Austria to scrap mandatory Covid vaccination, months after it became law
The Austrian government said Thursday it will scrap the country's controversial policy of mandatory vaccination against the coronavirus, just months after it became law.
The measure -- which was an EU first -- came into legal effect at the beginning of February and the first checks had been planned for mid-March, with those refusing to get the jab facing fines of up to 3,600 euros ($4,100).
However, the measure was suspended in March before any checks took place, with the government saying such a far-reaching measure could no longer be justified by the danger the coronavirus posed.
Health Minister Johannes Rauch told a press conference that the measure had caused deep divisions in the country of nine million and said that the element of compulsion had even deterred some people from getting the jab.
"The mandate isn't bringing anyone to get vaccinated," he said.
The Omicron variant had also "changed the rules", Rauch added, as the wave driven by that variant tended to lead to cases with milder symptoms.
The mandate had applied to all over-18s except pregnant women, those who had the virus fewer than 180 days prior and those with medical exemptions.
August Woeginger, head of the parliamentary grouping of the ruling People's Party (OeVP), told the same press conference he expected the law mandating compulsory vaccination to be repealed in the coming weeks.
Ever since it was first floated last year as a way of boosting Austria's vaccination rate, the prospect of compulsory vaccination prompted frequent street protests drawing tens of thousands of people.
Current official figures show just 62 percent of the population currently have a valid vaccination certificate, lagging behind many other Western European countries.
More than 18,700 people have died after contracting the virus in Austria.
"If our systems identify that someone has visited one of these places, we will delete these entries from Location History soon after they visit," Jen Fitzpatrick, a senior vice president at Google, wrote in a blog post. "This change will take effect in the coming weeks."
Two Indo-Canadian academics, working on research to advance the betterment of mankind, have been honoured with one of the country's most prestigious awards, the Order of Canada. Their names were in the list published by the office of the governor-general of Canada Mary Simon. Both have been invested (as the bestowal of the awards is described) into the Order as a Member. They are professors Ajay Agrawal and Parminder Raina.
The world's richest person, Elon Musk, has not tweeted in about 10 days and it can't go unnoticed. The 51-year-old business tycoon has 100 million followers on the microblogging site, which he is planning to buy. Since April, he has been making headlines for the $44 billion deal and his comments and concerns about the presence of a large number of fake accounts on Twitter.
The Taliban's reclusive supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada joined a large gathering of nationwide religious leaders in Kabul on Friday, the state news agency said, adding he would give a speech. The Taliban's state-run Bakhtar News Agency confirmed the reclusive leader, who is based in the southern city of Kandahar, was attending the meeting of more than 3,000 male participants from around the country, aimed at discussing issues of national unity.
As the country prepares to celebrate the 155th anniversary of the formation of the Canadian Confederation, Canada Day, the traditional centre of festivities, Parliament Hill in Ottawa, will be off limits as protesters linked to the Freedom Convoy begin gathering in the capital for the long weekend. Various events have been listed by protesters including a march to Parliament Hill on Friday.