Tougher checks as infections jump - but no new rules
Luxembourg will keep its permissive Covid-19 rules in place despite a sharp jump in infections in the past few weeks, Health Minister Paulette Lenert said on Thursday, while also checking more closely whether nightlife venues - seen as the main source of contagion - stick to the rules.
The government on Thursday extended the bulk of the current health restrictions until 14 September, Lenert said, meaning people can gain access to bars and clubs with a CovidCheck certificate that shows they have full protection against the disease, for instance through vaccination.
But those who entered a venue after doing a rapid self-test on site will now need to leave by midnight, according to the new rules, with Lenert calling those tests "the weakest link" in the country's fight against Covid.
The decision to leave the current health restrictions in place largely unchanged comes despite a spike in infections, which authorities traced back to festivities in Luxembourg City on the eve of the 23 June National Day, when social distancing and Covid checks may have gone by the wayside.
"The risk was not theoretical and it has now materialised", Lenert said about the increase in cases. The health ministrie's weekly update showed 787 cases between in the past week compared to just 107 the week before, and that over 40% of new cases were recorded in age group 20-29. The situation in Luxembourg's hospitals remain stable, Lenert said.
Opposition lawmaker Martine Hansen from the Christian Democrats had called for tougher checks in response to clusters of more than 60 infections that were linked to certain establishments. Police will carry out more checks to enforce the rules and businesses that break the law can now be fined €6,000, or €12,000 for repeat offenders. Minister for Internal Security Henri Kox is set to hold a press conference on Friday detailing the police's new enforcement strategy.
Parliament is expected to vote on the new Covid law next week before the current rules expire on 15 July, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Kersch said, appearing at the press conference together with Lenert. Kersch was standing in for Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who was released from hospital on Thursday where he had spent four days battling Covid-19 himself.
If the pandemic worsens, the government may tighten the rules again before September, Kersch said.
For now, the government will allow citizens to organise private events using the CovidCheck system and more than 10 people can now gather at homes, Lenert said, adding that the government is relying on people's "common sense".
Meanwhile, the country's vaccination drive is still steaming ahead. More than 70% of Luxembourg's adult population have now received a first vaccine dose, which puts the Grand Duchy fifth in the EU, according to Lenert. All children aged 12 to 18 will also receive an invitation for a jab next week.
Luxembourg's top infectious disease body (CSMI) has approved mix and match vaccinations for people under 55 who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and can now get a top up of the Moderna or BioNtech-Pfizer serums.
The advisory body also recommended a third vaccine dose for people who have a suppressed immune response due to pre-conditions.