Bettel received death threats over CovidCheck

Prime minister Xavier Bettel, pictured during his state of the nation address on 12 October Photo: Romain Gamba / Maison Moderne

Prime minister Xavier Bettel, pictured during his state of the nation address on 12 October Photo: Romain Gamba / Maison Moderne

Prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) said he had received death threats in the wake of proposals to tighten the CovidCheck regime in Luxembourg, speaking in parliament on Thursday.

Bettel last week said Luxembourg would introduce the CovidCheck system across the hospitality sector, scrapping current rules allowing restaurants to operate without the certificates if they seat fewer than four people per table indoors and follow distancing and mask obligations.

“If I receive death threats and have to reinforce police because someone tells me they would kill me or are looking for a bullet and a weapon… I’m telling you the most disagreeable of the things I have received the last days,” Bettel told lawmakers.

Under the proposals, the option to carry out self-tests on site at a venue will also be scrapped, meaning only a vaccination certificate, PCR test or certified rapid antigen tests will be valid.

At the same time, the government has stopped the large-scale testing programme, meaning unvaccinated people will have to pay out of pocket to get their hands on a CovidCheck certificate. People who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons will receive free PCR test vouchers. A certificate will be required for people aged 12 or over as there is no vaccine currently authorised in the EU for children under that age.

“What we proposed last week is no pleasure,” Bettel said. “I’m convinced that many of you received messages over the last days that don’t wish us good things. If we talk of freedom--I am for freedom, but you must watch your tone.”

Luxembourg’s vaccination rate has stagnated and many social activities will become more difficult for those who are unvaccinated to participate in under the draft law. A petition against mandatory vaccination has reached more than 10,000 signatures. Critics of the CovidCheck system say it is implicitly forcing people to get the jab.

The proposed laws allow employers to make a valid certificate mandatory at the workplace. Violations could be sanctioned under labour law rules.

Bettel on Thursday said the CovidCheck system was not the same as mandatory vaccination, adding that everyone can get inoculated for free and has the option to get tested.

Several members of parliament during Thursday’s plenary said they had received complaints by their constituents about the proposal. “All of these opinions are all taken seriously,” said Yves Cruchten (LSAP), “even if at the end of the day we deputies have to strike a balance and take our decision when we push the button to vote on the law.”

Labour unions, Luxembourg’s national data protection commission (CNPD) and other organisations have criticised plans for CovidCheck in the workplace. The state council, a body that reviews all laws for their compatibility with the constitution and other pieces of legislation, on Wednesday said the government was shirking its responsibility by leaving it up to employers to implement the scheme, also potentially leaving them open to legal challenges by staff.