Curfew to go as Luxembourg cuts Covid restrictions
Luxembourg plans to further ease virus-fighting restrictions on where and how many people can gather, top government officials said on Wednesday while emphasising that fully restoring social freedoms would depend on wide acceptance of vaccinations.
Legislation that will be proposed to Parliament ahead of current restrictions expiring on 12 June would end an overnight curfew that has been in place for seven months and allow restaurant and bar owners to decide their closing times, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said at a news conference. Up to four diners could sit together at a table without needing to be tested.
Retail shops would no longer need to restrict how many people can enter, though masks would remain mandatory there and on public transport, officials said. Up to 10 people would be allowed to gather in private homes and on outdoor terraces of hospitality businesses. Gatherings of up to 300 people who wear masks and stay apart from others would again be allowed.
The easing comes as the number of people discovered as suffering from Covid-19 fell to 51 new cases on Tuesday and 44 on Wednesday, officials said. The number of people testing positive the disease fell by 28% in the week ending on Sunday, the ninth consecutive week of decline.
Wastewater testing that indicates the spread of the disease-causing virus beyond individuals tested also showed a solid downward trend. Meanwhile, more than 8,000 people were expected to receive vaccinations on Wednesday.
"At the moment, we are seeing positive developments, but it would be the wrong signal to claim that the pandemic is over" since more-contagious virus variants remain a concern, Bettel said. "Vaccinations are really helping" the situation, added Health Minister Paulette Lenert who was speaking with Bettel at the press conference.
The new round of regulations, expected to stay in place for a month, would drop the requirement that people remain indoors between midnight and 6.00 the next morning.
Certificates intended to prove someone has been vaccinated against Covid-19 or recovered from the disease and enjoys a level of natural immunity will become operational in Luxembourg before coming into use across the EU on 1 July, Lenert said. While the government will not force residents to be inoculated if they refuse, Bettel urged most people to protect themselves and others .
"If we want to get out of this crisis, vaccinations are the main path forward", the prime minister said.
People between the ages of 6 and 30 – who so far have been unable to get a preventative jab - will receive just one voucher from the government for a free PCR test, Bettel said. Proof of vaccination, natural immunity or a negative PCR or other test will be required to visit retirement homes and hospitals, he said.
Restaurant owners could accept a so-called Covid certificate or ask guests to perform a rapid self-test for indoor dining by groups of more than four people, Lenert said. More than seven out of 10 people who have been offered vaccinations have accepted and gotten the jab, and about 46% of Luxembourg's adults have had at least one dose, Bettel said. Luxembourg will have vaccinated about 310,000 people by early July, he said. That would represent almost half of Luxembourg's population, but workers who commute from neighbouring countries have also received some of the doses.
However, Luxembourg's vaccination plans are dependent on the ability of manufacturers to supply the medications. Johnson & Johnson has cut deliveries to the EU unexpectedly, adding to vaccine shortages that will mean 55,000-60,000 fewer people in Luxembourg will receive a vaccine before early July, Bettel said.
(Additional reporting by Yannick Hansen and Kate Oglesby)