State Council slams plan to relax Covid measures
A top advisory body has decried government proposals to ease Covid-19 laws just as the Omicron variant of the virus is rapidly spreading through the country, saying it had "difficulty in conceiving the logic" behind the plan.
Isolation periods for infected people would be reduced and a booster jab would no longer be required to enter bars or restaurants under last week's proposals, which constituted a U-turn after parliament had rushed through new legislation just before Christmas, to tackle the spread of the highly contagious Omicron.
“Contrary to what one would logically expect in the face of an explosion in the number of infections ... the authors of the bill ... intend to proceed with easing a certain number of measures,” the State Council said on Monday.
Last Wednesday, Luxembourg recorded an unprecedented 2,131 new infections, even though the number of people in hospital was stable.
The State Council consists of 21 non-elected members and needs to give its opinion on every draft bill before it is adopted into law. Such advice has often led to a rewrite of legal texts, but the government can also ignore it. Parliament is due to vote on the amendments in a session on Tuesday afternoon.
Under the plans, people testing positive for the virus will only need to isolate for a period of six days - down from 10 currently. They may also enter a bar or a restaurant without taking a rapid test on site if they have received a full vaccination but not the booster shot, which the country is now rolling out.
The easing of the measures was hard to fathom, the council said, given that the government is also debating whether to make vaccinations mandatory and the absence of scientific evidence “justifying the change of course”.
People finding they have caught the disease can end their self-imposed isolation after six days as long as they perform two so-called lateral flow tests on themselves with a negative result. But this would give people a “blank cheque” for people to “decide for themselves”, the State Council said. “A possible sanction cannot be applied since it will be impossible to verify whether the test results in question were either positive or negative,” it said.
The government has not set a timeframe for a round of consultations among infectious disease and policy experts about the introduction of mandatory vaccinations, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said on Monday, nor for a parliamentary debate that would ensue from it.
"The aim of this process is to build a basis for holding an informed debate in parliament. A specific deadline is not yet set, as it is the Parliament who will set the date of the debate, but the objective is to have a first set of answers by the groups of experts as soon as possible,” the spokeswoman said.
The group is composed of five medical professionals from four different medical institutions, the spokeswoman said. The government will also send a questionnaire to “various stakeholders” and lawmakers to deal with legal and ethical aspects of compulsory vaccinations.
Austria became the first country in the EU to approve a general mandate for vaccination, which will take effect next month.