BRATISLAVA, SLovakia (AP) — Slovakia's government has proposed a plan to give people 60 and older a 500-euro ($568) bonus if they get vaccinated against COVID-19, the finance minister said Wednesday.
The measure, announced by Finance Minister Igor Matovic, should boost inoculations in the European Union country with one of the bloc’s lowest vaccination rates. So far, only 46.1% of the nation's 5.5 million people have been fully vaccinated.
The current four-party ruling coalition in Slovakia has been split over the issue. The pro-business Freedom and Solidarity opposed it, saying it was ready to support a 150-euro ($170) bonus only. But the party didn't veto it, making the approval possible.
The bill will now go to Parliament. It would need some opposition support to be approved.
The bonus would be a voucher that could be used in restaurants, cafes, hotels or to buy tickets for sports, theater, cinema, exhibitions or concerts. It could be also used to pay hairdressers or fitness centers.
Matovic said the money from the state will also mean "hundreds million euros of extra help for the sectors that are the hardest hit" by the pandemic due to government restrictions.
A total of 1.2 million people who reach 60 this year and older could be eligible. The Finance Ministry expects the measure would cost about 500 million euros ($568 million).
Slovakia entered a two-week nationwide lockdown last Thursday as coronavirus infections reached record levels. Under the lockdown, people can leave their homes only for specific reasons while unvaccinated people are required to get tested to go to work if they have not recovered from COVID-19.
A total of 3,380 COVID-19 patients in Slovakia needed hospital treatment on Tuesday, which is well above the 3,000-bed level considered critical by Slovakia's Health Ministry. Almost 85% of them haven't been fully vaccinated, the ministry said.
Overall, Slovakia has registered almost 700,000 infected people with 14,503 deaths.
Follow all AP stories on the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
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