Austria Suspends Vaccine Mandate as Omicron Questions Policy

Austria Suspends Vaccine Mandate as Omicron Questions Policy

Austria’s government suspended a law that made coronavirus vaccinations mandatory, stepping back from one of Europe’s strictest measures despite record infections as the omicron variant changes the way officials deal with the illness.

The government in Vienna will review its vaccine policy in three months and still has the option to react flexibly to developments, Johannes Rauch, who was appointed Health Minister this week, told reporters Wednesday.

Fines running as high as 3,600 euros ($3,930) for dissenters will no longer be imposed from mid-March, as planned earlier.

Governments across Europe have wound down measures to address the coronavirus. While more infectious than previous variants, omicron has led to lower hospitalizations.

Austria registered almost 48,000 new virus cases on Wednesday, the most new daily infections on record. The number of patients in intensive-care units fell to 182, the least in five weeks.

Most of Austria has stopped checking vaccine status or no longer requires a negative test for entry to restaurants or hotels. Wearing a mask is still mandatory in some places such as shops and public transport.

The vaccine mandate was announced in November as new cases and hospitalizations spiraled due to the delta variant, forcing Austria to impose a nationwide lockdown.

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