Slowly, Luxembourg returns to normal after Covid
Luxembourg's parliament will move back into its official home next to the grand duke's palace when it resumes work in a couple of weeks, a spokeswoman said on Thursday, in a fresh sign of uneven progress toward normality after the Covid-19 pandemic's disruptions.
The Chamber of Deputies will meet again in its regular home next to the royal palace beginning with Prime Minister Xavier Bettel’s state of the nation address on 12 October, a parliamentary spokeswoman confirmed. Deputies were forced in April 2020 to abandon their usual venue for only the third time since 1860 because it was too small to allow lawmakers to keep a two-metre distance between themselves.
The parliament leaves behind the nearby Cercle Cité conference centre, an early 20th-century government building previously used for exhibitions and events, because members will be checked to ensure they have been vaccinated against or tested for Covid-19 or recovered from the contagious disease.
The move comes as Luxembourg's government continues to push more people to become vaccinated rather than making jabs compulsory.
In another sign, parliament members heard from prison officials on Wednesday that inmates will have fewer restrictions on visitors, who will be allowed to double the time to an hour beginning in November. Unsupervised visits will again be authorised, provided that the detainees concerned submit to a seven-day quarantine after the visits, a parliament news release said.
"The measures are still too restrictive and the detainees have shown a lot of patience since the start of the pandemic," said Claudia Monti, whose work as Luxembourg's ombudswoman includes external oversight of the country's lockups. "The situation in which we are currently living is not a temporary situation, but the new reality," she added.
Next week's football World Cup qualifying game in Luxembourg's new, 9,500-seat stadium shows, however, that normal isn't back yet.
"Following decisions and instructions from the Health Department, 2,000 people are officially admitted for the match, including delegations from both countries, officials, etc.," the Luxembourg Football Federation said on its web site.
Those attending will be able to buy food and drinks at open refreshment stands inside the stadium, the federation said.
Health officials reported that the number of Covid-19 infections rose 9% in Luxembourg in the week ending on Sunday compared to the previous week, indicating that the virus is not disappearing. Two-thirds of the 590 people discovered to be infected last week had not been vaccinated, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday. Almost 85% of patients in intensive care had not been fully vaccinated, the ministry said.
Luxembourg had 63% of its population fully vaccinated against Covid-19 as of mid-September, according to the University of Oxford's Our World in Data project. That's compared to 64% in Germany, 66% in France and 72% in Belgium, the data project shows.
Besides sending mobile teams to shopping centres and sports complexes to make vaccinations easier, the government two weeks ago ended free PCR testing, which is widely accepted as being the most reliable indicator of whether someone has Covid-19. A petition against mandatory vaccines gained enough signatures in just two days earlier this month to put the issue on the agenda of parliament.