Luxembourg to loosen Covid restrictions
Luxembourg plans to join other European countries slowly loosening pandemic restrictions on people gathering, starting with giving restaurants and bars more time to operate and allowing larger gatherings, top officials said on Friday.
Eating and drinking establishments will be allowed to stay open beyond their current 23.00 closing time under proposed changes Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert unveiled at a news conference.
"The positive situation in hospitals is allowing us to get back to a more normal way of life," Bettel said.
Lenert signalled the decision to ease restrictions when she said on Thursday that the top priority of keeping people from requiring hospital care has seen success. Twelve of the 82 people hospitalised with Covid-19 disease are requiring intensive care, the Health Ministry reported on Thursday.
Other easing proposed in legislation intended to replace restrictions that expire at the end of February include again allowing gatherings of up to 2,000 people, Bettel said. Rules that previously required people without booster jabs to take a test showing they were free of the virus would be relaxed to drop the extra test. People visiting hospitals will be required to show they have been vaccinated or recovered from an infection, plus be tested on site, the prime minister said.
The changes will be included in a proposed law that will be introduced to parliament on Monday, Bettel said.
The announcement came as other EU countries target looser measures intended to hold down transmission of the virus that causes Covid-19.
On Tuesday, Denmark - which has a higher vaccination rate than Luxembourg – dropped all Covid-19 restrictions but continued to recommend face masks and vaccine passports at hospitals and elderly care. Sweden announced on Thursday it would end restrictions next week.
Residents in Lithuania will no longer have to prove they have been vaccinated or tested negative for Covid-19 to enter public spaces as of Saturday, the Guardian reported.
France on Wednesday stopped making it mandatory for people to wear face masks outdoors. Spain was expected to follow soon, radio station Cadena Ser reported according to people in the government it didn't identify.
Bettel said his government continues to support the recommendation of a scientific advisory panel to require vaccination for people over 50 and hospital and care home staff, who work with vulnerable people. "Government stands behind the advice of medical experts," he said. "Vaccination remains the best way to get our normal life back permanently."
Slightly more than a quarter of Luxembourg residents haven't yet been vaccinated, Lenert said.
The unvaccinated are 19 times more likely to end up in intensive care than those who have had a booster shot, Bettel said, repeating what Lenert described on Thursday. Between 1 October and 26 January, five patients were admitted to intensive care after having the booster while 51 had not had a single shot, she added.
EU rules which took effect this week will require people in Luxembourg to get vaccine boosters to continue access to their workplace and other venues. Those who have not had a booster shot will be effectively considered unvaccinated nine months after completing their vaccination regimen.