Green tents have been set up in the car park of the P+R in Howald. They opened to patients on Friday 14 January at the same time as other similar tents in Kirchberg, Fridhaff, Junglinster and Raemerich. These are the centres where employees who have been vaccinated for the first time can use their 20 vouchers for free antigenic tests as CovidCheck in companies was introduced on Saturday 15 January.
Mamady was one of the first to arrive. “I didn't want to be vaccinated for personal reasons. I took my first dose a week ago so that I wouldn't have to pay 22 euros a day for a month and a half,” she explains, feeling that she was forced into getting the vaccination. The 20 vouchers will be more than enough for her: “I have calculated on the calendar, I have nine antigen tests to do until the second dose.”
After filling in a paper at the reception desk, Mamady takes the test herself, under the supervision of Luxembourg army staff. Then she keeps her ticket and moves to the waiting room. After 15 minutes, a screen tells her that she can go to the “validator”--also army personnel--to collect her stamped covid test certificate. 200 troops have been mobilised for testing at the five sites until 28 February. They are working 7-hour shifts with 13 people per test centre, or 7 at weekends and when there is less demand.
Self-testing under army surveillance
Army staff underwent a 4-hour training course between 10 and 13 January, provided by external consultants. “We only do the monitoring. We have to see if the patient puts the cotton swab in both nostrils, deep enough, turns the swab enough times, puts the solution and turns the swab in, puts at least two drops on the cassette,” said Captain David Wickler, operational logistics officer.
On the first day demand was “still moderate”, Wickler said. 146 appointments were made at the five sites. The Raemerich site, which was to receive the first 68 patients, was the most crowded. In Howald, 34 were expected between 4pm and 8pm. “Until next Friday [21 January], we have 2,617 people registered at the moment.”
A capacity of 10,000 tests per working day
12 people can be tested simultaneously at one site every 5 minutes. Over a 14-hour day, this corresponds to a testing capacity of 10,000 people per day at all the centres. They are open Monday to Thursday from 6am to 8pm, Friday from 6am to 1pm, then 4pm to 8pm, Saturday from 6am to 10am, then 4pm to 8pm, and Sunday from 6am to 10am, then 1pm to 8pm.
Appointments can only be made one day in advance, for organisational reasons. To the great displeasure of three people who arrived spontaneously at the reception desk between 4 and 5 pm on the first day in Howald, thinking they could be tested, and left empty-handed.
This is not the case for Louise, a baker. She waits patiently for the result of her test, sitting on a khaki plastic chair: “I did my first dose on 1 December and I'm doing the second on Tuesday. We were forced.” she said. “But the system set up for testing is very good, it took me less than four minutes to make an appointment.”
Patrick says CovidCheck also forced him to get vaccinated. His company was already implementing the scheme before 15 January, but the reduction in the validity of the tests made it more complicated for the emergency services employee to organise the testing. Both will soon receive their second dose and will not need to use their 20 vouchers.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.