Lawmakers vote to loosen Covid restrictions
By Emery Dalesio and Kate Oglesby
Luxembourg's lawmakers voted to loosen restrictions on Friday afternoon, as the country slowly drops precautions aimed at curbing the spread of the Covid-19 virus which has killed more than 800 people.
The Grand Duchy's new rules are set to stay in effect until 12 June and will allow restaurants and cafes, which are currently forced to close at 18.00 to welcome customers until 22.00. The fresh measures also enable indoor seating for those who can show they have tested negative for Covid-19.
Under the regulations the start of the country's overnight curfew - currently 23.00 - will be put back an hour until midnight, while the stay-at-home requirement will continue until 6.00.Up to four people from different households will be allowed at private homes and around tables in bars and restaurants under the new law. Sporting events will also reopen to the public as long as spectators remain seated, masked and at least two meters apart.
Extra support for companies
Additional state aid for companies that have suffered due to forced closures and limited gatherings is also included in the new measures.
The legislation will allow restaurants to be reimbursed for all of their uncovered fixed costs this month, without having to count their income from delivery and take-away sales. Businesses which weren't required to shut down but still lost 75% or more of their revenue due to limited gatherings during February and March could claim state aid.
The majority of the Luxembourg government voted in favour of the new law, members of the opposition parties - the Christian Socialist Party (CSV), Alternative Democratic Reform Party (ADR), Déi Lénk, left party, and the Pirate party voted against the proposals as they believe a number of questions surrounding how tests needed to enter a hospitality business will work and who will pay for them, have not been answered. The law will allow entry by people who have had a negative PCR test within the past three days, a rapid antigen test less than 24 hours old, or a self-diagnostic test that can be done on site.
The country's roughly 2,700 hospitality businesses will receive 500,000 self-tests their guests can use, Labour Minister Dan Kersch told members of Parliament on Tuesday. After that supply, which averages 185 tests per establishment, runs out, the businesses will be on their own, Kersch said.
Restaurant and bar owners "cannot afford to offer this test, which is why they should charge customers for it at cost" said François Koepp, secretary general of the Horesca trade association. He estimated that each test could potentially add between €2.90 and €5 to a customer's bill.
Lack of clarity
Also unclear is how and where businesses would perform the rapid tests for patrons eager to enter. Some have proposed creating an outdoor structure for testing customers who must then wait several minutes for a result.
The government has announced that it is providing a further 5.7 million self-tests to companies around the country, including restaurants and bars, Kersch said, so that beginning on Monday each employee could test themselves twice a week for the next six weeks. An additional 600,000 tests will be supplied for the government's own workers, officials said on Friday.Meanwhile, a requirement for a negative Covid-19 test for all air passengers arriving in Luxembourg has been extended until 30 June.
Even tougher rules have been placed on anyone arriving in Luxembourg from India, which has seen multiplying deaths and a new virus variant thought to spread more easily. The World Health Organization this week classified the mutated virus as a "variant of global concern". All travellers who have been in India within two weeks of arrival in Luxembourg must submit to testing and go into quarantine for at least seven days, the government said.