Terraces will be allowed to reopen on 7 April unless infection numbers rise significantly until then. Photo: Romain Gamba
Luxembourg will allow restaurants, bars and cafés to reopen terraces starting 7 April provided that there is no exponential increase in infection numbers until then.
“The aim is to take a first step,” said prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) during a press conference on Wednesday, adding, however, that there shouldn’t be a false sense of security.
Infection numbers remain high, he said. “We've reached the conclusion that we don't have a big margin or possibility to make a big opening with new measures.”
The bulk of virus restrictions will remain in place, including the curfew and limitations on private and public gatherings.
Terraces will be allowed to open from 6am to 6pm only, with two people allowed to sit at the same table. Bigger groups are only allowed if they live in the same household. Food and drink can only be consumed while seated.
Restaurants, bars or cafés that cannot reopen because they don’t have a terrace or for whom reopening wouldn’t be profitable will continue benefitting from partial unemployment or other support measures, Bettel said.
The government reserves the right, should infection numbers rise exponentially in the coming weeks, to withdraw the opening of terraces at short-notice and maintain the status quo, says Bettel.
The new measures must be voted into force by members of parliament by 2 April and will be valid until 25 April.
The government will debate with MPs a way to register clients’ contact details to allow tracing of people who sat near each other, said Bettel.
Restrictions for family gatherings won’t be loosened over Easter, he said. Opening terraces could be a way to have people meet in a more controlled environment rather than getting together for private gatherings where they do not follow any measures, Bettel said.
The seven-day infection rate is at around 250 per 100,000 inhabitants, Luxembourg’s chief medical officer Jean-Claude Schmit said during the press conference. “We need to look the numbers straight in the eye,” adding that numbers are rising but not exponentially.
The number of patients in hospital is relatively stable, with intensive care units at around 20% capacity.
"The main factor of contamination remains the family," Schmit said, although infections have also been rising in workplace settings.
Bettel also reacted to a survey published this week, which said 80% of people in Luxembourg trust the government's management of the pandemic. “I don’t want to disappoint them,” Bettel said. “I know how difficult every measure taken by us is.”
New vaccination centres are meanwhile being planned. These would allow Luxembourg to administer 95,000 vaccine doses per week if enough material is delivered.
More than 75% of people aged 70 or over who have been invited to get vaccinated so far have heeded the call, Bettel said, thanking everyone who is getting the vaccine. “The only right way out of the crisis is vaccinations," the premier said. "It's an act of responsibility and it's really an act of solidarity."
The fourth phase of the vaccination strategy--aimed at people aged 65 or over--should kick off in the coming one or two weeks, Bettel said.