Major lockdown easing, restaurants and pubs to reopen
Luxembourg took major steps for life to return to normal after more than a year of lockdown restrictions of varying severity, as Prime Minister Xavier Bettel on Wednesday announced the reopening of restaurants and bars and an easing of the country's overnight curfew.
The Covid-19 pandemic - which has killed 800 people in Luxembourg, more than one in thousand - has been stabilising despite a gradual easing of social restrictions, with new infections dropping by 9% last week.
As of 16 May, restaurants may host clients indoors again, Bettel said at a press conference, after outdoor spaces had earlier reopened. Up to four people can sit together inside as long as they can show a negative test result, Bettel said, adding that “no one will enter a restaurant without getting tested”.
“[Restaurant] openings did not lead to an increase in infections”, Bettel said, at the press conference where he also announced the overnight curfew will start an hour later, at midnight from 2300 hrs currently.
Bettel also provided more good news from the country's vaccination roll-out, long one of Europe's slowest. By the end of June, there will be enough doses for another 155,000 people, in addition to the 216,000 who have received at least one dose already, he said. The number is likely to go up as it is based on confirmations from suppliers up until the end of May only.
A waiting list for the AstraZeneca vaccine has drawn in over 31,000 volunteers under the age of 54 and a second one for left-over doses at the end of each day has attracted 20,100 people. Almost one in five Luxembourg residents has now received at least one dose, with 9% of the population being fully immunised, research project Our World in Data reports.
Vaccine uptake remains high in Luxembourg as 76% of those who have been called up have made an appointment, Bettel said. More than 58,000 people have made appointments to get a jab in the next nine days.
Going out again
Restaurants will still need to close their doors by 2200 hrs, Bettel said, and customers need to present a negative result, either of PCR test that is no more than 72-hours old, an antigen test of less than 24 hours ago, or do a rapid self test at the restaurant while waiting to be seated.
Terraces - which will require no testing - can now host up to four people per table. The government will send half a million self-tests to restaurants and bars and residents will receive vouchers for free tests at pharmacies, health minister Paulette Lenert said at the press conference. It was “too soon” to say whether vaccinated people will be given more rights than others, she said.
The government will also allow residents to host up to four guests at their homes, who do not need to be from the same household, or one entire family, who can be larger than four. Mass gatherings, such as concerts and sport events, can go also ahead again, with up to 1,000 participants.
The new measures constitute the most comprehensive easing of restrictions since the measures were reintroduced in November after an easing over the summer months of last year, when the disease was less prevalent.
“It would be premature to lift all restrictions”, Bettel said. "We are definitely not out of a situation where no handbrake will ever need to be applied again”. Lawmakers still need to rubberstamp the new rules next week.
Health situation slightly improves
Mor than 2,600 people are currently struck with Covid-19 even as the latest figures show the disease is no longer expanding as rapidly as in October and November. The number of people in hospital fell to 58 over the last week, down from 71, of which 34 required intensive care, the latest data show.
People admitted to hospital tend to be younger than during the first wave of the pandemic and suffer from more severe symptoms, Lenert said. Covid vaccines shield older people from the disease while new mutations cause more severe symptoms in younger people, triggering longer hospital stays, Lenert said.