12 March photo shows Luxembourg health minister Paulette Lenert with prime minister Xavier Bettel
Photo: Romain Gamba/archives
Luxembourg is expecting to roll out national testing for immunity in a cross section of the public, the health minister announced on Friday.
In a televised press conference health minister Paulette Lenert (LSAP) said that Luxembourg was trying to be among the first countries to test a national cross section “to see who has immunity.” Further information on these blood tests is expected next week. Lenert said the new generation of blood tests would give a clearer overview of the situation within the country.
By Friday, some 1,605 people had tested positive for the coronavirus in Luxembourg out of a total of 13,738 people tested. Of those who tested positive, 54% were men and the average age was 46.
Lenert said: “We’re the country with the highest testing [proportionally] in the world. We continue in this direction.”
Currently the focus is to test only the most vulnerable patients showing symptoms, in order to ensure the current stock of testing kits lasts longer.
On Friday, Lenert and prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) also announced a further six people had died in the country since Thursday, bringing the total death toll to 15.
“One of these people was a patient in Luxembourg as a result of the agreement with France, a patient from Mulhouse,” an emotional Bettel explained.
Expanding on detail of the cases, Lenert said that the average age of those who have died was 80, while the youngest fataility was 53. “This was a vulnerable person and it shows this virus doesn’t only affect elderly people,” the minister said.
Of the people who have tested positive, 148 are in hospital of whom 25 are in intensive care units. In a more upbeat tone, Lenert said that 40 patients have now recovered from the illness. In Luxembourg patients must wait 15 days until after testing positive to be fully cleared. The minister expected a much large number of recoveries in the coming weeks.
The government’s appeal for people with sewing skills to hand make masks as a last resort has been successful. Lenert said that although orders for such equipment have been placed, the country was facing a shortage. These masks would be used in case of need. The minister stressed that wearing a home-made mask did not offer complete protection. “It’s not going to stop the virus 100%,” she said, adding “You should not think that a homemade mask means ‘I’m safe and can stop social distancing’. It’s very important. This physical distancing is the only thing. It’s really essential.”
A large number of volunteers who registered on govjobs.lu have been helping to unload essential equipment from a 7am delivery in Luxembourg. “I’m sure we will have more volunteers,” Lenert said.
The first scanner is expected to be operational in Ettelbruck on 3 April. The other three will be rolled out at the country’s three other hospitals later.
When will confinement end?
Lenert could not give a date for when the confinement measures would be relaxed. She said that a team was working on a new monitoring system to be ready for next week.