TUESDAY 24 MAY
Although no cases have been detected in Luxembourg so far, the health ministry on Monday warned that people who experience symptoms of monkeypox should contact the CHL’s infectious diseases department and abstain from all sexual activity and other close contact until an infection can be ruled out.
Symptoms include headache, skin rash, fever, body aches, chills, swollen lymph nodes, and exhaustion. The time from infection to the onset of symptoms, which is referred to as the incubation period, can range from five to 21 days.
A leading adviser to the World Health Organization told the Associated Press that the unprecedented outbreak of the rare disease in Europe was “a random event” that might be explained by risky sexual behaviour at two recent mass events held in Spain and Belgium.
The European Commission has put out its yearly recommendations to member states on how to handle public funds, suggesting that member states should continue increasing debts. As regards Luxembourg, the commission recommended that the government should continue supporting households and businesses that struggle under the rising energy costs and it encouraged it to continue helping refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine. The EU commission also urged the Grand Duchy to prevent aggressive tax optimisation and to reduce its dependence on fossil energy sources by supporting municipalities in setting up wind and photovoltaic installations.
A teachers’ Union on Monday said that mandatory readings in Luxembourgish schools have failed to reflect the diversity of the country as it urged the Ministry of Education to revise the school curriculum in order to reflect the multiculturalism of pupils. The SEW (EZ ZEE WEE) “Syndikat Erzéiung a Wëssenschaft” said Language classes in secondary schools in particular continue to be dominated by white male authors, who have been dead for quite some time. The Union intends to compile new literature lists and forward them to the syllabus commission.
Data compiled by Eurostat over 2021 shows that Luxembourg protects over half of its land, waters, and wildlife putting it at the top of the EU ranking ahead of Bulgaria and Slovenia which come second. The European Union is home to the world’s biggest network of protected areas with more than 27,000 terrestrial and maritime zones. The Luxembourg Environment Administration has put a website page dedicated to the country’s protected areas which include the Bettembourg forest and the Barrier Lake in the south. The Eurostat report also shows that three European countries that are commonly known for their vast green spaces actually do very little for the conservation of their natural habitat: Ireland and Sweden only protect 14% of their surface, followed by Finland with 13%.
MONDAY 23 MAY
The chamber of employees rejected the draft law on the so-called solidarity package during their general assembly on Friday. 41 out of 60 representatives voted against the result of the tripartite negotiations. Only the representatives of the trade unions LCGB and Syprolux voted in favour. The OGBL holds the absolute majority within the plenary. Luxembourg’s biggest trade union said it was unacceptable to have the working wage indexation mechanism working only in times of low inflation and to block it for the two years to come amid the economic crisis.
Luxembourg’s justice system is too slow and not accessible enough, a new comparative study by the EU justice Scoreboard has found. Courts need up to 600 days for an administrative court sentence, placing Luxembourg tenth among the EU member states. In terms of accessibility, Luxembourg performs among the last countries, in 21st place. Luxembourg’s courts do not offer digital solutions, translation in sign language or Braille. The digitalization of services by the courts is nearly non-existent, placing Luxembourg in third last place only before Greece and Bulgaria. Luxembourg’s justice system however is perceived as efficient and independent.
Half of Luxembourg’s nature habitats protected under European Union and national law are in bad condition, RTL Today reported, referring to the Biodiversity Information System for Europe. Forests, freshwater sites, grasslands, scrublands and bogs are among these sites.66 out of Luxembourg’s 202 protected areas are designated as Natura 2000 habitats, an EU-wide protection scheme to sustain rare and threatened species. One third of these areas are in good condition and nearly 18 percent are considered in poor condition.
The national weather service Meteolux issued a warning for this afternoon. Meteolux expects strong thunderstorms, heavy rainfall, hail and squalls of up to 80 kilometres per hour. So take care on the streets and stay safe.
FRIDAY 20 MAY
Health minister Paulette Lenert has revealed this week that people could soon be able to travel on public transport without having to wear a mask. Currently, masks are mandatory on public transport, in hospitals, care homes and prison facilities and these restrictions were due to remain in place until 30 June, but this deadline could now be cut short. Minister Lenert said a draft law to abandon the mask mandate on transport “very soon” could be presented to lawmakers this week, adding that “similar measures” could also be put in place for hospitals and care homes. A petition, submitted in March, requesting masks become optional on public transports, failed to receive enough signatures to be debated in parliament. Lawmakers have not yet approved the government’s decision to lift the mask mandate.
