Luxembourg adopts new Covid rules for summer break
Luxembourg settled down for a summer rife with the risk of catching Covid-19 despite a half-year long vaccination campaign as lawmakers prolonged the current public health restrictions until 14 September, with few changes.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel was quick to reopen social life as the coronavirus was waning early in the summer, but the disease quickly reappeared, with a surge in cases linked to national celebrations on 22 June, when some businesses may not have made the required checks on their customers.
Bettel himself ended up in hospital fighting the disease, though he has now recovered and was expected to visit victims of floods that wreaked havoc across Luxembourg on Wednesday and Thursday after days of torrential rain.
Nevertheless, Bettel's government last week said it would leave its permissive Covid-19 regime largely unchanged, pledging only that nightlife venues - seen as the main source of infections - would be checked more closely.
Among the rules that Parliament rubberstamped - with support from the opposition - was that customers who have gained access to a restaurant or bar after doing a rapid self-test on site need to leave by 01:00 hrs. Previously they could stay as long as customers who deemed not at risk for catching the disease, for instance because they had been vaccinated or recovered from it.
The government had initially wanted to set the cut-off point at midnight, but hospitality businesses had protested against that. Police is expected to carry out more spot searches to make sure businesses comply with the new rules and fines for offenders now stand at a higher €6,000.
Private citizens will also need to use the CovidCheck system when getting together - something that was previously reserved to business and sport venues. Any crowd larger than 10 people need to be able to proof they have been vaccinated, recovered, or recently been tested negative.
Should the pandemic worsen, the government may push through a new and stricter Covid law before the current one expires ahead of the return to school on 15 September, deputy Prime Minister Dan Kersch said last week.
The soaring of cases in Luxembourg has put the country back on the danger map for European travel destinations, with the Grand Duchy now upgraded to a red zone by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), indicating a high prevalence of the virus.
Members of the right-wing ADR party voted against the new Covid legislation on Thursday, citing privacy concerns. The Left's sole two lawmakers abstained from the vote.
With Luxembourg in the grip of Covid as summer holidays near, authorities confiscated almost 2 million face masks that did not meet the quality criteria, the health ministry said on Wednesday.
Customs officers discovered 685,000 substandard face masks and checks in pharmacies found another 450,000 faulty masks, Health Minister Paulette Lenert said in response to a parliamentary question.
In addition, her ministry found 850,000 face masks in the national reserve stock that did not provide the required filtration of particles.
There had been an excessive demand for face coverings and limited supply which drove up prices during the first wave of the pandemic, Lenert also said, but her ministry had found no illegal price fixing from sellers.
The government took mask procurement into its own hands last year when it was hard to source them in global markets because of unprecedented demand. Each resident then received 50 face masks for free last year.