"Situation has improved" in care homes

Family minister Corinne Cahen, shown here during a 23 March press conference SIP/Jean-Christophe Verhaegen

Family minister Corinne Cahen, shown here during a 23 March press conference SIP/Jean-Christophe Verhaegen

After several tense months, the country's care homes now have only two clusters. What’s more, external providers of these establishments will now be able to be vaccinated. 

At the beginning of April, 53 clusters had been identified since the start of the pandemic, with 1,660 residents positive for covid-19 in care structures in the country. 

What’s the situation today? "There remain two clusters, one in Schifflange and one in Pescatore, with 3 and 11 relatively asymptomatic positive cases, [respectively]," family and integration minister Corinne Cahen (DP) said. "Yesterday [Wednesday, 14 April], there were only 17 residents of nursing homes positive for covid-19. The situation has improved a lot, we are really seeing the effects of the vaccination."

And since Thursday 15 April, all visitors to nursing homes must perform two self-tests per week upon arrival to a site, until 15 May. “If they don't want to self-test, they can request a code from the nursing home to do a PCR test as part of large-scale testing. It is now necessary to present a negative PCR test of less than 48 hours to be able to visit a resident," the minister added. 

The need for self-tests, used by nursing homes and provided by the government, is estimated at 60,000 of them per week. 

Subcontracted staff will be vaccinated

External providers of these establishments can now also be vaccinated. “Priority at the start of the vaccination phase was given to vulnerable people, because the vaccine stock was not yet what it is today. Now that the residents of nursing homes have all had access to vaccination, external staff such as chiropodists or hairdressers can be vaccinated,” the minister added.

It’s a request that had been made on several occasions by Marc Fischbach, president of Copas (the confederation comprising almost all care homes in Luxembourg), as he explained at the beginning of the month to Delano’s sister outfit, Paperjam: “The salaried administrative staff have been called upon to get vaccinated, while contracted staff, who are in daily contact with residents, have been excluded. "

"Sad spectacle in the Chamber of Deputies"

The High Commission for National Protection (HCPN) is currently working on how this vaccination can be rolled out, to identify the subcontracting staff and convene them, all in compliance with GDPR. 

“Our employees had been vaccinated on sites, but will we be able to organise the vaccination of external personnel in the same way?” inquired a spokesperson for the Servior group (which manages 15 establishments: eight integrated centers, six care homes and a senior residence). The spokesperson added that no official circular had yet been communicated to them.

The tense situation in nursing homes prompted the opposition to demand the resignation of Corinne Cahen on 1 April. "It was a sad spectacle in the Chamber of Deputies," the minister explained. "This is proof of a political game, everyone is doing their best in this health crisis, and the CIPA ‘Um Lauterbann’ in Niederkorn was not the only cluster, but it is located in the commune of Käerjeng, of which deputy Michel Wolter (CSV) is the mayor.

“Of course we can always do better, the situation is obviously not perfect, but when there was the lockdown, we were criticised for isolating the elderly, and then we were told that the situation was horrible, because there were deaths from covid-19. The situation is very complicated, we are trying to find a balance between personal freedoms and dealing with a virulent virus. Nursing homes are not prisons, and completely depriving the elderly of contacts and visits over long months is cruel. It would not have been a good solution, they would have suffered a lot mentally."

This article was originally published in French on Paperjam and has been translated and edited for Delano.