Austrians who turn down Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines will face monthly fines under a new law that will be implemented until 2024. The move comes as Austria continues to have one of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe.

The Austrian government announced details of the new law on Dec. 9, which applies to all citizens 14 years old and up. Austrians turning down the shot will face fines of up to €3,600 ($4,071) every three months. This equates to a monthly penalty of €1,200 ($1,357).

Under the measure, authorities will check a central vaccination database to find Austrians who have yet to receive their shots. They will write a letter to unvaccinated people every three months, reminding them to get the injection or secure a vaccine exemption from a physician before the next cutoff date.

If they refuse to comply, the fines will then be imposed. If they provide proof of vaccination or exemption to the shot, proceedings against them will be dropped.

Austrian Health Minister Wolfgang Muckstein said that people’s income and financial obligations will be taken into account in calculating the total fines. However, officials can opt to impose a fine of €600 ($678) as an alternative to shorten proceedings.

“In regular proceedings, the amount of the fine is €3,600 ($4,071). As an alternative, the authorities have the option to impose a fine in shorter proceedings immediately after the vaccination deadline. Here, the amount is €600 ($678),” Muckstein said. The health minister added that if the smaller fine was not settled, it would automatically lead to regular proceedings. 

However, the vaccine mandate must still receive approval from the country’s bicameral parliament before it becomes law. If the legislature approves the measure, it is set to begin in February 2022 and last until January 2024. The support of two opposition parties hinted at the mandate’s speedy passage.

Draconian measures for unvaccinated Austrians

Karoline Edtstadler, the minister for the European Union and the Constitution, defended the measure during a press conference with Muckstein. “There are still well over a million Austrians who aren’t vaccinated, [and] that is too many. We still have an obligation and a need to increase vaccination coverage so that we don’t go from lockdown to lockdown next year as well,” she said.

“I say very clearly that we don’t want to punish the people who aren’t vaccinated. We want to bring them along … [and] convince them of this vaccination. We want them to show solidarity with everyone so that we can regain our freedom.”

Only 68 percent of Austrians have completed their COVID-19 vaccination schedules. Many citizens have expressed skepticism about vaccines, with the far-right Freedom Party of Austria contributing to this view.

Fining unvaccinated people on a monthly basis is not the only act of medical tyranny in Austria. Former Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg also announced a lockdown specifically for the unvaccinated last Nov. 14. The lockdown, which started on Nov. 15, applied to about two million Austrians aged 12 and up – including the more than 356,000 who only had one vaccine dose.

Under the lockdown, unvaccinated people can only leave their homes to work, shop for groceries or to get injected. Law enforcement officers have also been deployed to check if people outside their homes have received the COVID-19 injection or not. Violators face fines between €500 ($565) and €3,600 ($4,071).

“It’s our job as the government of Austria to protect the people. Therefore, we decided that there will be a lockdown for the unvaccinated,” Schallenberg told reporters at the time.

Karl Nehammer, former interior minister and now the new chancellor of Austria, said the police checks on unvaccinated people “can happen anytime and any where.” 

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