More need booster shots as vaccine passes expire
Move means booster shot will soon be required for most daily activities, under new EU rule effective from Tuesday
Vaccine certificates of doubled-jabbed people will expire nine months after the second dose, under new EU rules which take effect on Tuesday, meaning a booster shot will soon be required for people in Luxembourg to maintain access to their workplace and other venues.
From now on, those who have not had a booster shot will be effectively considered as unvaccinated nine months after their second dose - or after their only dose of the one-shot Johnson&Johnson vaccine - under the bloc-wide rules. The move was agreed by EU countries in December, but its implementation was delayed until booster shots became widely available in the bloc. There is currently no expiry date to vaccine certificates issued following a booster shot, and the validity period of such certificates "has not been determined", Luxembourg's Ministry of Health said.
"[The new rule] reflects the waning protection of the vaccine and underscores how important the booster shot is", EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said.
Since mid-January, stricter Covid regulations have been in force in workplaces across Luxembourg, with employees required to show proof of a negative test, vaccination or recent recovery from the virus in order to enter. Failure to do so can result in staff having to take leave or losing pay, although they cannot be fired. The rules are even tougher for hospitality venues such as restaurants, bars and cinemas as well as for gyms where only those who have received a booster shot or recovered from Covid-19 recently can enter. Double vaccinated have to do a rapid self-test onsite if their last dose was more than six months ago.
The rule comes into force as the Grand Duchy has registered the highest number of daily infections in recent weeks since the pandemic began in March 2020. Over the weekend, there were 4,550 cases and four more deaths linked to Covid-19, the latest data from the health ministry showed.
Despite the spike in infections, vaccines have helped keep the number of people hospitalised at half of the peak hit during spring 2021 and intensive-care cases at a fraction of December 2020 figures. There are eight patients currently in intensive care, according to Monday's figures.
During the pandemic the most vulnerable patients were treated with antibody and antiviral drugs, Health Minister Paulette Lenert said in response to a parliamentary question on Monday. The antiviral medication Paxlovid is due to arrive in Luxembourg in the next few weeks, Lenert added. She also stated that the Ronapreve and Regkirona drugs have had no effect against the Omicron variant of the virus.
Omicron has led to disruptions in Luxembourg's schools, where one in ten teachers is in isolation after testing positive. Some bus services in the country also had to be scrapped due to staff becoming infected by the rapidly spreading variant. One in twenty Luxembourg residents - some 32,000 people - are currently positive with Covid-19, data on Monday showed.
On Tuesday, Denmark - which has a higher vaccination rate than Luxembourg - will be dropping all public health measures, after the government said it no longer considers Covid-19 a threat to society. In stark contrast, a general vaccine mandate will come into force in Austria on the same day.
The new EU rules will make travelling within the European Union more cumbersome for those boosted as some states will require additional tests and quarantines. As of 21 December, 807 million certificates had been issued across the EU and the bloc's digital certificate was used by 60 countries, the Commission said.
(Additional reporting by Kate Oglesby)