Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel, pictured, warned new restrictions were planned if infections remain high. Photo: Screengrab
Luxembourg could introduce new restrictions next week to limit the spread of coronavirus, if the infection rate remains high.
The government has drafted a bill with new restrictions, which could be voted into law on 23 November based on the evolution of infections over the coming days, prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) said in a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon.
New restrictions would target aspects of social life where existing measures such as social distancing and masks were not applied.
What’s in the text?
Bettel cited the Horesca sector, saying restaurants, bars and cafés would have to close again.
Moreover, the number of people allowed to interact with another household would be reduced from four to two.
Indoor club sports would also be targeted by potential new restrictions. Outside training in groups of four would still be possible as well as physical education in school and professional sports.
Cultural venues including cinemas and theatres would also have to close under the new bill, whereas exceptions would be made for venues where people circulate and masks are mandatory, such as museums or libraries.
If needed, schools would also have to adopt new measures, such as A/B schedules and distanced learning.
If approved by parliament, the restrictions would apply until 15 December 2020 and would also include an extension of the current 11pm curfew.
Financial support would be re-introduced to support businesses whose activities are impacted by the restrictions.
Why the change of tack?
Luxembourg introduced its last measures on 30 October, introducing a curfew and restricting gatherings to four people, among other things. Unlike neighbouring countries, it has not introduced a second or partial lockdown.
Tuesday’s announcement comes as the death toll reached 236, with ten additional covid-related deaths recorded on Sunday.
Bettel said that while hospital covid admissions remained manageable, “we’re in a delicate situation and there’s little margin” if the country wishes to maintain regular care for non-covid patients.
There was also considerable concern for elderly residents. According to health minister Paulette Lenert (LSAP), three quarters of the 91 covid-19 related deaths concerned people aged over 80 (from 25 October to 16 November).
ICU at 50% capacity
“We’re now in a stable situation with no exponential increase”, Bettel said, adding that infection numbers were high. The positivity rate (total rate relative to number of tests carried out) on Sunday was 5.67% and this rate has fluctuated between 5 and 7%, the prime minister said. Over the last week, the average daily rate was around 800 positive cases.
According to the prime minister, on Monday 16% of positive cases concerned people aged over 65, 10% those aged 65 to 79 and 6% affecting 80 to 94-year-olds. Of the 236 cases hospitalised on Monday, 48 were in intensive care (ICU). Bettel said hospital ICU beds were at 50% of capacity in phase 4 while normal care was at two thirds capacity. He added hospitals could increase capacity if needed but at the risk of impacting so-called regular care to non-covid patients.