Luxembourg lags EU vaccine table as free testing set to end
Luxembourg is lagging at the bottom of the table for vaccine uptake in western Europe - and below the EU average - as the country prepares to vote on new rules to take effect from next week onwards which are aimed at encouraging people to get vaccinated.
In the Grand Duchy, just 64.7% of the population have received at least one dose, statistics from Oxford University's Our World in Data show, which puts the country even below the EU average of 65.4%.
Luxembourg will stop offering free PCR tests after 15 September, pending parliamentary approval, in an effort to encourage more people to get a Covid-19 jab, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said last week, as data showed all patients currently in intensive care were not vaccinated. Other Covid rules are set to remain largely unchanged.
If approved, from next week people will only get the fees for testing reimbursed if they test positive for Covid-19, Thomas Dentzer, the country's large-scale testing coordinator, told the Luxemburger Wort in an interview. The country's Human Rights Commission (CCDH), which advises parliament on legislation, has criticised the move, saying tests should remain free as the change could prevent people from seeking a test in hospital even if they require one.
"The only thing that can really end the pandemic is vaccination", Dentzer said. Luxembourg has closed most of its vaccination centres, with the strategy now focused on one major hub, the efforts of general practitioners and vaccine buses that travel around the country and allow people to get jabbed.
Weekly figures released on Wednesday showed that infections continue to slowly climb, with three further deaths in the past week. 833 people have now died as a result of the virus in the Grand Duchy.
Neighbouring Belgium and France have both administered a first jab to at least 72.8% of the population, Italy 72% and the Netherlands 70%, the statistics show. Germany is also trailing behind somewhat with 65.6% having received a first dose - just above the EU average.
The EU table is led by Portugal, Malta, Spain and Denmark, four countries which have administered a first dose to between 76% and 86% of their entire population.
In western Europe, only Switzerland is faring worse than Luxembourg in terms of vaccine uptake, with 58.3% having received at least one dose.
In a survey, published on Friday and carried out by the European Commission in August across EU countries, only 62% of Luxembourgers agreed that getting vaccinated is a civic duty, a lower number than in France, Germany and the EU as a whole.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who oversaw the vaccine procurement process, admitted at the end of August that the EU's target of fully vaccinating 70% of the adult population by the end of summer had been met.
There are huge discrepancies between EU members however, with eastern European countries in particular, such as Bulgaria and Romania, seeing much lower levels of vaccinations, partly due to hesitancy or scepticism over the jabs.
France has already started administering booster shots for vulnerable people, with the verdict from the EU's drugs regulator, the European Medicines Agency, on a potential third booster jab still pending.