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Austrian Chancellor on vaccine mandate plans: 'You don't only have rights, you have obligations'

The country has entered a strict lockdown to combat soaring coronavirus cases.

Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg at a news conference in Vienna last week.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg at a news conference in Vienna last week.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

AUSTRIA’S CHANCELLOR HAS defended his government’s decision to introduce a vaccine mandate as of 1 February next year, stating that citizens have an ‘obligation’ to protect society.

Austria has entered a nationwide lockdown to try to combat soaring coronavirus cases.

It is one of the most dramatic restrictions seen in Western Europe for months, with non-essential shops, restaurants and Christmas markets closed.

The measures require people to stay home aside from basic reasons like getting groceries, going to the doctor and exercising.

Speaking to the BBC, the country’s Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg defended plans for a vaccine mandate. 

“We have 66% of the population so far which has got the vaccine – this is too little too late,” he said.

“We want to break out of this vicious circle of virus waves and discussions about lockdowns and the only way, the only exit ticket we have is the vaccine.”

Schallenberg said his government had tried a different approach to encourage people to take up the vaccine, but this had not worked. 

“I am sorry we have to go this way, I would rather have it the other way and we have done ten months of campaigning, of trying to persuade people, but still we have a certain share – nearly one third of the population – which is hesitant,” he said.

He said there is also a political force in the country that is “running against the vaccination”.

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“We are together and this is a common body,” he said. “If you’re in a society you don’t only have rights, you have obligations and if you neglect these obligations then they become compulsory sooner or later.

We have a higher good, this is the healthcare of Austria and nobody wants a situation where you don’t get access to an intensive care unit because the beds are filled with those who have not got the vaccination and have got Covid-19. At the end everybody is suffering.

Plans for the mandate policy are yet to be finalised but Schallenberg said those who refuse to get the vaccine will receive a fine.

“This is a challenge for every person,” he said.

“We have the choice to protect ourselves, to protect our families, loved ones, our co-workers, colleagues and friends and if not enough people take this decision then I believe it’s right that society says ‘we want you to do that, we really want you to do that’ and that’s the debate we’re now having in Austria.”

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