Lawmakers in the Chamber of Deputies are also set to debate a petition calling for a halt to the government’s plans to introduce mandatory vaccination against Covid-19 for over-50s. Over 5,000 people signed the petition, above the threshold required for prompting a debate in the Chamber but no date for the debate has yet been fixed. Plans to introduce a vaccine mandate for the over-50s and healthcare workers have not yet passed into law, but the policy is still being considered, despite dwindling covid figures across Europe. In January, medical experts recommended giving mandatory jabs for people over the age of 50 and for those who work with vulnerable people, such as healthcare staff. The government said it backed a vaccine mandate but wanted to leave the details of any law in the hands of deputies to decide.
Minister of Labour Georges Engel and Minister of Family Corinne Cahen this week presented a new bill proposing ten days’ leave to new parents in same-sex relationships, as well as self-employed parents. The new law will recognise same-sex couples as parents from a child’s birth, enabling the second parent to benefit from paternity leave, which can be negotiated with their employer. The new bill also seeks to ensure that employers provide written reasons for refusing flexible parental leave requests. Employers will also have to provide options if they refuse a second parental leave request and, should an agreement on flexible leave not be reached, they will have to award the full six-month period.
As part of National Children’s Week, Minister of National Education, Children and Youth, Claude Meisch, launched the National Action Plan for children’s rights, designed to inform young people of their rights and encourage them to share their opinions. The plan sets out 64 concrete actions across eight areas, including identity and non-discrimination, health and well-being, justice for children and the right to participation. Minister Meisch said that adults must inform children and help them to express their opinions and assert their rights. The ombudsman for children and young people claimed they welcomed the plan, saying Luxembourg would benefit from a vital instrument to ensure children’s rights in numerous areas of society. They voiced their hope that the government would allocate sufficient funding and resources to ensure the plan has the necessary impact.
THURSDAY 19 MAY
The Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development this week presented a new package of waste and resources laws aimed at reducing the consumption of single-use items while promoting multiple-use products. The package answers public requests to promote the reuse of items and thus extend the time of use of products, through its various provisions. Amendments include: Cleaning costs generated by littering will be borne by the producers of certain products, such as tobacco product filters, and no longer by the community. Maximum amounts for fines will be raised, capped at €1,000 instead of €250. From 1 January 2024, residents will have to “opt-in” to receive commercial advertisements in the post, and the placing of advertising material on vehicles will be legally prohibited. Finally, the waste law offers a definitive end to the landfilling of municipal waste by 2030. According to the Ministry, the implementation of the law will require considerable efforts making a common approach shared by all the stakeholders imperative.
Energy Minister Claude Turmes said yesterday that banning cars from major cities at weekends and permitting teleworking for two days per week across the EU would reduce reliance on Russian energy. Prior to the European Commission’s presentation of its long-term strategy to cut its dependency on Russian imports, Minister Claude Turmes also suggested a common speed limit could save millions of barrels of oil a year. Turmes urged the Commission not to miss the opportunity to set Europe on this path.
Luxembourg is one of six EU member states pushing for the introduction of changes to the bloc’s founding treaties. Along with Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain, the Grand Duchy supports changes which include a reform to deter countries from single handedly vetoing foreign policy and tax decisions, allowing the bloc to take a stronger position on geopolitical issues. Despite scepticism from some Nordic and Eastern European countries, a letter signed by the six countries seeks to distinguish between changes that can be implemented quickly and those that would require a treaty change.
Luxembourg City mayor, Lydie Polfer announced yesterday that the Schueberfouer, and the annual national day celebrations will return to normal this summer. A full Schueberfouer, Luxembourg’s most famous funfair, will take place at its customary location on the Glacis in Limpertsberg from August 19 until September 7, with some activities held at the nearby Kinnekswiss park. The Schueberfouer was cancelled in 2020 and reduced last year to limit the spread of Covid-19. The national day celebrations, which celebrate the Grand Duke’s birthday, will return with fireworks on the evening of June 22 and a procession through the city on the public holiday the following day.
