Masks off on public transport as lawmakers approve new rules
(This article has been updated to say that the new law will come into place from the middle of the coming week and not next month)
People will not have to wear a mask when taking public transport in Luxembourg after lawmakers voted to scrap Covid-19 masks on buses, trains and the tram.
Masks have not been mandatory in most places since March but it was still necessary in hospitals, care homes and on public transport. People will be able to travel without a face covering from the middle of the coming week but will have to continue to wear one in hospitals and nursing homes.
Health Minister Paulette Lenert first discussed scrapping the mask mandate on public transport last month and all lawmakers voted unanimously in favour of the new law in parliament on Thursday.
Vulnerable people should continue wearing a mask to protect themselves from the virus, the law states. The new rule is expected to come into place on Tuesday.
Since May, people travelling on public transport in France have been able to do so without having to wear a mask, meaning cross-border workers could choose whether to wear a mask when they started their commute, but then had to put one on once they crossed the border into the Grand Duchy.
Passengers aboard national airline Luxair could also decide since last month whether to wear face masks during their journeys, depending on the requirements at their destination.
While the number of Covid-19 infections have been receding in Luxembourg recently, they jumped up last week when almost 2,000 people tested positive - up 65% compared to the previous week, data from the health ministry showed.
But the number of people being admitted to hospital due to the virus decreased. There are now seven people in hospital, one of whom is in intensive care, the data showed.
The new BA.5 Omicron sub-variant, which was first detected in South Africa in January, is "significantly present" in Luxembourg and represents a quarter of current infections, Lenert said in response to a parliamentary question on Thursday.
"This sub-variant is also likely to be responsible for the slight increase in infections in recent days in our country," Lenert said.
The more transmissible new sub-variant is equally likely to infect those who have been vaccinated and those who have been previously infected with another variant, Lenert added.
"It is quite possible that one or more other variants [or] sub-variants will become widespread by autumn," the health minister said.