As at February 25th, just over four percent of the Austrian population has been vaccinated – with 200,000 receiving both doses.
While lockdown rules remain in force all over the country, an idea gathering steam all across the globe is a ‘vaccination passport’ which allows vaccinated people to have certain privileges.
Israel, a world leader in vaccinations, has already implemented a vaccination immunity card which gives residents who have had both shots certain rights.
Known as the ‘Green Pass’, the vaccination passport gives Israeli residents who have received both doses of the vaccine “an entry ticket back to normality”.
Debate surrounding the measure is heating up in neighbouring Switzerland, where a leaked government document indicated support for a scheme which would allow vaccinated people to again eat at restaurants and visit concerts and sporting events.
On Thursday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz spoke out in favour of such an approach being introduced at a European level.
“We want to get back to normal as quickly as possible, to have our old life back and a maximum of freedom,” Kurz told Austria’s Der Standard newspaper.
“As long as the pandemic and the virus exist, that will only work if we take protective measures, either through a vaccination or a test.”
Kurz said while the idea should be introduced across the continent, it would not only apply to travel but also to visiting bars, restaurants and events.
The Chancellor said he was pushing for the idea to be introduced by May or June.
Constitutional lawyer Peter Bußjäger said that not only could the idea be introduced – but that failing to do so might actually be unconstitutional.
Bußjäger said that if it can be proven people who have been vaccinated do not pass on the virus, keeping them in lockdown may be unlawful.
“As soon as it is clear that the disease can no longer be passed on, it is clear that I can no longer subject these people to restrictions.”
The Chancellor’s position is a departure from that of Health Minister Rudolf Anschober, who said on Wednesday that any debate about privileges for vaccinated people should not take place until April at the earliest, i.e. when more people had a chance to get vaccinated.
Anschober indicated that no special rights or privileges for vaccinated people will be introduced until the debate is had in April.
Austrian newspaper Der Standard reports that Anschober is currently in the process of setting up “a strategy for living with the virus”.
Anschober indicated that he was in favour of a Europe-wide solution to the issue.
While the question of special rights for vaccinated members of the general public will not be decided until April, lockdown rules are set to be relaxed in retirement homes as early as March due to the high vaccination rate in these facilities.
An agreement for allowing more visits in retirement homes has already been made between federal and state governments in Austria.