Corona retreats as Luxembourg boosts vaccinations
The number of new Covid-19 infections and hospital admissions fell again last week in Luxembourg despite a gradual easing of restrictions, health minister Paulette Lenert said on Wednesday, raising the prospect that more restrictions could be lifted when the current set of measures expires in mid-June.
"The trend is on a downward spiral... this shows us that measures are working and that our Luxembourgish way, even though it's different than (measures) abroad, with many openings, led to good results after all," Lenert said at a press conference.
On Sunday, restaurants were allowed again to host customers indoors for the first time since November, after terraces had re-opened in April. The government has also pushed back the start of the curfew to midnight and is allowing up to four people from different households to meet up indoors.
Despite a gradual easing of health measures, hospital admissions - the government's most important indicator for lifting restrictions - dropped last week, with 43 people in hospital and 29 in intensive care, down from 56 and 32 respectively, according to the health ministry's latest figures.
Further easing of restrictions possible
Last week, new cases also declined, falling by 19% compared to the previous week, which led Lenert to say that she is "optimistic" about the prospect of loosening more restrictions.
The government is currently mulling plans to offer greater freedoms to those who have been vaccinated, or those who have developed antibodies through a previous infection, Lenert also said.
However, she did not say what those plans could entail. Luxembourg is pushing for a "vaccine certificate" that is recognised in every EU country, which should facilitate a return to normality, she said.
Luxembourg's vaccine rollout is expected to speed up significantly as the country will have enough doses to inoculate another 305,000 people by early July, in addition to almost 210,000 who have had at least one jab already, Lenert said.
That number could rise to over 390,000 if suppliers confirm planned deliveries, according to the health minister.
Vaccine campaign picking up pace
However, the enthusiasm to receive a vaccine is not evenly shared in Luxembourg. Whereas more than seven in ten get a jab when they are invited, that figure is just 40% for staff in care homes, Lenert said. In one unnamed facility just one in four workers opted to get a Covid-19 vaccine, Lenert and family minister Corinne Cahen said in response to a parliamentary question on Tuesday.
Long lagging behind the rest of the EU, Luxembourg's vaccination campaign is now on par with the bloc's average, with 32% of all residents having received one doses, according to research project Our World in Data.
The European Union, long criticised for its sluggish vaccine rollout, reached another landmark in its campaign, giving out its 20o millionth dose on Wednesday, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter.
By the end of July 70% of the bloc's adult population, often cited as the threshold for herd immunity, will have received an invitation to get a jab, according to von der Leyen.
As of 19 May, 39% of the EU's adult population have had at least one vaccine dose, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported. In Luxembourg, four out of ten adult residents have had at least one jab, with 1 in 5 receiving both vaccine doses.