Québec bans marijuana and alcohol for unvaccinated people, vaccine demand rises 300%

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The province of Quebec, the second most populous in Canada and the one with the most cases of the omicron variant in the country, recorded a 300% increase in demand for vaccines against Covid-19 after determining that only those immunized will be able to buy alcoholic beverages or marijuana. .

The restriction was announced by the local Health Minister, Christian Dubé, last week and will only go into effect next Tuesday (18). But, according to him, the number of daily appointments to receive the first dose of the immunizer has already jumped from 1,500 to 6,000.

Dubé said the bar to accessing alcohol and marijuana — legalized for recreational use in Canada in 2018 — is not intended to anger the unvaccinated, as President Emmanuel Macron declared last week about the vaccine passport project in France.

According to the minister, “it would be good” to bother those who refuse to receive the vaccine, but his objective is to reduce their contact with the portion of the population that is immunized, protect the health system and protect the unvaccinated from each other.

“This is a first step that we are taking. If the unvaccinated are not satisfied, there is a very simple solution: they will take their first dose, it is easy and free,” said Dubé. “If you don’t want to get vaccinated, don’t leave the house.”

When announcing the requirement, the minister also indicated that other establishments will also require the vaccine certificate, but there are other restrictions already in place.

In late December, the Quebec government imposed a curfew between 10pm and 5am, banned private gatherings under penalty of fine and ordered the closure of schools, universities, cinemas, bars, restaurants and sports clubs.

According to government data, 84.9% of the population of Québec has had at least the first dose of the vaccine. Although the unvaccinated represent less than a fifth of the 8.5 million inhabitants, they are half of the patients in intensive care, according to Dubé.

The number of hospitalizations, however, is on the rise. The most recent balance showed 2,742 patients hospitalized with Covid, of which 255 were in ICU beds. In addition, the province has suffered from a lack of health professionals, as many of them are on leave for having been infected with the virus.

In a press conference on Tuesday (11), the Minister of Health said that he needs 1,000 extra professionals to send to hospitals, but he is having difficulties to make up the deficit.

“We are very close to a point of no return,” said Dubé, explaining that the expectation of another 1,000 hospitalizations could raise the scenario of hospitals in Quebec to the highest level of alert.

In another unusual measure, the governor of the province, François Legault, announced his intention to implement a “sanitary tax” on the unvaccinated in Québec.

He explained that the proposal, still in the process of being finalized, would not apply to those who cannot receive the immunizing agent for medical reasons. In his defense, however, he said that the unimmunized place a financial burden on the entire population.

Thus, the government is determining a significant amount that citizens without a vaccine must pay — the figure must not be below 100 Canadian dollars (R$ 444).

“All adults in Quebec who do not agree to go for at least one first dose in the next few weeks will have a bill to pay because there are consequences on our healthcare system and it is not up to all Quebec citizens to pay for it,” Legault said.

The legal sustainability of the measure, however, will depend on the details of the text, although such a fee can be justified in the context of a worsening of the pandemic.

Researcher Tim Caulfield, a specialist in health law at the University of Alberta, said in an interview with the Montreal Gazette that he considered the measure a “very aggressive little push”. Despite this, its social acceptability will depend on the evolution of Covid-19 in the coming weeks.

“If the healthcare system continues to be overwhelmed primarily by unvaccinated people, it might not seem like such an extreme measure,” Caulfield said. “If the omnir goes in the other direction, I think the perception of that could change.”

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