WEDNESDAY 18 MAY
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is to address the Luxembourg parliament at the beginning of June, the president of the chamber of deputies announced yesterday. To date, Luxembourg has given 50 million euros in weapons and military aid to Ukraine, and has also contributed to the EU’s support package, estimated at 1.5 billion euros. However, Luxembourg voted last month to not support an embargo of Russian oil, coal and gas, after the three coalition parties over a dispute about wording. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel had tried to maintain communications with the leaders of both countries, urging Russian President Putin to halt his war and enter negotiations.
Luxembourg’s labour inspectorate announced yesterday that it had issued an unprecedented 9.2 million euros in fines to companies that had violated labour, health and safety rules in 2021. Inspectors performed unannounced spot-checks at businesses and work sites to determine whether firms were following the rules. 2,300 fines were issued last year – 10% more than in 2020 – to companies for allowing risks of accidents at work, labour law breeches, paying below minimum wage or requiring excessive working hours. Over €4 million in fines were given to construction, manufacturing and commerce companies which had assigned staff to work in Luxembourg for short periods from Germany, Belgium and France. 1,200 companies were punished for not enforcing Covid-19 rules such as social distancing or the wearing of a face mask.
The Chamber of Deputies yesterday voted in favour of granting an additional ten days to cross-border workers from Belgium, allowing them to work from home 34 days a year. At present, French cross-border workers can work from home for 29 days a year, while Germans are restricted to 19 as per current tax agreements. Several MPs urged the Chamber to standardise its tax agreements with all three neighbouring countries, while some criticised the new ruling, asserting it fails to allow one day a week working from home. The decision will benefit approximately 50,000 Belgians who work in Luxembourg at present.
Members of parliament this week heard from constitutional expert Luc Heuschling regarding whether the Chamber of Deputies or the public prosecutor’s office should lead the investigation against former environment minister Carole Dieschbourg. Dieschbourg resigned in April over allegations of favouritism towards Green party colleague Roberto Traversini, regarding planning permission for a garden shed after work had already started. Parliament has two options: It can pass the investigation back to the public prosecutor’s office because Dieschbourg is no longer a member of government. Alternatively, MPs can vote on a law that would allow the chamber to outsource the investigation to the public prosecutor’s office which will then forward its decisions to the Chamber of Deputies. Members of parliament said they wanted to avoid a procedural error but disagreed on how to proceed. The next meeting between lawmakers is scheduled for today.
TUESDAY 17 MAY
Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister said his country fully supports Finland and Sweden applying to join the North Atlantic Alliance. Jean Assleborn made the announcement over the week-end from Berlin where NATO foreign ministers held an informal meeting to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine. The Swedish and Finnish foreign ministers Ann Linde and Pekka Haavisto took part in the discussions on national security and their countries’ future relations with Nato.
The government has cut heating fuel prices in a bid to help households and businesses cope with the soaring energy prices. The 7.5 cent per litre reduction, which came into force on Monday will last until December this year.
The fuel duty is a government tax which makes up part of the overall price at the pump when you buy petrol, diesel or other fuel for vehicles or heating.
Luxembourg’s Association of Doctors and Dentists (AMMD) has accused Health Minister Paulette Lennert of trying to force a deal between a Clinic in Grevenmacher and the CHL regarding the manning of the MRI Scanner. On Friday, Lennert told RTL that the Centre Hospitalier du Luxembourg or CHL, which is the health care provider in Luxembourg city, will operate the Scanner in the Potaschberg Clinic in accordance with the law, which states that only hospitals can be diagnostic centers.
Clinic officials have since dismissed the minister’s claims saying they did not sign any agreement with the CHL.
The Ministry of Health has repeatedly denied the clinic a licence to operate the scanner and even threatened to close it down.
While the Ministry of Health announced it will no longer publish daily Covid-19 reports as of today, Health Director Jean-Claude Schmit told local media Monday that mask mandates in public transportation will be abandoned too, once lawmakers have approved a bill to that effect. Director Schmit insisted that health authorities in Luxembourg remain cautious and ready to react ahead of the autumn season as it is still unclear what the next Covid variant will look like.
MONDAY 16 MAY
A total of 3,557 pupils are set to take their final secondary school exams, starting tomorrow. 2,009 young women and 1,548 young men are registered for the 2022 summer exam session. This includes classic and general secondary school pupils, as well as evening class students.
