Last week, the government, which is under the rule of unelected Chancellor Karl Nehammer, announced new plans that will force people into receiving additional vaccines in order to hold onto their green passes. This is despite the fact that the vaccines and boosters have not been protecting people from the virus in Austria or anywhere else.
In Austria, only people who have been vaccinated or have recovered from the virus within the past six months are allowed to visit shops, restaurants and hotels and access sports halls and community centers. At the same time, the chancellor has issued a mask mandate that sees citizens required to wear N95 masks in outdoor locations.
Nehammer, who meets his government's definition of fully vaccinated and has received a booster, recently tested positive for the virus.
The new rules come after Austrians were told that if they received double injections, the virus would no longer be a problem in their country. The government insisted that if everyone did their part to contain the virus by getting the jabs, life would return to normal. Of course, that has proven not to be the case; six months later, nothing has gotten better and the virus rages on.
Now, around 3.8 million Austrians who got both vaccines are no longer considered vaccinated and are joining those who have refused to take on the vaccines' risks as being labeled "unvaccinated" and being treated as though they are endangering others despite the fact that vaccinated people are just as capable of transmitting the disease to others, if not moreso, when it comes to the latest variant(s).
Starting next month, Austria will become the first country in Europe to require all citizens to be fully vaccinated. Those who are not vaccinated, including children as young as 14 years old, may be fined as much as 2,000 euros every time they are caught outside in public without proof of vaccination. Those who refuse to pay their fine will be placed in a special prison for people who are non-vaccinated for up to one year.
Tens of thousands of Austrians have protested this extreme infringement on their freedom, with many blaming Chancellor Nehammer. He has also come under fire for fighting to regulate soldiers' ability to express their opinions in public, issuing a decree that prohibits soldiers from criticizing the federal government or making what he considers to be inappropriate appearances on the internet.
Some experts have questioned the wisdom of the vaccine mandate, with one of the country’s top virologists, Gerald Gartlehner, saying that it is it “probably time to reassess” the idea as the high transmissibility of Omicron is leading to unprecedented levels of immunity. Other experts have suggested the plan needs to be rethought in light of questions about the vaccines’ efficacy against Omicron.
Elsewhere in Europe, Italy has made the vaccine compulsory for around 28 million citizens aged over 50. The country’s teachers and healthcare workers are already subjected to mandatory vaccination, while all other employees must either have the jab or test negative to enter their workplace. A vaccine pass is also required for using public transport and accessing gyms, restaurants and hotels.
Greece, meanwhile, plans to make vaccines mandatory at the end of the week for those aged 60 and over. Those who do not comply will be hit with monthly fines of 100 Euros. Unvaccinated people are also barred from entering indoor spaces there, such as restaurants, gyms, cinemas and museums.
Fears are growing that it is only a matter of time before unvaccinated people are shut out of society entirely, and even many of those who were willing to get the first round of jabs are growing increasingly frustrated with the constantly changing definition of what constitutes "fully vaccinated" and the need for more and more shots.
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