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.
“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 getting 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 be entitled to one ticket for each shot they have had – three in total for those who have had their booster shot.
Every 10th ticket would win a 500 euro ($568) gift voucher, Nehammer said, adding it would cost up to 1 billion euros. He later added on Twitter that the vouchers could be used in “retail, tourism, hospitality, services, culture and sport”.
Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler said the aim was to support Austrian businesses and avoid online retailers as much as possible.
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.
The lower house of parliament is due to pass a bill on Thursday making vaccines compulsory for adults, with initial fines of 600 euros, rising to up to 3,600 euros if the fine is challenged unsuccessfully.