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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

Reader question: Do I need to wear a mask on flights to/from Austria?

The EU has eased recommendations for face masks on flights and in airports, but member states are free to put their own rules in place.

Reader question: Do I need to wear a mask on flights to/from Austria?

Since Monday, May 16th, it is no longer mandatory to wear a medical-grade face mask on flights and at airports within the EU.

But Austria will continue with the rule for now, meaning that masks are required on flights to Austria.

The implementation of the EU recommendation is based on the national rules in individual countries. 

For flights, where a destination country has a mask rule in place, then masks must be worn. 

An Austrian Airlines spokesperson told the Kronen Zeitung: “The easing of the mask requirement is an EU recommendation that must be reflected in a national regulation in order to also apply in Austria.” 

The aviation safety agency EASA and the EU health authority ECDC states that if masks are mandatory on public transport at the point of departure or at the destination, then the regulation should also continue on board the aircraft.

According to current Austrian Covid-19 regulations, wearing an FFP2 mask is still required in hospitals, elderly and nursing homes, public transport (including stops and stations), taxis, customer areas of vital trade, such as supermarkets, and administrative buildings.

READ MORE: LATEST: What are Austria’s current Covid-19 rules

In addition to Austria, masks are still compulsory in some public areas in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy – all key tourism destinations for travellers from Austria.

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