Austria’s parliament has passed the European Union’s strictest mandate around the Covid-19 vaccine, making immunization mandatory for the country’s residents over the age of 18.
The law takes effect on February 1. However, the Austrian authorities will only start doing checks from March 15th. From then on, those without a vaccination certificate or proof of exemption can receive initial fines of 600 euros (about R$ 3,680.00).
Pregnant women and people who cannot be vaccinated – for health reasons – are exempt from the law, according to the Austrian Ministry of Health website. People who are recovering from a Covid-19 infection are also exempt for 180 days, counting from the date they received their first positive diagnosis for the PCR test.
The bill was approved by a vote of 137 in favor and 33 against. Parliamentarians debated for more than seven hours before the vote; 13 parliamentarians did not participate.
Bonus for vaccinated
The Austrian government on Thursday presented another incentive for people to be vaccinated: a lottery. Austrian citizens will receive a coupon for each vaccine they have had, which means three coupons in total for those who have had their booster shots. Every 10th ticket will win a €500 gift card, said Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer.
“To be blunt, we have earmarked up to €1 billion for the vaccination lottery, which is reward and incentive-based,” Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer told a news conference hours before the vote in parliament.
Covid-19 cases in Austria have reached levels not seen since the beginning of the pandemic due to the rapid spread of the Ômicron variant. On Wednesday, Austrian authorities recorded 27,667 new infections in 24 hours, according to Austrian Health Ministry data.
Vaccine mandate legislation was, however, proposed in November as authorities tried to contain the fifth wave in Austria.
At the time, the country had some of the lowest vaccination rates in the European Union. Since then, the country’s immunization rate has increased to 71.7%, higher than the EU average.
The new law will last until January 31, 2024 and will be implemented in stages, according to the health ministry. All Austrian families will receive a letter explaining the mandate from February 1, when the law takes effect, until March 15, the day compliance checks begin.
Austrian authorities will be able to search a national database that lists each resident’s vaccination status or the date they should be vaccinated.
Unvaccinated people will end up facing a maximum fine of €3,600 for up to four times a year if they are not on the vaccine register by the designated vaccination date.
Authorities may waive the fine if a person is vaccinated within two weeks of receiving notice of the penalty.
The law is among the most punitive measures implemented by Western lawmakers in recent months as they try to contain the socio-economic burdens of the pandemic.
France is also cracking down on the unvaccinated. The French government recently passed a bill that would require people to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated to access a wide range of everyday activities, such as visiting restaurants and bars and using long-distance public transport between regions.
Italy has mandated that everyone over the age of 50 be vaccinated or risk a fine, and Germany requires anyone who has not received a booster dose to show negative Covid-19 test results before entering public places.
This content was originally created in English.
Reference: CNN Brasil