Laboratory sues government over covid testing scheme

A largel-scale testing station in Howald Photo: Paperjam

A largel-scale testing station in Howald Photo: Paperjam

Bionext laboratories is taking the Luxembourg government to court over what is claims is unfair competition in the large-scale testing programme.

The laboratory already threatened legal action in June when the government turned the large-scale testing (LST) programme into an on-demand service.

It now said the government didn’t comply with rules on calls for tender, granting emergency authorisation to Laboratoires Réunis for the first LST phase and then making it mandatory for competitors to use the Fast Tracks Diagnostics test kit to be eligible.

Only Laboratoires Réunis used compatible technology, with Bionext and another laboratory, Ketterthill, excluded from the second phase for relying on other testing material. Bionext CEO Jean-Luc Dourson on Thursday said the laboratory doesn’t question the scheme or free testing but objects to the government giving monopoly to one provider.

A third testing phase also didn’t follow proper procedures, Bionext said, after switching to a new testing system ahead of the summer when the government introduced the CovidCheck, which requires people to prove they have been vaccinated or tested negative, for example, when travelling or to gain access to nightclubs or other venues.

The change in strategy--meaning people no longer needed an invitation but could simply request a test--no longer matched the contract initially awarded, the laboratory said, arguing that there was no legal basis for the government to make these changes.

The government in July said that a national committee managing public calls for tender had approved the reorientation of the testing scheme.

Luxembourg has spent more than €150m on the large-scale testing programme with the aim to regularly test large parts of the country’s population in a bid to diagnose and isolate asymptomatic cases in particular.

Bionext is now claiming damages with a first court date set for 12 October. It is also planning on filing a complaint with the European Commission for the EU’s executive to investigate whether the contracts signed with Laboratoires Réunis constitute illegal state aid.