(CNN) — The Austrian parliament, however, approved the vaccination order Covid-19 strictest in the European Union, which obliges residents of the country over 18 years of age to be vaccinated.
The mandate comes into effect on February 1, although Austrian officials will not begin conducting checks to ensure compliance with the law until March 15. From there, those who do not have a vaccination certificate or exemption could be fined with initial fines of €600 (approx. US$680) rising to €3,600 (approx.
According to the Austrian Ministry of Health’s website, pregnant women and people who cannot be vaccinated without endangering their health are exempt from the law. Individuals recovering from COVID-19 infection are also exempt for 180 days from the date they received their first positive COVID-19 PCR test result.
Before the vote, in which 13 MPs did not take part, MPs debated in Parliament for more than seven hours. The standard was adopted with 137 votes in favor and 33 against.
In addition to introducing mandatory vaccination, the Austrian federal government announced on Thursday that it would launch a national lottery to encourage those who are unsure about getting vaccinated against Covid-19 to get vaccinated, and those who have already been vaccinated twice get a booster shot.
“To be clear, we have earmarked up to €1 billion for the reward-incentive-based vaccination fleet,” Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said at a press conference hours before the parliamentary vote. “I feel totally justified in spending that money.”
Nehammer said Austrian citizens will receive a lottery ticket for every vaccine they receive, meaning a total of three tickets for those who received the booster vaccine. The lottery means every 10th ticket wins a $568 (€500) gift certificate, Austria’s Chancellor said.
Austria has learned from previous successes, said Nehammer, adding: “We have seen that a vaccination fleet is the best possible way to build such a system.”
Austria’s new vaccination order comes as the country records its highest number of daily Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began. According to the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES), Austria registered 27,667 new infections in the last 24 hours this Wednesday.
The surge is due to the Omicron variant, which became the dominant strain in the country in early January, according to the health agency.
The Austrian government says it wants to avoid another lockdown as the Alpine country emerged from its fourth lockdown in December last year.
How does the legislation that Austria has passed work?
The new law will apply until January 31, 2024 and will be applied gradually, according to the Ministry of Health.
All Austrian households will receive a letter explaining the order.
Officials will be able to search a national database for each resident’s immunization status or when they are scheduled to be vaccinated.
After all, unvaccinated people have to reckon with the maximum fine of 3,600 euros up to four times a year if they are not listed in the vaccination card at the assigned vaccination date.
The authority can waive the fine if the person is vaccinated within two weeks of receiving the sanction notice.
The law is one of the toughest punitive measures Western lawmakers have enacted in recent months to stem the socio-economic strains of the pandemic.
France is also cracking down on the unvaccinated. The French government recently passed a law requiring people to show they are fully vaccinated in order to be able to access a wide range of everyday activities, such as going to restaurants and bars and using long-distance public transport between regions.
Italy has required anyone over 50 to get vaccinated or risk a fine, and Germany requires anyone who has not received their booster to show negative results from a Covid-19 test before entering public places .