Health Minister Paulette Lenert announced that the Ettelbruck maternity hospital will reopen its doors on 1st June. The maternity hospital closed its doors last month due to staff shortages. Work on its reopening, in agreement with the Ministers of Health and of Social Security, will be finalised this week. Minister Lenert also confirmed that the CHL will take over the private MRI in Potaschberg medical centre. Legally, such machines can only be operated by hospitals.
Current waiting times for an MRI scan in Luxembourg can reach up to two months.
A heroin substitution treatment offered in the capital is set to expand to Esch-sur-Alzette. The Tadiam programme provides addicts with two doses of pharmaceutical heroin in pill form in a controlled environment. To date, the programme has supported 66 people, with 25 enrolled at present.
Luxembourg dropped from 3rd to 5th place in the most recent Rainbow Europe Index, an annual benchmarking tool ranking 49 European countries on their LGBTI equality laws and policies. Malta placed first in the 2021 index, followed by Demark, Belgium and Norway. Luxembourg scored 68.03% for equality and respect of human rights. The country lost points for failing to introduce a ban on conversion therapy – although Prime Minister Xavier Bettel previously claimed such a ban was not needed since this practice does not exist in the Grand Duchy.
FRIDAY 13 MAY
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency announced yesterday that face masks would no longer be mandatory for air passengers from next week. However, Gilles Feith, CEO of Luxair has said that anti-Covid protection measures “will remain compulsory in Luxembourg pending at least partial harmonisation of the situation”. Feith explained that in most of the countries Luxair serve, wearing a mask remains compulsory, adding that at present there are only 13 countries where masks are no longer compulsory on board. Feith criticised the lack of organisation between countries with Covid measures, and said Europe was “not functioning, as was often the case during the pandemic”.
Lex Delles – the minister for small and medium enterprises and tourism has this week announced his intention to become the Democratic Party’s next president. Delles, the government’s youngest minister at 37, announced on Facebook he would present his application during the party’s congress on 12 June. Current President and Family minister, Corinne Cahen, recently confirmed in an interview that she would not renew her mandate. In his statement, Delles said he had grown with the values of the DP like freedom, responsibility and solidarity.
Figures published by STATEC yesterday show that in 2021 Luxembourg’s population grew by 10,667 people, bringing the total population to approximately 645,400 people. The increase was primarily driven through immigration with around 25,300 people arriving last year, while almost 16,000 departed. Nearly 6,700 babies were born, while 4,500 people died. The average man in Luxembourg lives to be 80.3 years old while women live to 84.8. STATEC’s report reveals that there are 325,000 men, who live on average to be 80.3 years old, and 320,300 women who live to 84.8.
International Museum Day 2022 will take place on May 18th and urges people to explore the potential of museums to bring about positive change in their communities. To celebrate International Museum Day, and with a special program for the whole family, over 40 museums across Luxembourg will open their doors on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and invite the public to discover their collections and activities. Admission is free to all museums and further information can be found at www.luxembourgmuseumdays.lu/
THURSDAY 12 MAY
Education minister Claude Meisch has this week confirmed that Luxembourg will make day-care for primary school children free for all families in the run up to the next school year. The measure was first announced last year by Prime minister Xavier Bettel during his state of the nation speech in October 2021. The scheme applies to all children who are attending primary school but require care after hours. However, day-care will still have to be paid for during school holidays. In addition, school lunches will be free for all children and teenagers attending school starting in September. Minister Meisch hopes Parliament will approve the changes, which will cost around €22m per year, before the summer.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Mobility this week has revealed that violence on public transport continues to be a problem in Luxembourg. There was a small decrease from 2020 in cases of aggression against employees on Luxembourg’s trains with 121 reported in 2021. However, 60 cases of violence were reported against staff on buses and trams, twice as many as in 2020. Passengers have also reported increasing rates of violence. The Ministry of Mobility attributed the rise in attacks to the onset of coronavirus and ensuing safety measures, such as the mask requirement on public transport. The Ministry said it was working with the bus companies to find solutions but believed costs could prove to be a problem.
Responding to questions from the Green party, Labour Minister Georges Engel confirmed this week that Luxembourg’s job agency – ADEM – had apologised to two people and will not cut their unemployment benefits if they reject referrals to work as a “dancer, stripper and escort”. Typically, jobseekers must contact employers about an open position referred to them by ADEM or risk having their unemployment benefits cut. Minister Engel explained that ADEM uses a variety of criteria for matching unemployed workers with job vacancies, but the internal procedures were not followed in this case.
