(CNN) – Austria became the first country in Europe to introduce a national mandate for Covid-19 vaccination after President Alexander van der Bellen signed the law passed by parliament.
The mandate will go into effect on February 1, although Austrian officials will not start conducting checks on compliance with the law until March 15. Since then, those without a certificate of vaccination or exemption can be punished with initial fines of 600 euros (about 680 US dollars) which can go up to 3,600 euros (about 4,080 US dollars).
According to the Austrian Ministry of Health website, pregnant women and those who cannot be vaccinated without endangering their health are excluded from the law. Individuals who recover from COVID-19 infection are also exempted for 180 days from the date they received their first positive COVID-19 PCR test result.
How does the legislation passed by Austria work?
The new law will run until January 31, 2024 and will take effect in phases, according to the Ministry of Health.
All Austrian families will receive a letter explaining the authorization.
Officials will be able to search a national database for each resident’s vaccination status, or the scheduled date of vaccination.
Unvaccinated people will eventually face a maximum fine of €3,600 ($4,000) up to four times a year if they are not included in the vaccination registry on their scheduled vaccination date.
The authorities can waive the fine if the person is vaccinated within two weeks of receiving the penalty notice.
The law is one of the most punitive measures taken by Western lawmakers in recent months as they seek to reduce the social and economic burdens of the pandemic.
France is also cracking down on the unvaccinated. The French government recently passed a bill requiring people to prove they are fully vaccinated in order to access a wide range of daily activities, such as visiting restaurants and bars and taking public transport long distances between regions.
Italy has required everyone over 50 to be vaccinated or risk a fine, and Germany is requiring anyone who has not received a booster dose to test negative for Covid-19 before entering public places.