New restrictions in winter unlikely, says Lenert
Luxembourg is set to escape the need for more Covid-19 restrictions this autumn and winter if the current, less lethal Omicron variant prevails, Health Minister Paulette Lenert said on Tuesday, but she added that the government has stockpiled tests in preparation for the spread of new strains.
"Should the current Omicron variant remain dominant in the autumn, we perhaps do not have to do too much," Lenert said on Tuesday, in response to a parliamentary question from CSV opposition deputy Martine Hansen.
During the colder months, the virus tends to spread more easily as people gather inside.
This prompted Luxembourg to enact a variety of pandemic-fighting measures in the last two winters, including curfews, proof of vaccination, and mask wearing. That seems an unlikely prospect for now, according to Lenert.
However, if the current strain gives way to a more lethal variant, measures will need to be taken, the health minister said.
These include large-scale self-testing, for which the government has procured three million rapid tests, as well as targeted testing in hospitals, care homes, and schools.
The government's chief medical advisor, Jean-Claude Schmit, said in July a return of face masks and a requirement to show proof of vaccination could be a possibility later in the year.
The summer months, which have not seen any significant spike in Covid rates, prompted the government to announce it was shelving a vaccine mandate for those aged 50 and above.
People aged 60 and older can now get a second booster shot, but this is not recommended for healthcare workers, Lenert said, for whom Omicron poses less of a risk and who already have "good" immunity as a result of previous jabs and infections.
It is "likely" though that a second booster will be recommended to the wider population - including health workers - once an Omicron-tailored booster becomes available, Lenert added. This week the UK became the first country to approve the modified jab.
The new vaccines are expected to arrive in Luxembourg in September, Luc Feller, the senior civil servant in charge of the rollout, told RTL last week. Luxembourg has ordered 500,000 doses of the Moderna jab and 260,000 of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, which are set to be delivered by the end of the year, Feller said.