More Covid testing in primary schools as cases surge
Primary school pupils are to undergo Covid-19 testing three times a week, after a surge in infections among young children has now reached levels higher than last winter, Education Minister Claude Meisch said on Friday.
Since the return of pupils after the summer holidays, there have been more than 2,200 Covid-19 cases in primary schools and over 1,200 infections in secondary schools, according to figures from the education ministry. Primary school pupils are currently tested twice a week, but this will increase to three times weekly under the new rules.
While teenagers over the age of 12 have the option of receiving a Covid-19 vaccine, primary school pupils do not.
The latest development on Friday came as countries across Europe halted air travel from southern Africa after a new variant was detected. European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen has proposed putting in place an emergency ban for air travel from the region until the variant’s potential dangers become clearer. The variant has already been detected in Belgium.
The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in Luxembourg jumped by 31% last week, while the average age of those contracting the virus fell slightly to 33, figures from the health ministry showed on Wednesday. Almost half of the 39 Covid patients in hospital were fully vaccinated, the ministry said. And of the 10 people in intensive care, six had received at least one shot.
Primary school pupils will now be subjected to testing three times a week, Meisch said in a statement following a government meeting on Friday. Secondary school pupils – 70% of whom have been vaccinated – will be tested twice a week instead of once.
If a pupil tests positive, others in the class will have to be tested every day for the following seven days but will not have to quarantine, except for unvaccinated pupils who refuse to take a daily test. The quarantine can end only with a negative PCR test result at least six days after the last contact with the positive person, Meisch said.
In the event of a cluster of three or more positive cases in a class, unvaccinated pupils and those who have not recently overcome the disease will have to quarantine, Meisch added.
The surge in cases in the past few weeks has come predominantly among pupils aged below 12 years old, a trend which “isn’t surprising as they are an unvaccinated group”, the education ministry said in a statement.
The number of cases is higher than the levels at the same time last year, the ministry added. Last week there were 474 cases in Luxembourg primary schools – up from 296 the previous week and a jump from just 81 infections registered in the first week back after the summer break.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert are due to hold a press conference on Monday evening, after the next meeting of the government council, the government announced on Friday.