Currently, the wearing of mouth and nose coverings in public places where you come within two metres of another person not from the same household (excluding on public transport) was a recommendation.
At a press conference on Wednesday, health minister Paulette Lenert (LSAP) and prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) said the government was working on a new law to this effect. The minister did not rule out fines and other punishments.
The change is prompted by an uptick in infection rates in the grand duchy, a trend which the two ministers credit to private gatherings.
“The biggest cluster was a party where 24 people were infected,” Bettel told press. Lenert added: “In a company there were 10 infections but everything was retraced to a private party where they became infected […] Because in private people are not taking the same precautions they did previously.”
In schools, they said the cases were mostly isolated with the exception of four cases at the Lycée Aline Mayrisch.
Bettel appealed to the public to keep a physical distance from people not from their household and adopt other protective measures. A further awareness campaign on that matter is expected over the summer.
“We don’t want our efforts for the last weeks and months to be for nothing. The figures are normal but we must absolutely avoid having a situation which degenerates in the coming weeks,” Bettel said
“The ball is in your court to remain alert so that everything can remain manageable,” Lenert added.
Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel is pictured during a press conference on 1 July 2020. Photo: Screengrab.
Bettel and Lenert said the government stood by its decision to resort to manual contract tracing and staff were being trained to deal with an increase in workload.
In the week of 22-28 June, 146 new infections were recorded in Luxembourg, up from 54 the week before. The average age of newly infected people was in the thirties.
Of the 146 cases, contact tracers helped identify 1,033 people who could possibly have been infected through contact. “It shows just how fast it can go,” Lenert said. “What’s difficult for us is if they don’t know who they were with.”
The two continued to rule out using a contact tracing app, unless a European solution was brought forward.
Thusfar, Luxembourg has offered regular testing to frontline health workers and priority testing for school staff and learners. A quarter of those invited to get tested for coronavirus took advantage of the scheme. A free testing programme continues to run at Lux Airport for incoming passengers. The Convince study, testing a sample of the population, will meanwhile continue. A second phase of testing is expected to be deployed from the end of August, to monitor transmission during school holidays.
A further statement on the operations of crèches is expected from health minister Claude Meisch (DP) next week.