Government tightens CovidCheck as vaccinations stagnate

The CovidCheck system is being extended across the hospitality sector and in companies Photo: Matic Zorman / Maison Moderne

The CovidCheck system is being extended across the hospitality sector and in companies Photo: Matic Zorman / Maison Moderne

Luxembourg is tightening its CovidCheck system, making it mandatory in the entire hospitality sector and scrapping the option to take a rapid antigen test on site.

Prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) and health minister Paulette Lenert (LSAP) on Friday presented the next set of covid-19 laws, with the current rules set to expire mid-month.

“Our vaccination numbers are stagnating,” Bettel said. “We have repeated over the past weeks how important it is for every individual but also for the country as a whole to have a high vaccination rate.”

Around 73.8% of people aged 12 or over are fully vaccinated, the premier said. More than three quarters (76.9%) have received at least one dose. However, this is far from a rate of 80–85%, which Bettel said would be needed to loosen restrictions in the country.

As a result, Luxembourg will make it more difficult for people who aren’t vaccinated to take part in social life. “We have reached a point where the government cannot simply watch,” Bettel said.

From 1 November, CovidCheck will apply for all restaurants, cafés, bars or event venues. Up until now, restaurants were able to forego CovidCheck if they limited tables to four guests.

At the same time, the government is scrapping the option to take a self-test at a venue. Only certified rapid antigen tests, taken at a pharmacy for example, will be valid in addition to PCR tests. The system will apply to people aged 12 or over.

Children under the age of 12, who cannot get vaccinated, are exempt and self-tests carried out in schools will remain valid for the CovidCheck system, the premier said. People who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons will receive vouchers for PCR tests.

“We don’t have a choice,” Bettel said of the tigher rules. “We cannot afford the healthcare system to become overwhelmed.”

CovidCheck at work

Employers, too, will be able to introduce CovidCheck in their companies but it will be up to businesses to set the rules. For example, the system could be introduced to access the office or only to take part in meetings. It will also be up to businesses to introduce disciplinary measures for people refusing to present a valid vaccination, test or recovery certificate depending on internal rules.

Events of up to 2,000 people meanwhile will be able to operate under the CovidCheck system without any additional measures. Up until now, any event with more than 300 guests required an additional health and safety concept agreed with the ministry of health.

And the government is working on accepting vaccine certificates from third-countries, which administered vaccines approved by the World Health Organization but not the European Medicines Agency, such as China’s Sinopharm formula.

“It’s obvious that the only thing to help us out of the crisis is a high vaccination rate,” Lenert said. “There aren’t many alternatives at the moment.”

The new rules must be validated by parliament before coming until force until 18 December. The prime minister said pandemic restrictions could be revisited before then should the vaccination rate increase, allowing for measures to be lifted.

But he also issued a stern warning to those who trivialise the pandemic. “I know what it means. I was in hospital for five days,” Bettel said. The premier had tested positive for the coronavirus after receiving his first vaccination dose in June. “I don’t want to know what would have happened if I hadn’t been.”