Lawmakers give go-ahead to tighter Covid rules
Unvaccinated workers could lose access to their office, and revellers face stricter Covid tests to enter bars and restaurants after Parliament on Monday adopted a law that Luxembourg's highest legislative body and trade unions have criticised.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel's plans mean that companies have the option of submitting workers to the CovidCheck system, which tracks who is vaccinated, as the Grand Duchy struggles to raise the vaccination rate among residents.
The measures, due to last until 18 December, will force people wanting to dine out or go to the cinema to undergo the CovidCheck - a measure previously applied only for groups of four if sitting inside, and 10 if sitting outside. Employers may begin to use the CovidCheck system from 1 November. They will have the authority to withhold salaries from staff who refuse to comply, refuse them entry to the workplace, and even dismiss them.
The plans have drawn ire from trade unions and other bodies with the CFGO, LCGB and OGBL unions saying in a statement on Sunday that if the bill passed without change, they would take legal action. Luxembourg's de facto upper chamber, the State Council, which advises on legislation, last week also criticised the proposals.
But despite opposition, lawmakers on Monday passed the bill, which parliament’s health committee waved through on Friday during a meeting to propose changes to the legislation or raise objections to it.
Luxembourg has vaccinated 74.5% of its adult population, just slightly above the EU average, but below that of neighbouring France which has vaccinated 80% of people aged over 18, Germany 78% and Belgium 86%, according to the latest figures from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a bid to up numbers further and get the country back to normality, the Grand Duchy also began its vaccination campaign in schools on Monday, with pupils over 12 to receive the first doses up until 29 October, and second doses between 15 and 29 November.
More than 3,000 people on Friday took to the streets of the city of Luxembourg to march against the proposal, largely defying a rule to wear face masks as police looked on. Bettel told parliamentarians on Thursday that he had received death threats over the planned tightening of the rules.
Employers generally sounded more positive. Banks could be leading the way in implementing the checks, the Luxembourg Times reported last week. Over the weekend, Luxembourg’s banking union also said it approved of the measures, putting it at odds with trade unions in other sectors.
Luxembourg’s data protection watchdog the CNPD issued an opinion on the bill on 12 October which said that it is unclear if the widespread use of the Covid check will mean that employers are processing and keep personal health data of their employees. If companies are indeed doing this it means that the Covid check will not comply with GDPR rules and regulations.