Lawmakers expected to pass new Covid rules on Tuesday
Lawmakers are expected to pass Luxembourg’s latest Covid rules on Tuesday as the country gears up to clamp down on unvaccinated people and pupils return to school mask-free.
Parliament will debate the draft law, which will come into force on Wednesday, when the current time-limited law expires.
The new rules, put forward by Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert at the beginning of the month, heavily focus on encouraging people who have not been vaccinated to get a jab.
The main change in in the new rules, if approved, would be that PCR tests will no longer be free of charge. Luxembourg can “no longer justify that the general public pays for PCR [tests] for people who do not want to get vaccinated", Bettel said at a press conference earlier this month.
The country's large scale testing scheme will also end on Wednesday.
But the proposals are not altogether uncontroversial. Luxembourg's Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CCDH) hit out at the changes, saying it feared that taking away free PCR tests would discriminate against people that cannot get a vaccine for medical reasons.
"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 group said.
Another planned change is that people will have to undergo the CovidCheck system to enter hospitals as patients or visitors. This means people would need to be either vaccinated, present a negative PCR test or have recently recovered from the disease to be allowed into hospitals - in the same way as when accessing restaurants, bars and sports venues.
Four people died of the disease in Luxembourg between 3 September and 9 September, bringing the country’s death toll to 834. There are currently 28 people in hospital, with nine people in intensive care.
Last week, parliament’s health committee tweaked the draft law after the State Council – Luxembourg’s de-facto upper chamber – objected to some parts of the bill. 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, saying it would be unconstitutional.
It also said that if a pupil or teacher tests positive for the virus, others in the class should be forced to wear a mask for seven days from the last day the infected person was in school.
This came after Education Minister Claude Meisch announced pupils would not have to wear masks during most of their school day when they return on Wednesday. Pupils will be able to take their masks off when they are in the classroom and in the playground but will have to wear it when moving around school corridors and during activities with more than 10 people, Meisch said. Pupils will also have to take two Covid tests a week.
If one person in a class tests positive for the virus, pupils will continue to go to school but will have to wear a mask until they have been tested, Meisch had said, which led to the State Council’s suggestion.
Parliament must approve Covid bills to enforce them into law.