A report published yesterday by the Luxembourg Information Network on Drugs has shown that cannabis is still the most used drug in the Grand Duchy but remains below the EU average for use among young adults aged 15 to 34. Opioids, and heroin, remain the most used drugs among high-risk users. Although consumption has dipped in recent years and remains marginal. However, use of cocaine and mixes or cocktails of drugs were reported to have increased. The average age of overdose victims increased to 41.5 years, while the number of fatal overdoses dropped from 26 in 2000 to just six in 2020.
WEDNESDAY 11 MAY
A new temporary shelter which can hold up to 1,200 Ukrainian refugees will open in Kirchberg to help with the rising number of applications. The government said in a press release that a former European Court of Justice building located at the Boulevard Konrad Adenauer will be used but gave no opening date. Prior to its opening, foreign affairs minister Jean Asselborn will host an information session for local residents, with representatives for the national reception office ONA, and other NGOs. The United Nations claim that over 12 million people have escaped from Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in late February. Other figures show that between January and March Luxembourg has also received more refugee applications from people fleeing Syria, Eritrea, Venezuela and Afghanistan than compared to a year ago.
Ministers Taina Bofferdind and Sam Tanson yesterday presented details of the modernisation of the celebration of civil marriage and partnership. The ministers said that as couples increasingly want their ceremony to be arranged according to their needs and personalities the government should offer a more contemporary and individual approach to the organisation of this celebration. Municipal councils can now appoint places other than the City Hall within its territory for the celebration of marriages and declarations of partnerships, such as historical monuments, cultural centres, castles open to the public or municipal parks. Moreover, a mayor can delegate another member of the municipal council the functions of civil registrar allowing a more personal touch.
The Chamber of Deputies announced this week that its President Fernand Etgen is leading a parliamentary delegation on an official visit to London this week. This parliamentary delegation from Luxembourg left yesterday for London to exchange views with the Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons and the Chairman of the UK’s Foreign Affairs Committee. The delegation will also speak with the House of Lords European Affairs Committee and members of the House of Commons’ parliamentary friendship group for Luxembourg, created for the occasion of this visit.
A new campaign, called ‘My contraception, my choice’, was launched this week to advise people about contraceptives and break the taboo surrounding the subject. The National Centre for Emotional and Sexual Health’s online platform has also been updated, providing visitors with a wide range of frequently asked questions in German, French, English, and Portuguese. Short videos featuring professionals talking about different aspects of contraception and users sharing their experiences are also available to watch..
TUESDAY 10 MAY
Luxembourg celebrated Europe Day on Monday to commemorate the anniversary of the 1950 ‘Schuman declaration’, which laid the cornerstone of the European Union’s political and economic integration. Special events were held in Luxembourg City and in the town of Schengen, which witnessed the signature of the 1985 agreement on the free movement of people and goods between EU nations. Luxembourg City is one of the three European Capitals to house major EU institutions and administrations. Europe Day was declared an official holiday in Luxembourg in 2019, making it the only European nation to recognize May 9 as a paid holiday.
The town of Diekirch hosted the traditional “Kavalkad” this weekend as thousands of people went to the north to celebrate the Carnival Parade. The yearly event which is generally held in February was postponed to May due to the covid pandemic. This year’s edition featured car and pedestrian processions, live music, and entertainment. The first cavalcade in Diekirch was organized in 1870. It has since become a major event in Luxembourg and a boost for local businesses and tourism.
A wave of vandalism in the residential neighbourhood of Bel Air left over a dozen cars with scratched paint on Sunday evening, local media report. The damage on Avenue Gaston Diederich, Rue des Franciscaines, and neighbouring streets was reported a little after midnight, according to Police. The perpetrators left engraved phrases reading “money” and “I am rich”. The Police Department is currently trying to locate witnesses and potential suspects in this incident.
The Police issued fines and revoked driving licences in the capital over the weekend, during a large drink-driving operation. Police patrols stopped a total of 194 motorists, out of whom ten were fined. In four cases, driving licences were revoked at the scene. Police also withdrew the licences of three other drunk drivers in Colmar-Berg, Mersch, and Heisdorf.
