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COVID-19 VACCINES

Austria approves mandatory Covid vaccination for all adults

Austria's president on Friday signed a law making Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for all adults, a first in the European Union.

A man waits to be vaccinated at a vaccine centre in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP
A man waits to be vaccinated at a vaccine centre in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

It applies to all adults, except pregnant women and those with a medical exemption. Those holding out can face fines of up to 3,600 euros ($4,100) per year, with fines starting at 600 euros.

OPINION: Austria’s vaccine mandate is politically high-risk with limited benefits

Austrians will have until mid-March to get vaccinated following an “introductory phase”.

President Alexander Van der Bellen signed the law after parliament approved it, his office said. It is expected to take effect from Saturday, a day after it has been officially published.

Tens of thousands have demonstrated against mandatory vaccination in regular weekend rallies since the measure was announced in November.

But it has broad political support — with all parties except the far-right rallying behind it — in a bid to drive up the country’s vaccination rate.

EXPLAINED: How Austria’s vaccine mandate will work

Currently, 69 percent of Austrian residents have certificates that they are fully protected against the coronavirus — including a booster for those whose shots were more than six months ago.

Austria has to date seen more than 14,000 Covid-related deaths and close to 2 million cases in a population of nine million.

As elsewhere, Omicron has sent cases spiralling in recent weeks, but hospitals have not been overwhelmed so far.

Compulsory vaccinations against Covid are rare though Ecuador, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Indonesia and Micronesia have introduced such schemes.

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COVID-19 RULES

Austrian court rules certain bans for unvaccinated were ‘unconstitutional’

Austria's constitutional court found that banning unvaccinated people from going to hairdressers or cultural institutions was unconstitutional

Austrian court rules certain bans for unvaccinated were 'unconstitutional'

The Constitutional Court (VfGH) has found a regulation which stopped people from going to hairdressers in the second lockdown for the unvaccinated was unconstitutional and, therefore, illegal.

However, the Court of Justice did confirm it was admissible to distinguish between people with and without 2G evidence (proof they had recovered from or been vaccinated against Covid-19), meaning the lockdown for the unvaccinated was itself legal.

READ ALSO: Four options: These are Austria’s autumn Covid lockdown plans

As there were exceptions to the lockdown, allowing people without vaccinations to leave their homes to “cover the necessary basic needs of daily life”, this should have included trips to the hairdressers as part of these “basic needs” on a long term, the court ruled.

It clarified that the rules were at first supposed to last for 10 days, but as the lockdown got extended several times, lasting a total of 11 weeks, the “basic needs” evolved and should have included hairdresser visits.

According to the Constitutional Court, it was also illegal for the government to ban unvaccinated people from entering cultural institutions in autumn 2021.

In this case, the reason was that people were still allowed to go to church and other places of religion, which the court found was “in violation of equality”.

READ ALSO: LATEST: The Covid rules across Austria from August 2022

The court found the ban on entering sports facilities ordered by the Minister of Health during the first lockdown in March and April 2020 was also unlawful, as there was not sufficient justification, broadcaster ORF reported.

Strict Covid-19 measures

Austria was one of the countries which imposed several lockdown periods during the pandemic, as The Local reported. While some were aimed at the entire population, more recently, only those who didn’t get vaccinated against Covid-19 were prevented from going out of their homes without a justification (such as grocery shopping or emergencies).

The country had also imposed a Covid-19 vaccination mandate, but that was scrapped after new variants of the virus evolved into less severe cases of the disease, the government said.

Currently, there are few coronavirus restrictions in place. You can check out all the measures across Austria here.

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