POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Opposition calls for Cahen to resign over care home deaths



397518.jpg

Family minister Corinne Cahen is under pressure over the number of infections and deaths in care homes. Photo: SIP / Jean-Christophe Verhaegen 

Luxembourg’s opposition parties on Thursday called for family minister Corinne Cahen (DP) to resign, saying she had failed to develop a strategy to contain coronavirus outbreaks in retirement homes, leading to a large number of clusters and deaths. 

Earlier on Thursday, the family ministry had revealed that there have been 53 clusters in the country’s retirement homes since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, with 1,660 residents tested positive.

A cluster includes at least five infections within the span of two weeks in one location, but went up to 101 cases in one facility, the ministry said in answer to a parliamentary question.

In 40 facilities, there were at least two deaths linked to Sars-CoV-2. In total, 328 retirement home residents died after becoming infected with the coronavirus, according to the latest data, which ends the week of 21 March.

Opposition parties on Thursday said the family ministry had failed to provide appropriate strategies to prevent the outbreaks to care homes, which were left to make their own rules, for example for external visits, depending on the status of infections.

They also said there was insufficient personal protective material for staff in some of the facilities, no strategy to deploy rapid antigen tests for staff and visitors, and a general lack of transparency and communication from the ministry.

The motion of no confidence failed, however, as the majority parties in government--the DP, LSAP and déi Gréng--refused to back it.

They did, however, back an independent inquiry into care home deaths although the coalition parties could not agree with the opposition parties--the CSV, ADR, déi Lénk and the Pirate Party--over the wording of the document adopted.

The coalition parties agreed to a scientific analysis but not an external audit of safety measures taken by individual homes and the creation of a steering committee including members of parliament to oversee the investigation.

The opposition accused the DP of protecting its minister. The government parties said the opposition was exploiting the situation to stir up sentiment against the coalition.

Cahen defended herself in parliament, saying that it had been a deliberate choice not to make the clusters public in order to protect staff, residents and families. Retirement home residents have been vaccinated, she said, although there is currently still a cluster outbreak in one facility in Luxembourg City with 20 cases.