Covid-19 vaccine holdouts face S$5,500 fine in Austria's virus crackdown

Austria would be the first western European country to make coronavirus vaccinations compulsory.
Austria would be the first western European country to make coronavirus vaccinations compulsory.PHOTO: REUTERS

VIENNA (BLOOMBERG) - Austrians who refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19 will face fines of up to €3,600 (S$5,500) once mandatory inoculations kick in next year.

The penalties are part of a dramatic move by the government to boost vaccination levels as it grapples with a surge in cases that has forced the country back into lockdown.

The authorities will first offer an appointment for people who have not taken a vaccine shot. Penalties will follow if the offer is rejected, according to plans for the measure that will come into force in February.

Austria would be the first western European country to make coronavirus vaccinations compulsory.

It stands out with one of the region's lowest inoculation rates, at about 66 per cent of the eligible population, and some of the hardest-hit regions in the latest wave of the virus.

There will also be fines, of up to €1,500, for refusal to take a booster shot, according to Minister for the Constitution Karoline Edtstadler.

"The plan is not only for people to take the first shot but that they really make it to full immunisation," she said on public broadcaster ORF.

There have already been protests against the government's new measures, which include a nationwide lockdown that started on Monday.

About 40,000 people gathered in Vienna on Saturday led by the far-right Freedom Party.