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Covid law changes after objection over school mask, certificates

Covid law changes after objection over school mask, certificates

by Yannick HANSEN 2 min. 08.09.2021 From our online archive
Upper Chamber took issue at power to recognise third countries' health certificates and to mask mandates in schools
Cercle Cité where parliament has been sitting since the pandemic
Cercle Cité where parliament has been sitting since the pandemic
Photo credit: Lex Kleren

Parliament’s health committee has tweaked the new Covid draft law after the State Council – Luxembourg's de-facto upper chamber – objected to elements of the bill that will set out the new health measures to fight the pandemic after 15 September.

In an opinion released on Tuesday the State Council took aim at the government's proposal to give the head of the health directorate the power to recognise non-EU countries’ health certificates, such as the United Kingdom's NHS Covid app. The Upper Chamber - whose opinion is not binding - said that power would be unconstitutional.

The Council also said that if a pupil or teacher tests positive for the virus, the others should be forced to wear a mask for seven days from the last day the infected person was in school. This should also apply to people who shared a lecture hall with the infected person, the Council added.

It is rare for the State Council to raise formal objections to the government's Covid laws. Parliament's health committee has adopted both changes, clearing the way for lawmakers to vote on it before the current set of rules expires on 15 September.

Luxembourg will keep its current public health measures largely unchanged as the country prepares for the new school year, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert said last week.

The government will keep the CovidCheck system which grants access to restaurants, bars and sports venues to people who are either vaccinated, have recovered from the disease or tested negative. People who need to go into hospital, either as a patient or as a visitor, also need to abide by those rules, the new Covid law says.

However, unvaccinated people will have to pay for PCR tests themselves from 15 September onwards, which is when the country's free large-scale-testing scheme ends.

As every Luxembourg resident has had a chance to get a Covid-19 vaccine, Bettel called for a "paradigm shift", saying that "we can no longer justify that the general public pays for PCR [tests] for people who do not want to get vaccinated".

"We hope that through this new measure a lot of people will tell themselves that vaccinations are more convenient", Bettel said. 

This prompted the country's Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CCDH) to warn about a divided society in an opinion released on Wednesday.

"The CCDH fears that non-free PCR tests could discriminate against people based on their health, their financial situation or based on their beliefs and therefore risks to split society and exacerbate inequalities", the opinion said.

Tests should remain free for people who cannot get the jab for medical reasons and to those who need to go into hospital, the CCDH said, adding though that refusing the vaccine for non-medical reasons does not show solidarity towards society.

The new Covid law has to go to vote in parliament Tuesday at the latest as the current legislation expires the following day.

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