POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Virus restrictions extended until end of year



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There were just under 1,000 active virus infections in Luxembourg as of Tuesday Photo credit: Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne 

The covid-19 laws were first introduced in June after the country’s state of emergency ended, requiring parliament to agree to measures proposed by the government to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.

Under the new rules, the number of days that people diagnosed with coronavirus have to spend in isolation is lowered to ten, from 14 previously.

Anyone traced to a person infected with the virus and placed in quarantine can now get tested on the sixth day after they were in contact with the virus. In the last version of the law, the test was already possible after five days, but scientists have since found that test results are less accurate towards the beginning of an infection.

People violating isolation and quarantine rules can be fined up to €500.

The wearing of a mask in public places--such as on public transport or in shops--remains mandatory, but the new law also clarifies that a plastic face shield is not a nose and mouth covering.

With around a third of new virus cases last week diagnosed among holidaygoers, the government now obliges airlines to transmit passenger data to health authorities for contact tracing. The data is anonymised after two weeks.

Threats against lawmaker

Mars Di Bartolomeo (LSAP)--who chairs the parliamentary health committee--said the full impact of the holiday season on the spread of the virus was not yet known. “Let’s stay united against the virus,” the MP said, urging the public to continue sticking to the anti-virus rules.

He also revealed that he had received threats against himself and members of his family in reaction to the restrictions imposed by parliament. Nearly seven months after the first virus case was reported in Luxembourg, Di Bartolomeo thanked everyone doing their bit to contain the virus for their “patience, understanding and solidarity.”

The fourth covid-19 law passed with a narrow majority only, as the CSV abstained while the ADR opposed the law. Claude Wiseler (CSV) said his party agreed with most of the measures but criticised the government for being incoherent.

The education ministry this week revealed that teachers who had been ordered to quarantine at home had been issued a waiver to go to work while waiting for a test despite the risk of spreading the virus to colleagues and pupils. The teachers were ordered to wear a mask, which is normally not mandatory in the classroom.

Planning ahead

Wiseler also urged the government to lay out plans for the winter. Even though the new laws will be effective until the end of the year, Wiseler said contingency plans should be at the ready as more countries are re-introducing stricter virus measures.

The UK this week ordered pubs to close at 10pm, banning indoor team sports and ordering people to work from home after previously encouraging companies to bring workers back into the office.

Bavaria--which has been fighting rising virus cases--this week paved the way for communes to impose nighttime curfews after previously allowing them to suspend alcohol sales. Spain introduced localised lockdowns on Monday 21 September.

Luxembourg’s rules limiting gatherings to ten people, ordering bars and restaurants to shut at midnight and offer table service only remain in place under the new rules.

Health minister Paulette Lenert (LSAP) in parliament said that 102 businesses so far had been fined for violating virus rules so far, including 22 repeat offenders. The latter face fines of up to €8,000 and risk losing their licence. The majority of violations were found in the hospitality sector, Lenert said.

Active infections in Luxembourg neared 1,000 cases at the start of this week, with the reproductive rate of the virus at 1.44. This means that each infected person passes the virus to more than one other person. A reproductive rate of more than 1 is considered dangerous as it means the virus spreads exponentially.