Austria is to become the first country in Europe to make covid-19 vaccinations mandatory, while it also prepares for a third national lockdown for at least 10 days from Monday.
The government is finalising the legal groundwork for a general vaccine mandate to come into effect from the begining of February, with exemptions for those on medical grounds.
Those refusing to be vaccinated are set to face fines, which in turn can be converted into a prison sentence if the fine cannot be recovered.
The country is beset by covid19 cases and hospitalisations with media on Friday reporting 990 cases per 100,000 people over seven days.
Only 66% of its population is fully vaccinated in what is one of the poorest vaccine uptakes across the continent.
Over the past two weeks, the conservative green coalition government tried to prevent a collapse of the health system by making it mandatory for citizens to show proof of vaccination or recovery for hospitality before announcing a lockdown for the unvaccinated.
The country’s leader, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said today “In spite of months of persuasion, we have not managed to convince enough people to be vaccinated”.
Schallenberg, who only replaced his party ally Sebastian Kurz as leader last month made it clear action is neccesary “We don’t want a fifth wave, we don’t want a sixth or a seventh wave.”
The national lockdown is expected to last until December 12th. Schools will stay open but pupils can choose to study remotely without a note from a doctor.