Austria is the first European Union country to announce that is has suspended its COVID-19 vaccination mandate that made coronavirus vaccine jabs compulsory for all adult residents who were over 18 years old.
The government announcement came just days before the enforcement of the vaccination mandate was due to be started. Austria first introduced the law on 16 February but promised not to enforce it for a month.
The vaccination mandate was introduced in part due to Austria’s relatively low vaccination rate – 70% of Austria’s 8.9 million people are double-vaccinated and 54% have also had a booster.
According to the government officials, the mandate was now considered to be “disproportionate to the threat posed by the Omicron variant.”
Austrian government would review the decision again in three months, and it could be reintroduced if a new COVID-19 variant made it necessary.
According to the country’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch, nearly 48,000 new infections were announced in Austria, more than at any time since the pandemic began.
Over 2,500 people are being treated in normal hospital wards and 182 infected patients are in intensive care, but the Omicron variant has not led to a surge in admissions as feared.
Austria has been gradually removing COVID-19 restrictions for vaccinated people, just like most of EU countries, with most of the remaining curbs, except for mask rules, expected to be lifted on March 20.