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Austria to suspend its controversial COVID vaccine mandate

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By Euronews
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer presents new COVID19 regulations at a press conference in Vienna, Austria, Jan. 6, 2022
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer presents new COVID19 regulations at a press conference in Vienna, Austria, Jan. 6, 2022   -   Copyright  Lisa Leutner/AP Photo, File

Austria will suspend its mandate for all adults to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the health ministry confirmed to Euronews.

The government was the first in the European Union to require people to be jabbed against the disease.

The measure was announced last autumn when the country was in the midst of an upsurge in cases. A national lockdown was imposed to slow infections.

On Wednesday, Austria's constitutional minister, Karoline Edtstadler, said that the vaccine mandate was "not proportionate" to the situation, public broadcaster ORF reported.

The vaccine mandate included a grace period between 5 February and 15 March for people to comply with the requirement.

From mid-March, police were expected to carry out checks with those who could not prove they were fully vaccinated facing fines of up to €3,600.

But the measure will be suspended for now and reassessed following a review, said health minister Johannes Rauch.

Nearly 70% of Austria's population are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the health ministry.

The country has recently reported more than 30,000 daily cases but hospitalisations have been lower than in the fall virus wave.

The decision to temporarily suspend the mandate came following an expert report that said waiting to implement the vaccine mandate would be a "milder encroachment on fundamental rights compared to immediate implementation".

The report warned however that a new massive wave of COVID-19 in fall 2022 was "very likely".

Additional sources • AP