Parliament approves tighter laws targeting unvaccinated
By Yannick Lambert and Kate Oglesby
Luxembourg's parliament approved new Covid-19 measures on Thursday afternoon aimed at combating a surge in cases, with more restrictions targeting the unvaccinated.
Workers will now have to show proof of vaccination, testing or recovery before entering their workplaces from 15 January. The law, which will expire on 22 February, does not include further restrictions or lockdowns to slow down the spread of the virus.
All of the other measures contained in the new legislation, such as rules for leisure activities, will take effect from Friday.
Attending bars and restaurants, and other recreational venues, will no longer be possible simply by showing a negative test result. Visitors must instead be able to prove they have been vaccinated or recovered from the disease, a much tighter requirement, and more costly for those who have not been vaccinated.
Anyone who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons will be issued an exemption certificate. There will be additional test measures in retirement homes, hospitals and prisons.
Businesses will be given powers to carry out identity checks to verify the details on a Covid certificate and refuse entry to those who do not comply. The new rules should be tough enough to encourage those who are unvaccinated to get jabbed, Health Minister Paulette Lenert said earlier this month.
The three parties which make up Luxembourg's governing coalition, the Democratic Party, the Socialist Workers party (LSAP) and the Greens, all voted in favour of the bill.
Three opposition parties - the right-wing Alternative Democratic Reform party, the left-wing déi Lénk and the Pirate party - all voted against Prime Minister Xavier Bettel’s proposals. The country’s main opposition party, the Christian Democrats (CSV), abstained.
Jabs at pharmacies
The new law also allows pharmacists to administer vaccines, a common practice already in place in some countries such as the US, and adolescents aged 16 or older will no longer need parental permission to get a jab.
The law comes as Luxembourg recorded its highest number of cases in 2021 on Tuesday with 711 infections, the last day for which data is available. The Health Ministry on Thursday recorded 537 new coronavirus cases and one more death.
A total of 79 people are in hospital, 24 of whom are in intensive care. The country also administered close to 6,000 booster jabs on Tuesday, and close to 700 first vaccinations, as more people opt to get vaccinated. In the week starting 6 December, 16 out of 23 patients in intensive care were unvaccinated, the government said on Wednesday.
Hospitals in Luxembourg are postponing some operations, the Health Ministry said late on Tuesday, as Covid-19 patients take up more and more beds and the country races to get more people vaccinated against the deadly disease.
While the deadline for receiving the booster dose after having been previously fully vaccinated was initially set at six months, the Luxembourg government has decided to reduce it to five months, based on advice from the Superior Council of Infectious Diseases, following a government cabinet meeting. Boosters using the Moderna vaccine only require half a dose for those aged above 30.
First invitations for the shortened gap will be sent out on Monday, the government said on Thursday. The decision follows that of other countries, such as France, Greece and the UK, which have already reduced waiting times. In the UK, any adult can get a booster shot after just three months regardless of the previous vaccines.
From January onwards, the interval between the second dose and the booster could be reduced to four months in Luxembourg, the government said. This applies to people vaccinated with the mRNA vaccines BioNTech / Pfizer and Moderna and those who have received a dose of AstraZeneca then a second mRNA vaccine.
Luxembourg has also extended remote working arrangements with neighbouring countries, ensuring that cross-border commuters are not required to come into the office.