The number of people in Luxembourg who have died as a result of covid-19 crossed the threshold of 500 over the public holiday weekend. On Sunday, the health ministry announced three more deaths bringing the toll to 506. In total, 125 people were being treated in Luxembourg’s hospitals, of which 30 were in intensive care. Read our rolling coverage here.
The health ministry also announced on Saturday that the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant of the virus has also been found among tests conducted in the grand duchy in the second half of December 2020. The variant is considered 70% more contagious than the original strain. To avoid the strain spreading to Luxembourg, Luxembourg’s government had limited flights to and from the UK, where it had been identified earlier in December.
Luxembourg remains subject to measures introduced at the end of 2020, which include a 9pm curfew, remote learning for students and pupils and the closure of bars, restaurants, and non-essential shops until 10 January.
According to RTL, On Saturday, a group of protestors gathered in the capital’s Kinnekswiss park to demonstrate against the restrictive measures.
France’s Grand Est region, which borders Luxembourg, introduced a curfew from Saturday from 6pm to 6am as part of measures to curb the virus’ spread. Belgium, meanwhile, has strengthened border controls to check people staying in so-called red zones for 48 hours respect the quarantine period. They will check that vehicles entering the country have completed a passenger locator form.
2020 was the warmest year on record with average temperatures of 10.9°C, Luxembourg’s agricultural weather service has reported. It was also one of the driest years—from 22 March to 27 April, most of the country did not see a single drop of rain. Delano reporting.
The start of 2021 heralds changes in Luxembourg that will impact people’s wallets. Delano lists a summary of five key changes here.
Princess Tessy engagement
Tessy Antony, the former wife of Luxembourg’s Prince Louis, has announced she is engaged to Swiss businessman Frank Floessel via a post on Instagram. Tessy and Louis officially divorced in 2020. They have two children together. Mail Online.
Grand Ducal couple in Biarritz
Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel has defended Grand Duke Henri’s decision to spend lockdown in Biarritz. The Grand Duke reportedly signed the latest coronavirus measures from his holiday home in the French seaside resort where he was staying with the Grand Duchess. Bettel said that it was the Grand Duke’s right to choose. Delano reporting.
Luxembourg carrier Luxair is poised to expand into Montenegro in February, offering year-round operations to Podgorica and summer seasonal flights to Tivat. Starting 12 February, the airline is expected to offer two weekly flights to Podgorica. EXYU-Aviation News
The world’s most-famous cryptocurrency began the new year trading at over $30,000 on Saturday. It rose over 300% in 2020, and 50% in the past weeks. Founded 12 years ago, it has been seen as a safe-haven play during the pandemic, with large US investors attracted by its inflation-hedging properties. As per Reuters and The Guardian.
US election results
Audio excerpts of a phone call between President Trump and Georgia’s Republican secretary of state Brad Raffensperger show the president demanding he “find” him 11,780 more votes to overturn the presidential election and vaguely threatening him with a “criminal offence”, the New York Times reports. Raffensperger did not capitulate.
Meanwhile, four Republican senators on Sunday joined a bipartisan movement asking Congress to certify the presidential election win of Joe Biden. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Bill Cassidy and Mitt Romney co-signed the statement with Democrat senators Joe Manchin, Mark Warner, Jeanne Shaheen, Maggie Hassan and Dick Durban and Augus King, an independent, according to Reuters.
Nancy Pelosi scraped re-election as speaker of the US House of Representatives on Sunday. The House voted 216-209 to reinstate Pelosi, after Democrats lost 11 seats in the November elections to command a narrower 222-212 majority. The Senate remains Republican, as reported by Reuters.
Iran uranium enrichment
Iran has announced it plans to increase uranium enrichment up to 20% purity, just short of weapons-grade levels. The announcement, which was confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, comes a year after the US drone strike which killed Iranian general Qassem Suleimani. Iran’s foreign minister last week accused the US of trying to set up a pretext for war, prompting a withdrawal of aircraft carrier Nimitz in the region. As per The Guardian.
Gerry Marsden, the frontman of 1960s Merseybeat band Gerry and the Pacemakers, died on Sunday aged 78. The band’s hits included “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Ferry Across the Mersey”. According to his family, he died of a short illness unconnected with covid-19. Read The Guardian’s obituary here.
Brian Urquhart, a British diplomat and former under-secretary general of the United Nations, died on Saturday, aged 101. No James Bond, the New York Times (paywall) described him as “Resourceful, irreverent, unflappable, Mr. Urquhart blended the qualities of a globe-trotting adventurer and a determined international civil servant.”
Today’s breakfast briefing was written by Jess Bauldry.