VIENNA, Jan 20 (Reuters) – Austria’s conservative-led government said on Thursday it was introducing a national lottery to encourage holdouts to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, hours before parliament was due to pass a bill introducing a national vaccine mandate.
Roughly 72% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe.
New daily infections surged to a new record on Wednesday as the extremely contagious Omicron variant spread further, but the government wants to avoid another national lockdown, since the country emerged from its fourth one only last month.
“What is there to win in the vaccination lottery? Vouchers!” Chancellor Karl Nehammer told a news conference with the leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, with whom the measure was negotiated.
Nehammer said he wanted there to be a financial reward for those who get vaccinated, adding: “We have learned from the past and we have seen that a vaccination lottery is the best possible way to set up such a system.”
Members of the public, whether already vaccinated or not, would get a ticket for each shot they have had – three tickets in total for those who have had their booster shot.
Every tenth ticket would win a 500 euro ($568) gift voucher, Nehammer said, without specifying what the vouchers were for.
The lower house of parliament is due to pass a bill later on Thursday making vaccines compulsory for all adults in Austria, with initial fines of 600 euros, rising to up to 3,600 euros if the fine is challenged unsuccessfully.
Austria will be the first European Union country to introduce a COVID vaccine mandate for all adults when the measure takes effect on Feb. 1.
Photo – A chef cooks a Wiener Kaiserschmarren to take-away (sugared pancake with raisins) in a store in Vienna, Austria. EPA-EFE/CHRISTIAN BRUNA