID-19 healthcare


We are two years into the COVID-19 pandemic. More than five million people have died, and everyone alive has been forever changed – but hope still exists.

59% of the world has received at least one vaccine dose, though it’s still proving difficult to convince pharmaceutical companies and richer nations to hand vials to poorer countries.

And for all the billions of people who are desperate to receive a life-saving injection, there are untold millions refusing a jab that will help them and their fellow humans to get through this plague.

With the Omicron variant spreading across the globe, dozens of governments have shifted from framing getting vaccinated as a positive action, to actively creating negative consequences for those who choose not to get jabbed.

Here are the ways in which governments in more than 40 countries are trying to push their unwilling citizens towards getting vaccinated against the sixth-worst disease to ever hit humanity.

woman receiving a vaccination from a doctor

Millions of people are refusing to get a life-saving vaccine

Restrictions on all unvaccinated adults

Austria

The two million people over 12 years of age in Austria who weren't fully vaccinated were placed on lockdown on 15 November 2021.

If you’ve refused a jab and leave your home for anything but essential reasons like buying food and working, you can be fined €500 (£425), rising to €1,450 if you don’t comply.

Police are carrying out spot checks in public places all over the country to identify people who don’t have a vaccination card or a good reason for being outside their home.

If the current draft of a new national law is enacted – as seems likely – then from February, any resident who's 14 years old or over and refuses to get vaccinated will be fined €3,600 (£3,000) every three months.

Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein told Reuters that authorities will be able to fine unvaccinated people €600 (£500) straight after the quarterly deadline, rising to the standard €3,600 (£3,000) fine if they continue to not comply.

Ecuador

The government announced in December 2021 that “Ecuador declares vaccination against COVID-19 to be obligatory,” according to Reuters.

Representatives explained that there were enough vaccine doses to inoculate the entire population of 17.8 million, and that the mandate was created because of the spike in infections and the spread of new variants, like Omicron.

79% of people in the country have received at least one dose, and the remaining 21% of people over the age of five must now follow suit, unless they have a medical exemption.

Before taking this latest step, Ecuador had already made it compulsory for people to show vaccination certificates to access cultural and leisure spaces like cinemas, restaurants, and shopping centres.

Indonesia

This Southeast Asian nation was the first to make vaccines mandatory, doing so all the way back in February 2021.

Anyone who doesn’t comply can be fined or denied government services. The exact nature of these punishments is left up to local governments.

In the capital, Jakarta, residents who refuse a vaccine can be fined up to five million rupiah (£260).

Since the announcement was made, the number of people with at least one vaccine dose has gone from 0.4% to more than 60%.

Micronesia

In July 2021, the government in this South Pacific island of 115,000 people made it compulsory for adults to be vaccinated.

If you haven’t been jabbed, you can’t receive federal funding. This affects most residents, from government workers and pensioners to business owners who need pandemic stimulus payments.

The tiny nation hasn’t suffered any deaths from the pandemic, and 43% of residents have now received at least one jab – but Micronesian President David Panuelo is keen not to take his eye off the ball.

He explained: “We love our citizens, and this is the action that we take to protect our citizens. I’m behaving like a father, like I would to my kids.

”You only have to look elsewhere to understand why we’re doing this, because people die. And if we don’t do it this way, then we could be next,” he added in an interview with the Associated Press.

Saudi Arabia

Vaccinations have been compulsory in Saudi Arabia since 1 August 2021.

Residents over the age of 12 who refuse to be vaccinated are barred from having a job, attending school, going to the grocery store, or travelling abroad.

Since Saudi Arabia announced the new restrictions on 20 July 2021, the proportion of fully vaccinated people has rocketed from 13% to 71%, and the vaccination rate among 12 to 18-year-olds is now above 99%.

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan’s authoritarian regime announced on 7 July 2021 that vaccinations would be compulsory for all adult residents, except those with a medical exemption.

The dictatorial administration still hasn’t admitted having any cases of COVID-19, though – a position which only North Korea shares – so every announcement should be taken with a heaping of salt.

It’s also not clear what happens to people in Turkmenistan who continue to refuse vaccinations.

