Austria will implement a wide-ranging Covid-19 vaccine mandate, which includes fines for unvaccinated adults, from February 1.
The government announced last November that a vaccine mandate was necessary to address the low vaccination rate in the country. The first draft of the law was published in December, and a revised draft was published Monday and is now going through parliament.
Everyone age 18 and over living in Austria must be vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the latest draft. A few groups of people are exempt, such as pregnant people, people recovered from a Covid-19 infection (who are exempt for 180 days from a positive PCR test), and people who cannot be vaccinated without endangering their health.
“The mandatory vaccination isn’t coming in a sudden way, instead it is coming in a phased approach,” Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer told public broadcaster ORF Sunday.
No fines will be issued during the initial phase, which lasts until mid-March, said Nehammer. From March 15, law enforcement will start checking if people are adhering to the new law, for example by examining their vaccination status during traffic controls.
People face fines of up to €600 ($685) if they don’t possess a vaccine certificate or an exemption. So-called “reminder dates” can also be set, on which people are reminded through a letter to get vaccinated.
In the third stage of the mandate, these reminder dates will be followed up with “vaccine dates.” People who haven't got shots or an exemption by then will be issued with fines.
There will be two “vaccine dates” each year. A person can be given a maximum of four fines annually, which would total €2,400 ($2,741).
The vaccine mandate is planned to last until January 31, 2024 and it will be continually assessed until then, according to the Austrian health ministry.