Could Austria’s mandatory Covid-19 vaccination return in autumn?

The implementation of Austria's Covid-19 vaccination law has been suspended, but there are reports it could return in the autumn if there is another wave of infections.

Could Austria's mandatory Covid-19 vaccination return in autumn?
Could Austria's Covid-19 vaccination mandate be implemented in the autumn? (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Austria’s new compulsory vaccination law has been put on the back burner – but this may only be temporary.

On Wednesday, it was announced that the legal requirement to have the Covid-19 vaccine would not be implemented as planned, following a report by experts that it was “not proportionate” due to the milder Omicron strain of the virus.

However, the report warns of the possibility of a massive wave of infections in the autumn.

READ ALSO: ‘Far too little’: How Austria reacted to vaccine mandate suspension

Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said the committee would meet again and report back to the government in three months, at which time a new decision over compulsory vaccination may be made, broadcaster ORF reports. 

There are concerns that immunity within the general population in Austria, which has been built up by infection or vaccination, will have reduced by the autumn. This could lead to the possibility of booster vaccinations from late summer. 

The authors of the report also state that in the event of another Covid-19 wave later this year, further restrictions could be needed to manage the outbreak if enough people are not vaccinated.

READ MORE: Austria hits record daily number of Covid cases

The report was written by epidemiologist Eva Schernhammer, infectiologist Herwig Kollaritsch, constitutional and medical lawyer Karl Stöger and lawyer Christiane Wendehorst.

The announcement about the suspension of the Covid-19 vaccination mandate coincided with the highest number of new infections in Austria since the start of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, 47,795 new cases were reported across Austria and the seven-day average rose to 32,661. This prompted criticism from Mayor of Vienna Michael Ludwig who said the recent nationwide relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions (apart from in Vienna) was a mistake.

Ludwig said: “The number of infections is at an absolute record level. Removing the protections was a mistake. I always warned about this development! We will continue to follow the consistent path in @Stadt_Wien.”

Since March 5th, masks have no longer been required in public indoor spaces in Austria (exceptions include public transport, supermarkets, pharmacies, hospitals and nursing homes) and proof of 3G (tested, recovered or vaccinated) is not required to enter bars, cafes and restaurants.

The midnight curfew and 3G requirement in the workplace have also been lifted.

In Vienna, masks must still be worn in shops and the 2G rule (vaccinated or recovered) is still in place for gastronomy. It is expected that these restrictions will be lifted in Vienna in April.

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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.