FRIDAY 6 MAY
Luxembourg’s national health insurance fund – CNS – has this week announced a €55.7m loss for 2021, bringing its savings down to 903.2m. Despite getting a €386m grant from the economy and social security ministries the CNS’ fund “cannot fully compensate for the evolution of expenditure in 2021,” according to a joint statement. According to the ministries, one of the causes for the loss is the cost of the covid-19 pandemic but they claim that the fund’s reserves are still above the 10% minimum set by the social security code. Expenses linked to the coronavirus in 2022 had already reached €11m by the end of March and the ministries warn that the downward trend is set to continue. Health minister Paulette Lenert proposed the formation of a working group comprising representatives of government, healthcare institutions and unions to analyse and advise possible ways of maintaining financial balance. The findings of the quadripartite committee will be published in the autumn.
The Green party this week requested the legal expertise and opinion of a constitutional expert from the University of Luxembourg be heard in the investigation against former environment minister Carole Dieschbourg. The Chamber of Deputies had said it would carry out the investigation, rather than the public prosecutor’s office, in a corruption case because Dieschbourg, now resigned, was a minister at the time of the case involving Green party colleague Roberto Traversini. Professor Heuschling explained that the Chamber’s decision did not correspond to modern constitutional procedures and that colleagues of the minister would be among those judging her case presenting an obstacle to impartiality. The professor added that even if the case were sent back to the public prosecutor’s office, many deputies have already seen the case file meaning that investigative secrecy has been breached which could stall the case further.
Responding to a parliamentary enquiry from the CSV, Minister of the Economy Franz Fayot claimed this week that the government remains ‘100% committed’ to the Google data centre project in Bissen. Despite the rejection of the appeal filed by Mouvement Ecologique, it has taken Google over three years to present plans to start construction in Bissen. Minister Fayot warned that Google had announced and completed other projects in different countries within that time and stressed that the land should not remain empty for too long. If Google decides not to build in Bissen, then the government can buy back the land at the original selling price.
Defence minister and deputy prime minister François Bausch this week visited the six members of the Luxembourg army stationed in Lithuania as part of NATO’s enhanced forward presence (EFP). Since 2017, and following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, the station ensures a presence of NATO in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Minister Bausch thanked the soldiers for the services that they and all NATO troops are providing, adding they are ensuring the security of the Alliance and the protection of the borders against the Russian aggressor daily.
THURSDAY 5 MAY
Health minister Paulette Lenert said this week that if the MRI facility in Grevenmacher is not regulated it would be shut down. The minister’s statement follows a press release by the Potaaschbierg medical centre, which considers the various laws requiring regulation cited by the Ministry do not apply to the current situation. Ms Lenert insisted that, according to current law, only a hospital operator can use an MRI, and that an agreement will have to be reached with a hospital establishment within a week. The minister confirmed that a meeting had taken place and that talks are ongoing.
Meanwhile, the association of doctors and dentists have stated that the MRI scanner in Potaschberg offers patients easier access to MRIs and that by being denied access to comprehensive medical care, patients have been held hostage for a long time. Alain Schmit, president of the AMMD, claimed that an extra MRI scanner is a positive initiative and that blocking this development is not the right way. Schmit added that the AMMD had made suggestions on how to integrate the Medical Centre with other health structures but the Ministry seemed to be focused only on what is legally possible. Schmit argued that restricting specialised medicine to hospitals is not viable long term for providing patients access to care, and in staying in touch with medical progress.
MPs this week agreed by a majority to the adoption of a new logo that will boost regional products. The logo will be made up of blue, white and red “X” with the motto ‘Luxembourg Agréé par l’État’. However, some MPs abstained from voting or voted against it because of doubts about the label’s suitability. Involvement in the new labelling system is voluntary and excludes small businesses, while participating producers will receive the same logo regardless of whether they meet or exceed the three minimum criteria of quality-taste, regional-solidarity and environment-animal welfare. The CSV Party are concerned that the logo will mislead consumers that a product was made in Luxembourg even though international groups can apply for the label which defines “regional” as products sourced within a 250-kilometre radius of the producer’s headquarters, regardless of the producer’s location. Minister of Agriculture Claude Haagen has already stated that the new system will be reassessed after two years
Figures released this week by Social Security Minister Claude Haagen show that the number of people continuing to work past retirement age in Luxembourg has doubled in the last decade. The increase is attributed to reforms aimed at encouraging older workers to remain in the labour market. The overall figure is about 2-3% of the total number claiming pension payments but these numbers are low compared to other EU countries and Luxembourg still has the bloc’s lowest percentage of workers aged between 55 and 64.
