Austria has announced it will introduce a vaccine mandate, making it the first European country to do so. The move comes amid soaring Covid rates and hospitalizations in the country as a fourth wave of the virus hits across Europe.
Austria’s leader, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg, said today that vaccinations would become mandatory beginning in February 2022, giving people time to comply with the order, or face consequences.
The move makes Australia the first country in Europe, and among the first in the whole world, to make the vaccination against Covid a mandate.
Schallenberg said that the country has not yet managed to get enough people vaccinated, and that while recent measures increased daily vaccinations, the rate is not yet where it needs to be. He said that the country’s consensus has so far been that a vaccine mandate would not be necessary, but that they need to “face reality.”
The Chancellor also announced nationwide lockdown that will last for 10 days with the potential to be extended to a maximum of 20 days. The lockdown is to begin on Monday, and will implement similar measures to the original lockdown rules.
Schallenberg said Austria must avoid a fifth, sixth, and seventh wave. “We don’t want to have this discussion next summer,” he said, explaining how the severe measures will help the country in the long-run.
The latest announcements come on the back of another strict, unprecedented step in Europe, which put all unvaccinated people from 12 and older back on lockdown. On Nov. 15, Austria announced that unvaccinated people must stay home with limited exceptions.
Vaccination uptake in Austria is lower than other European countries, with 65.5 percent fully vaccinated. Infection rates soared over the past week, with nearly 15,000 new cases being registered in a 24 hour period on Thursday, making the rate 11,000 higher than earlier in the week.