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Austria became this Thursday the first country in the European Union (EU) in imposing the vaccination against Covid-19 mandatory to try to stop the spread of the pandemic, despite the strong opposition that this measure arouses in the population.

The law, which will take effect on February 4, was approved by the austrian parliament by 137 votes in favor and 33 against.

“Vaccination is the opportunity for our society to achieve sustainable and continuous freedom, without the virus limiting us,” said the conservative head of government Karl Nehammer before the session.

It is “a topic of very intense debate,” he acknowledged.

The measure, announced in November to promote vaccination against increase in Covid-19 infections, was supported by the Greens – coalition partners of the Conservatives – and by the Liberal and Social Democratic parties. Only the extreme right opposed, hiding behind the protection of individual liberties.

Tens of thousands of Austrians have been demonstrating for months almost every weekend against the bill.

The protests forced the government to strengthen the protection of vaccination centers and of Covid-19 tests.

The leader of the far-right FPÖ party, Herbert Kickl, denounced a “project that opens the way to totalitarianism”.

“Today we don’t have a majority in Parliament, but we have it outside,” Kickl declared, vowing to challenge the law.

Voidable fines

The government alleges that its objective is not to multiply sanctions.

Refusal to be vaccinated will be subject to fines of 600 to 3,600 euros ($680 and $4,100), but these will be lifted if the offender is immunized within two weeks.

The vote took place at a time when Austria is registering a record number of cases due to the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus. On Wednesday, almost 30,000 infections were registered in 24 hours.

About 72% of the 8.9 million inhabitants in Austria have the complete vaccination schedule, a figure lower than France The Spain.

According to figures from Ministry of Health, one and a half million adults still need to be convinced.

To give the recalcitrant some time to reflect, the controls will only start in March.

Minors over 14 years of age will not be subject to these sanctions.

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