Prime minister Xavier Bettel and health minister Paulette Lenert were in sombre mood at a press conference late on Sunday evening following a two-hour extraordinary meeting of cabinet.
Bettel announced several new measures that will tighten social distancing and hygiene regulations and said the government would launch a a new campaign targeting especially vulnerable social groups. The main change will be that people will only be allowed to invite a maximum of 10 people into their home. New sanctions of fines up to €500 will also be imposed on those people who should be self-quarantining who leave their home.
Bettel said that the police will also intensify checks on businesses, especially cafés, and that fines of up to €8,000 and possible closure for 3 months can be imposed for those that break social distancing regulations for a second time.
Lex Delles, the medium- and small-enterprises minister will also tell businesses that if they don’t comply to new rules they will be fined and can risk losing state aid.
Lenert said that awareness campaign will stress that even in small groups, social distancing must be maintained.
Lenert added that a situation that would require thousands of people to be self-isolating was not viable. She stressed that people should respect social distancing, and that new rules introduced on Wednesday that meant customers, as well as bar and restaurant owners, can face fines if they break rules such as not wearing a mask or not sitting at tables were justifiable given the rise in infection numbers.
The extraordinary meeting of cabinet had been called following a week in which the grand duchy had been placed on at risk notifications by Germany and on an amber alert warning from Belgium. Luxembourg’s covid-19 infection rate had been steadily rising and both a scientific report by the University of Luxembourg and, later, Paulette Lenert concluded that the grand duchy was undergoing a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Bettel had travelled directly from Brussels, where he had spent the better part of three days discussing the terms of the EU’s proposed economic recovery package with other EU leaders, to chair the cabinet meeting. Those meetings have so far yielded no agreement and the prime minister was scheduled to return to the Belgian capital later on Sunday night in the hopes that a breakthrough might be achieved, if not on Sunday then on Monday morning. In his absence, Belgian prime minister Sophie Wilmes had represented the grand duchy.