Austrian lawmakers passed the European Union’s first law making coronavirus vaccinations mandatory as other member states ease restrictions in the latest wave of the pandemic.
The parliament’s lower house approved the policy on Thursday with additional support from most deputies in two opposition groups. The plan was rejected by the far-right Freedom Party.
Next month will see the mandate come into effect. Officials will be imposing penalties as high as 3600 Euro ($4,084) on dissidents from March mid-March. To reward those who take the chance, the government will introduce a lottery system.
Austria’s policy is moving ahead after months of planning. It goes above and beyond what other nations are doing to make people get vaccinated. Austria has imposed some of the most restrictive restrictions on the new wave of the virus. This includes a November lockdown that was enforced across the country.
Some European countries are relaxing their policy in response to the spread of the Omicron variant. This has resulted in spiralling infection rates and fewer hospitalizations. Next week, the U.K. will no longer require face masks or Covid-passes. The Netherlands also ended their strict lockdown earlier this week.
Thursday’s debate saw protesters gather in Vienna along an avenue. This was in response to demonstrations which attracted thousands of people in the past weeks. The security area around the parliament was cleared by police.
Herbert Kickl, leader of Freedom Party, promised to remain unvaccinated.
The government is hopeful that the mandate will be implemented despite possible difficulties.
It’s now turning to a carrot-and-stick approach, announcing a lottery for the vaccinated with 500 euro ($568) handouts that are valid for hotels, restaurants and other services. The progressive grants will go to municipalities after they reach a vaccination rate of at least 80%, 85% or 90%.