WEDNESDAY 4 MAY
Racism was the cause for most cases lodged last year in Luxembourg with the Centre for Equal Treatment, according to the organisation’s annual report, published yesterday. The anti-discrimination body revealed that 60 of the 245 cases handled by them were on the grounds of race or ethnic origin, acknowledging that 2021 was the first time that the most common ground of discrimination was not disability. The CET also announced it had identified 82 job advertisements published in 2021 that contained some form of prejudice, 78 of which discriminated based on gender, three for age and gender, and one for age.
Luxembourg has dropped out of the top ranking countries on the Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index. Ranked 21 out of 180 countries in the latest edition, published yesterday, the organisation criticised Luxembourg’s legislative framework due to the lack of comprehensive freedom of information laws. Despite a law from 2018 allowing media and public and private stakeholders to request access to information from the government and communes, a comprehensive list of documents remains excluded, and the government can elect to withhold information after the commission has granted access. Reporters Without Borders also criticised Luxembourg’s media concentration, saying “the RTL media conglomerate dominated the news” but concluded that overall the media “operates independently and journalists enjoy a great degree of freedom regarding the government and politicians.”
Meanwhile, in a bizarre twist of irony, The Chamber of Deputies yesterday approved legislation to pay RTL Group €15 million a year for seven years beginning in 2024. The 50% increase per year was approved by 54 out of 56 votes despite RTL’s annual report for 2021 claiming a total income of €6.6 billion. RTL had produced Luxembourgish programming in return for its use of broadcasting frequencies in Luxembourg since 1995 but moved to a contract in which the government paid RTL €10 million a year between 2021 and 2023 due to rising production costs. Guy Antony, Treasurer of Radio ARA’s Mond Op asbl stated “We were heartened by the support of 200,000€ that we received from the government, but its significance pales in light of the surprising amount granted to RTL, which seems determined to mirror the programming and educational offerings we have already built up”.
A new hospital, due to open in 2028, was announced yesterday by Minister of Health Paulette Lenert and the General Director of the CHL. The new facility will be built on the site of the existing unoccupied maternity clinic and will “regroup all of the acute medical activities and generally improve the work procedures” and will be constructed to make it easier to isolate contagious patients. The project is estimated to cost nearly €821 million of which nearly 85% will be subsidised by the state and the CNS.
The national registry of commerce this week reported the registration of a new Luxembourg airline called FlyLux Airlines in partnership with Airbus, Aviation Capital Group and Pegasus Services. The company’s website states the airline will offer either services to other airlines,charter, special events or even freight transport.
TUESDAY, 3 May
Luxembourg’s new environment minister –Joëlle Welfring–was sworn in on Monday by the grand duke Henri. Prime minister Xavier Bettel has attended the official ceremony which was held at the Grand Ducal Palace in Luxembourg City. Welfring will replace outgoing minister and fellow green party member Carole Dieschbourg who had to step down to testify in a case involving former Differdange mayor Roberto Traversini.
Lawmakers on Monday debated a draft law granting voting rights in local elections to thousands of residents. While Non-Luxembourgers account for around half of Luxembourg’s population and around 70% of residents in the capital , Government statistics show that 33% of foreign residents were unable to vote in the 2017 municipal elections because they did not meet the Grand Duchy’s minimum residency requirements of 5 years. Lawmakers will seek to abolish the waiting period ahead of the upcoming municipal elections in 2023. The new law will be put to vote in mid-July. If approved, it will allow some 75 000 previously disenfranchised taxpayers to take part in the democratic process.
A second case of Salmonella, linked to the consumption of the commercial kinder chocolate, has been confirmed in Luxembourg, according to Health Minister Paulette Lennert. 150 cases of salmonellosis have been identified across 8 European countries since early April, pushing the Ferrero chocolatier to open an online complaints platform as it struggled to restore its confidence among consumers. The Kinder chocolate factory in Belgium which is suspected to be at the origin of the outbreak was ordered to close on April 8.
