Vaccine waiting lists for all to open on Saturday
By Yannick Hansen and John Monaghan
All Luxembourg residents aged 18 or older can sign up to receive an AstraZeneca or Johnson&Johnson vaccine from Saturday morning, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said on Friday, as the country plans a massive easing of the social distancing regime meant to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Volunteers on the two separate waiting lists for either vaccine can receive a jab ahead of their regular slot in the national roll-out which is slowly working its way down age groups where it has reached birthyears in the 1980s.
A recently introduced vaccination passport enables people deemed immune against the disease to gain access to bars and restaurants - and the waiting list would enable younger people to join that group sooner.
The AstraZeneca and Johnson&Johnson jabs had previously been restricted to use in people older than 30 years in Luxembourg, but the country's top infectious disease body CSMI recently adopted a recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to allow both vaccinations for all adults.
The CSMI also approved the Pfizer-BioNtech jab in Luxembourg for children from the age of 12, Health Minister Paulette Lenert said at a joint press conference with Bettel. People who have recovered from Covid-19 will only need one vaccine dose to be considered fully vaccinated, Lenert said.
The government also announced changes to Luxembourg's large-scale testing scheme, which was due to end on 15 July. From 20 June, every Luxembourg resident can sign up for a free test. Invitations are no longer needed and people can get as many tests as they want, Bettel said.
"We know there will be more freedom because of the CovidCheck [certificate]," Bettel said, explaining the reason behind the decision to offer the free tests.
Groups such as the FEDIL industry lobby and trade unions OGBL and CGFP had called for their workers to be able to skip the vaccine queue but the government had decided not to prioritise professionals who come into frequent contact with other people, after the advice of the country's top ethics commission.
Assuming an optimistic scenario, all adults will receive a call for a vaccine before 15 July Bettel said. But a steady supply was crucial.
Vaccine manufacturer Johnson&Johnson cut its expected deliveries to Luxembourg by almost 80%, shipping just 12,000 doses until the end of June, Bettel said. In a less rosy scenario, everybody will have received an invitation for a vaccination by the end of July.
Both ministers struck an upbeat tone about the development of the disease, pointing out that only one patient was left in intensive care in Luxembourg.
Luxembourg is set to implement a major easing of Covid-19 restrictions on Sunday, pending a vote in the country’s parliament on Saturday. If approved as expected, the changes to the current measures will mean that residents will no longer be subjected to an overnight curfew, for the first time this year.
The new laws, which will also allow restaurant and bar owners to stay open beyond 2200 hrs and up to four diners sitting together indoors without having to be tested, are set to remain in place for a month up until mid-July.
Some of the current measures are due to remain unchanged, such as the requirement to wear a mask on public transport and in shops.
Gatherings of up to 300 people who wear masks and stay apart from others would also be permitted once again.