The Austrian Parliament definitively approved this Thursday (3) the law that requires vaccination against Covid-19 for all residents of the country of legal age and imposes fines of up to 3,600 euros (about R$ 21, 8 thousand) to those who do not follow the norm.
The Bundesrat, the territorial representation chamber, approved the law with an absolute majority and the support of four of the five parties represented, as it did on the 21st, when it was voted on in Congress. Only the ultranationalist and anti-vaccine FPÖ objected.
The government, formed by the conservative Austrian People’s Party and the environmentalist Greens, justified the law with the need to protect the country from new waves and variants of the coronavirus.
Pregnant women, people for whom the vaccine poses a risk and those who have recovered from the disease within the last 180 days are exempt from mandatory vaccination.
Vaccination will also not automatically be required to work, although employers may include this condition. Those who are unemployed and refuse a job because they have not been vaccinated may lose their entitlement to unemployment benefits.
The rule makes it clear that vaccination cannot be “imposed by the use of force” and limits punishments to financial fines, ranging from 600 to 3,600 euros.
Once approved by both houses of Parliament, all that remains is the signature of the president, Alexander van der Bellen, and the official publication for the entry into force, scheduled for 8 February. The police will not start enforcing the rule until March.
The Austrian government argues that to fight the pandemic and protect the health system, a high percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated.
Currently, only 68.8% of the population has an active vaccination passport, after the government reduced its validity from nine to six months after the second dose.
Experts believe that record levels of infections due to the omicron variant are already peaking in Austria.
Hospitalizations have been on the rise for three weeks and are at their highest levels since mid-December, although the situation in the intensive care units (ICU) is stable.
The authorities announced that in February the veto that prohibited non-vaccinated people from entering non-essential stores and gastronomic establishments will be lifted. Only the local authorities in Vienna decided to keep the ban on unvaccinated people in bars and restaurants.
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