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Austria to Force Vaccine Mandate Defiant to Pay Costs of Imprisonment, Live in Segregated ‘Custody Rooms’

Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: December 11, 2021
Austria will imprison vaccine defiant citizens for up to a year in "custody rooms" segregated from the general population while having them foot the bill for the stay.
A protester holds a banner reading "you will never get us" referring to mandatory vaccination in Vienna, Austria on December 4, 2021. Austria has updated its mandatory vaccination legislation to imprison the defiant for up to a year, in addition to holding them in “custody rooms” segregated from the general population while having them foot the bill for the privilege. (Image: FLORIAN WIESER/APA/AFP via Getty Images)

An update to Austria’s incoming national mandatory vaccination policy has decreased fines while increasing the length of prison sentence punishments.

However, according to Austrian media that viewed the text of the update, those incarcerated for refusing injection will be segregated from the general population, and held in specialized “custody rooms.”

Additionally, they will be billed for the costs of their own prison sentence.

The staggering revelations were made public on Dec. 5 by the Editorial Board of Austrian news outlet Exxpress who said, according to a Google translate of the article, that the federal administration had “quietly, and without wanting to attract a lot of attention” polished the amendments and not only passed the revised edicts through the applicable parliamentary committees, but garnered bipartisan support for the legislation. 

In late November, the Austrian government announced plans to make Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination universally mandatory for all citizens with a planned start date of Feb. 1, 2022.

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Under the original draft, non-compliant citizens would first face an interaction from law enforcement. If they still did not submit, the planned penalties were a 3,600 Euro fine and/or four months in prison, followed by an additional 3,600 Euro fine for those who still refused to capitulate.

Some European news outlets stated the government was considering how to handle those who had both the means and the guts to simply pay the fines instead of yielding to central medical mandates. 

According to Exxpress, that problem was solved in the updated text of the bill, which although reduced the fine to 2,000 Euros and the prison sentence to four weeks, can now be applied multiple times.

The article states that Austrians who still refuse vaccination, but also pay their fine, will be arrested and face an increased prison term of up to a year.

Furthermore, Exxpress says, while providing a screenshot of the draft text written in German, that those jailed in this manner will be made to pay out of pocket for the costs of their own incarceration.

FURTHER READING

Additionally, vaccine refusers will not be held as normal prisoners. Instead, they will be kept in what translates to “custody rooms,” segregated from other prisoners. It is unclear if this amounts to the solitary confinement misbehaving, dangerous, or at-risk prisoners endure. 

Exxpress speculates that custody rooms may refer to separate floors or separate facilities.

But in practice, the experience may be something more like the 24-hour lockdown Canadians returning from Omicron variant risk countries are subject to at “Confidential Federal Quarantine Sites,” or Australia’s COVID internment camps.

Exxpress states that four of the five parties are on board with the extreme and draconic legislation, adding that “…there was no criticism of any kind among the members of the governing parties, as excerpts from the minutes of the committee meeting, which are available to the eXXpress, show.”

In a same day report by Austrian website Heute, citizens will not be subject to only a two dose course of vaccination, but additional compulsory boosters.

The article states that first dose vaccination must be reported by Feb. 1, 2022. Afterwards, the second jab must be taken no more than 42 days later, with a booster injection to follow no later than 270 days after the first injection.

Heute says there will be the following very limited exemptions to Austria’s mandate:

  • Pregnant women;
  • Kids 14-and-under;
  • Those who endured a SARS-CoV-2 infection in the prior six months; and
  • “Certificate required” medical exemptions.

However, Heute’s article has conflicting information on the penalties associated with the new bill. They state that those over the age of 14 who are still unvaccinated by Feb. 15, 2022 will simply receive a letter from the Health Minister. But, if they do not comply by March 15, a 600 Euro fine will be administered every three months, adding up to 2,400 Euros per year.

However, Heute says for those who do not pay the fines, an additional penalty of 3,600 Euros will be administered, with prison time arriving for those who still refuse to pay and vaccinate.

While the article from Exxpress includes screenshots of the draft text, Heute’s does not.

Heute notes that the legislation, once passed, will stay in force for three years until Jan. 31, 2024 unless parliament votes to withdraw its mandate early.

Tensile strength

For supporters of mandatory vaccination and vaccine passports, the Omicron variant may provide an opportunity to reconsider how far they are willing to tolerate central government health mandates.

In a Dec. 8 press conference, Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, the company partnered with Pfizer in its BNT162b novel messenger RNA gene therapy COVID vaccine, told reporters that a new, three-dose, Omicron-specific vaccine was in the pipeline and scheduled to arrive in March.

“Particularly with the data now coming for the Omicron variant, it is very clear, our vaccine for the Omicron variant should be a three dose vaccine,” said Sahin. 

When asked by reporters whether a booster injection of the current vaccine for vanilla and Delta SARS-CoV-2 should be taken now, or if people should wait for the Omicron-specific version, Sahin stated, “The answer for that is in our eyes very clear…The data we have clearly indicates the value of a third dose.”

Sahin’s statements strongly imply that in some locales, fully vaccinated status will require taking a full two dose vaccine course in addition to a booster now, followed by a three dose Omicron vaccine starting in March, leading to a total of at least six injections.