Government officials cited the law’s “encroachment of fundamental rights” and declining COVID-19 cases in its decision to suspend enforcement. The law, which was signed last month, was slated to be enforced starting March 15.
“We will suspend the vaccination mandate, in accordance with proportionality,” said Karoline Edtstadtler, minister for the European Union and the constitution at the Federal Chancellery of Austria, according to the Associated Press. “At the moment, many reasons point to this interference with fundamental rights is not justified at the moment, because of the dominant variant we see here, we don’t see any need to actually implement this vaccination mandate.”
Austria’s Parliament passed the mandate when COVID-19 cases were surging in the country due to the spread of the omicron variant. The mandate was the strictest of its kind in Europe, according to Politico. Adults who failed to comply with the mandate would face initial fines of up to 600 euros and a subsequent fine of 3,600 euros if they unsuccessfully challenged their fine.
If the mandate went into effect, law enforcement would check citizens’ vaccine status in a variety of settings, such as traffic stops. Exemptions were granted to people who caught COVID-19 in the past six months, who are pregnant, or who have a valid medical condition. People could have their fines waived if they received a vaccine injection within two weeks of being ticketed, CNN reported. The mandate sparked protests in Austria.
COVID-19 cases in Austria have cooled a bit during the past two weeks but remain higher than previous waves. The country reported 30,939 cases Tuesday, which is below its record high of 48,357 on Feb. 20, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Austria reported 45 deaths on Tuesday, which is below the high of 218 deaths the country reached in December 2020.
Austria is in the lower end of developed counties in its COVID-19 vaccination rate. Roughly 77% of its adult population has been vaccinated with at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the New York Times vaccine tracker. The United States also has 77% of its adult population vaccinated with at least one dose of the vaccine.