POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Restaurants stay closed as shops and schools can reopen



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The new measures decided on Tuesday will be voted into law at the end of the week and enter into force on Monday 11 January. Photo: SIP/Jean-Christophe Verhaegen 

Non-essential shops, cultural venues and schools across the grand duchy will be able to reopen next week, whereas the closure of the hospitality sector will be extended until 31 January. 

As the restrictions that came into force on 26 December and until 10 January come to an end this weekend, prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) and health minister Paulette Lenert (LSAP), during a press conference on Tuesday, gave details on the updated measures and restrictions in place as of next week.  

Bettel opened the briefing stating that the measures currently in place had been successful as the numbers had gone down significantly in the past days, with almost 50% fewer hospitalisations in regular care, the PM said.  

However, although numbers of covid-19 patients have gone down, there has been a noticeable increase in patients suffering from mental health problems Bettel said, after visiting hospitals across the grand duchy last week and talking to medical staff. 

Schools, cultural venues and non-essential shops to reopen

To enable pupils a return to normalcy and avoid detrimental effects on their mental health, schools and day care facilities across the country will reopen as of Monday 11 January, the PM announced on Tuesday.

Some of the restrictions in the sports sector will also be lifted or altered. Sports minister Dan Kersch (LSAP) is supposed to give details in this regard during a press conference on Thursday. 

The existing curfew between 9pm and 6am will be pushed back to start at 11pm again.

As of next week, cultural venues, such as theatres, cinemas and the like will also be allowed to open their doors to the public again, but masks have to be worn at all times. 

Similarly, all non-essential shops, including hairdressers and the like will be able to reopen. However, they will have to adhere to stricter rules, only allowing one customer per ten square metres at all times.

“We need to find measures that allow for an equilibrium between economy and health and that is what we are trying to do with these restrictions,” health minister Lenert explained. 

Speaking to Delano earlier on Tuesday, Claude Bizjak, assistant director of the CLC, Luxembourg’s retail confederation said, with regards to the reopening of non-essential shop: “That’s definitely one of the demands we had from the start, to avoid closures, because shops weren’t identified as part of the problem. At the end of the day it’s been a black year for retailers and we must let them work. We have to make sure we keep at least part of the eco system of retail after the crisis.”

A kick in the teeth for the hospitality sector

Whereas the easing of some of the restrictions should come as a relief to shop owners and those of the cultural sector, it is yet another kick in the teeth for the hospitality sector, as the PM, during the press conference also specified that the closure of restaurants, bars and cafés until 15 January, would be extended until 31 January. 

Additionally Bettel announced that the alcohol ban in public spaces as well as the maximum of two guests from the same household would also remain in place until the end of the month. 

“Some measures will be tightened whereas others will be eased as we have gained more knowledge regarding what is most effective and what is not,” Lenert explained, adding that government, in general, is not considering this as a relaxing of restrictions because even if shops and other venues are allowed to reopen, the guidelines they will have to adhere to will be stricter. 

The Health Commission is reviewing the text on Tuesday afternoon before the State Council will take a look at it on Wednesday. The Chamber will then come together at the end of the week, or even during the weekend if necessary, to vote on the bill.