Saturday, January 22

Austria’s anti-vaccines to be fined € 3,600 for rejecting COVID-19 jab

Austria plans to impose fines of up to 3,600 euros on people who fail to comply with a coronavirus vaccine mandate that it aims to introduce in February for all residents aged 14 and over, the health minister said on Thursday.

The government announced last month that it would implement a blanket vaccine mandate early next year, becoming the first European country to do so. He has worked out details of the bill in recent weeks, with the backing of two of the three opposition parties in parliament.

Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said there will be exemptions for pregnant women, although he emphasized that vaccines are also recommended for them, for people who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons, and for people who have recovered from COVID-19. in the past. six months.

The legislation will take effect on February 1. Mueckstein said people who are eligible for the exemptions will need to have them registered with a central vaccination registry, which will be checked at regular three-month intervals. The first deadline will be March 15.

For people who are not vaccinated or exempt, the draft foresees the initiation of procedures that could result in a fine of € 3,600. Individual income and other financial obligations will be taken into account when calculating fines. Alternatively, officials can choose to impose a fine of up to 600 euros (around $ 680) in abbreviated procedures.

Authorities will write to unvaccinated people every three months reminding them to get vaccinated or have a doctor certify their right to an exemption before the next deadline. If they continue to fail to comply, fines can be imposed every three months. Procedures will be canceled if, in the meantime, people present proof of vaccination.

About 68% of Austria’s population of 8.9 million is vaccinated, a comparatively low rate for Western Europe. Neighboring Germany, where the rate is just over 69%, is also considering introducing a blanket mandate for vaccines early next year, though plans have yet to be drawn up and officials say they will allow lawmakers to vote. according to your conscience rather than the party. lines.

Austria’s announcement that it would introduce a blanket vaccination mandate came on November 19, at the same time the government decided to lockdown the country to stem a wave of new infections. That lockdown will end on Sunday, although restrictions for unvaccinated people will be maintained.

“We still have the obligation and the need to increase vaccination coverage so that we do not go from one lockdown to another next year as well,” said Karoline Edtstadler, cabinet minister responsible for constitutional affairs.

“There are still more than a million Austrians who are not vaccinated. That’s too much, ”he added. “I say very clearly that we do not want to punish people who are not vaccinated. We want to bring them, we want to convince them of this vaccination and we want them to show solidarity with everyone so that we can regain our freedom. “

The country’s seven-day infection rate has dropped during the shutdown. It stood at 432.6 new cases per 100,000 residents on Thursday, up from more than 1,100 the day the shutdown began.

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