In an interview with Politico, Austrian chancellor Alexander Schallenberg accused the right-wing Freedom Party of fomenting vaccine scepticism in the country. Schallenberg suggested that it was due to the rise of anti-vaccine sentiment that the dramatic COVID situation developed in Austria in response to which the government had no choice but to introduce unprecedentedly strict measures.
According to Schallenberg, no other party in Europe has advocated openly against vaccination, as the Freedom Party did. The chancellor opined that the politicians of the governing party’s former coalition partner, the majority of whom are in fact vaccinated, were extremely irresponsible, recommending for instance the unscientific deworming remedies against the virus.
Politico noted that the president of the Freedom Party, Herbert Kickl, announced last week that his party would challenge compulsory vaccination in a court of law. In his statement Kickl declared “As of today, Austria has become a dictatorship!” Kickl himself was unable to take part in last Saturday’s anti-lockdown demonstration as he had contracted COVID.
According to Schallenberg, mandatory vaccination, expected to enter into force next February, will withstand judicial scrutiny. He argued that the permanent reigning in of the pandemic was only possible by raising the current 65% vaccination rate in the country, which is lower than the European average.
Austria was forced to implement radical lockdown measures because intensive care wards have been overwhelmed by COVID patients, pushing some hospitals to the brink of collapse. The strict measures, which some say were long overdue, are unlikely to boost the popularity of the People’s Party which is at a record low and continues to sink. According to a recent poll, some 40% of the population considers the government’s pandemic management “extremely poor.”