Mar 9, 2022 - World

Austria suspends sweeping COVID vaccine mandate

Picture of a person getting vaccinated

Photo: ALEX HALADA/AFP via Getty Images

Austria on Wednesday suspended its sweeping coronavirus vaccination mandate less than a week before it was set to be enforced.

Driving the news: Authorities were expected to begin checking people's vaccination status on March 15, but officials said they "don't see any need" to implement the law at this time, citing milder illnesses from the Omicron variant, AP reports.

Catch up quick: The mandate was first announced in November, when there was a surge of COVID cases driven by the Delta variant. It was signed into law in February.

  • According to the law, those who could not show proof of inoculation or an exemption would have faced initial fines of up to 600 euros (around $680).

What they're saying: "We came to the conclusion that ... we will suspend the vaccination mandate, in accordance with proportionality," said Karoline Edtstadtler, the minister responsible for Austria's constitutional matters, per AP.

  • Edtstadtler said the law was "not justified" due to the current dominant strain, Omicron, which causes milder symptoms.

What to watch: Edtstadtler said on Twitter that a government health commission will evaluate the need for the mandate in their next meeting.

  • Austrian Health Minister Johannes Rauch said the commission would meet within three months to review the decision, AP notes.

Go deeper: "Path to freedom": Austria signs sweeping COVID vaccine mandate into law

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