Infections skyrocketing, Covid-19 hospitalisations stable
Luxembourg recorded an unprecedented 2,131 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday after Covid-19 skyrocketed last week, but the number of people in hospital remained stable and the government proposed easing some of the rules to curb the spread of the disease.
Over 5,600 people tested positive for the virus between 27 December and 2 January, weekly data by the government showed, containing some of the post-Christmas backlog. That was the most cases recorded in the country during a single week since the pandemic began and twice as many as the week before, when 2,600 tested positive.
The latest wave of the pandemic hitting Luxembourg is fuelled by the more contagious Omicron variant, which has sent infections surging across Europe and elsewhere in the world. Wednesday's record smashed previous all-time highs of more than 1,200 new cases in one day.
Yet hospital admissions remained stable last week, with 47 people in regular care and 20 requiring intensive-care treatment - compared to 63 and 19, respectively, last week. This follows some preliminary signs from studies across the world that Omicron causes milder symptoms of the disease. Last week, 22 Covid-19 patients in regular care were not fully vaccinated, while 14 of the 20 ICU occupants did not have the full vaccine protection, the data showed.
Amongst those who caught the virus this week was the country's head of state Grand Duke Henri who tested positive on Tuesday.
Record-breaking infections in Luxembourg mean that key workers are having to isolate to curb the spread of the disease. As many as 15% of all of teachers are currently unable to go to work, broadcaster RTL reported on Wednesday. Education Minister Claude Meisch called the situation "worrying" and suspended all school trips, according to RTL.
Parliamentarians rushed through new legislation on Christmas Eve to tackle the spread of Omicron. But the government on Wednesday made a U-turn on some of the rules, no longer requiring people who have been vaccinated but not yet been boostered to do a self-test before going into a bar or restaurant.
The government will also discuss whether to make vaccines mandatory, it said, in a cabinet meeting scheduled for Friday. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel already mooted that option in a letter last week, though he had long been against it.
The Green Party, which is part of the governing coalition, backs a general vaccine mandate, it said on Wednesday. The Christian Democrats, the country's largest opposition party, already requested making the jabs mandatory, but their motion was defeated in a vote in parliament on 24 December.
Austria is so far the only country in Europe to make vaccinations mandatory for everyone, under the threat of heavy fines. Germany last month passed legislation requiring healthcare workers to prove that they are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 by mid-March, and leaders are discussing whether to expand that requirement more broadly.