53% of the population have reportedly been fully vaccinated now – though again, there’s no way to know if that’s true, or if the rate has increased significantly since the jabs were made mandatory.

sign at a vaccination centre in germany

A vaccination centre in Germany, where new rules are coming into effect

Restrictions on certain adults

Italy: anyone over 50 years old

On 6 January 2021, Italy made getting vaccinated obligatory for all residents aged 50 or over.

The mandate, which took effect instantly after Prime Minister Mario Draghi attained unanimous support from his cabinet, was implemented as the Italy healthcare system struggled to deal with rising cases.

Anyone over 50 who refuses a vaccine will face a minimum fine of €600 (£500).

Italy, which has the second-highest death toll in Europe after the UK, has vaccinated 81% of its population.

Greece: anyone over 60 years old

From 16 January, any Greek resident over 60 years old who doesn’t get vaccinated can be fined €100 (£85) for each month they refuse to get jabbed.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced in December that the funds will go directly to Greek hospitals to help in the fight against COVID-19.

He explained at the time that for the 520,000 unvaccinated Greeks in this age range, “it is not a punishment. I would say it is a health fee,” according to BBC News.

The Prime Minister added: “I think it is also an act of justice for the people who are vaccinated. It is not acceptable for some people to be deprived of the health services they need because others stubbornly refuse to do the obvious.”

In a different area of Europe, Slovakia has taken the opposite approach, paying people over 60 years old €200 if they get a vaccine, and €300 if they get a booster.

Czech Republic: anyone over 60 years old

In December 2021, just a week before handing over power, the previous Czech administration made vaccination compulsory for all residents aged 60 and over, starting in March.

However, this rule may never take effect, as the new centre-right government has expressed its opposition to vaccine mandates based on age.

28 countries: certain employees

Vaccinations are compulsory for government employees, public workers, and/or private employees in the following nations:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Egypt
  • Fiji
  • Finland
  • France
  • Ghana
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iran
  • Italy
  • Kazakhstan
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • New Zealand
  • Oman
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • UK
  • Ukraine
  • US

Restrictions on cultural and leisure activities

Germany

From February, only people who have either recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months or been vaccinated will be allowed into cinemas, restaurants, other leisure facilities, top-flight football matches, and non-essential shops.

It’s not yet clear whether there will be fines for people who refuse to get vaccinated after this point. 29% of residents still haven’t chosen to get a vaccine.

Before leaving her post, Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “Given the situation, I think it is appropriate to adopt compulsory vaccination,” according to BBC News.

The new Chancellor Olaf Scholz supports the measures, as do the country’s 16 states.

Germany is the biggest country to take this step, but many others have gone down the same route.

It’s compulsory to get vaccinated if you want to attend certain cultural and leisure venues including bars, beaches, cinemas, concert arenas, gyms, hotels, museums, and restaurants in the following nations:

  • Austria
  • Bulgaria
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Ecuador
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Lebanon
  • Lithuania
  • Morocco
  • Netherlands
  • Romania
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • UK

Restrictions on other activities

Education

Iran has made it compulsory for school students over 12 years old to get jabbed.

The country, which has suffered more than 130,000 deaths from COVID-19, started opening vaccinations to children in September 2021.

Costa Rica went further still in November 2021, mandating that every child aged five and up must be vaccinated.

Egypt also reacted to the spread of Omicron in November 2021, by making it mandatory for public university students to be vaccinated before they can enter their campuses.

Free health services

In a unique move, Singapore has removed the right to free universal healthcare from anyone who is “unvaccinated by choice.”

The government usually pays a proportion of people’s medical bills, but made an exception for COVID-19, covering all expenses for its entire population.

In November 2021, this offer was withdrawn for all unvaccinated residents over 12 who don’t have a medical exemption.

Public services for your entire family

In July 2021, several provinces in China barred residents from accessing public services including hospitals, schools, and transport if they – and their close relatives – hadn’t been vaccinated.

Some regions won’t let residents into cultural or leisure venues without proof of vaccination.

Will the UK have restrictions on unvaccinated people?

In November 2021, the government belatedly made getting vaccinated mandatory for all frontline health and social care workers.

But Health Secretary Sajid Javid said at the time that the UK “won’t ever look at” compulsory vaccinations for the rest of the public.