As freshwater lakes and ponds across Luxembourg are opening back again for bathing season, the Water Management Authority announced that the water quality was “excellent” for bathers following recent testing. The Bathing water season opened Sunday and will extend until September 30. On warmer days thousands of residents flock to the three main bathing spots in the Grand Duchy: The ‘Stauséi’ and the lake at Weiswampach in the north, and the “Baggerweieren” at Remerschen in the south-west.
MONDAY 2 May
The government council on Friday approved the solidarity package bill that will offset the loss of purchasing power for households in Luxembourg with the introduction of an energy tax credit for all employees and pensioners. Everyone who earns up to €44,000 per year will be paid the maximum of €84 per month in tax credits. For higher incomes, the aid will be applied on a sliding scale. The indexation that was to come in August this year will be postponed to April 2023, and any other index in 2023 will be postponed for one year. This “index manipulation”, as the OGBL calls it, has been subject to harsh criticism and is the reason for the largest Trade Union not to sign the agreement.
The OGBL yesterday assembled around 2.500 supporters for the traditional 1st May Labour Day protest. The main concern for the protesters has been the index postponement. Nevertheless, the OGBL used this occasion for a big celebration in the Grund that lasted the whole day.
Joelle Welfring will be sworn in as new Environment Minister today. On Saturday, the Green party elected her as Carole Dieschbourg’s successor in office with 174 yes-votes and only one No. In her speech, Welfring addressed three projects: During her time as Minister, she wants to reform the law on forest protection, the drinking water directive as well as the National energy- and climate-strategy. Joelle Welfring has been appointed Minister for Environment after Carole Dieschbourg resigned ten days ago, due to a new enquiry on the so called Traversini-Affair.
The Interior Ministry and the High Commission for National Protection are to test the new disaster response system today. Every Luxembourg resident will receive a government text alert via SMS message at noon. The alert will be the first in a series of regular tests. The new warning system has been set up after the failure of the old system GouvAlert before the floods of last July.
FRIDAY, 29 APRIL
Joelle Welfring has been proposed as new environment minister by the Green party. Despite only being a member of the party since Wednesday. Welfring has however been vice director of the environment administration since 2014. Tomorrow, the party is going to hold an extraordinary congress to vote on her nomination. If elected, Welfring could start her job as new environment Minister next Monday, the 2. May. Former environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg resigned last Friday to lift her immunity as government member, after the public prosecutors’ announced an enquiry on the so called “Traversini affair”.
The Chamber of Deputies yesterday passed five new laws on waste disposal, in what Green deputy François Benoy referred to as a “paradigm shift”. Restaurants will be prohibited from serving food and drinks in cardboard or plastic on Location from next year on. From 2025 on, the prohibition of disposable packaging will also apply to take away meals and drinks. Grocery stores can no longer wrap certain fruit and vegetables in packaging and large supermarkets will be obliged to take back packages and install their own recycling centres.
Parliament yesterday approved a law to cut the petrol and diesel price for industrial, commercial and agricultural use temporarily by 7,5 percent. This reduction shall reduce the general increase in living cost due to the inflation caused by the invasion in Ukraine. It is limited until July and is part of the Tripartite – solidarity pact that is being debated in parliament. The reduction of petrol and diesel prices, which is in place since 8 April will be applied until the end of the year. The estimated cost for the state’s budget is 12 million euros.
Tomorrow, the NGO LUkraine will host a solidarity street music concert. The concert “Stand with Ukraine” aims to make Ukrainian voices heard, and takes place tomorrow at 2pm at Place Clairefontaine in Luxembourg city. All are invited to join.
THURSDAY 28 April
Agriculture and Social Security minister Claude Haagen announced there will be no increase to social security contributions in Luxembourg until 2041. Haagen stated that the general pension insurance scheme is sound but he cautioned that changing demographics and employment growth may hamper compensation for Luxembourg’s ageing population.
The number of people claiming their pension is rising faster than job market prospects. Daily news website Delano reports that between 2020 and 2021, the number of workers paying into the pension regime grew 2.6% to reach 473,508. Luxembourg’s retirement age is 65 although early retirement is possible at age 57 with 40 years’ coverage of compulsory contributions.
There will be free and accessible music lessons for all school children and teenagers in Luxembourg starting this autumn. Lawmakers on Tuesday have overwhelmingly approved a bill that will grant children free music, drama, dance or singing lessons during the first seven school years. Two thirds of the 18,000 school children will benefit from the offer. Rates for other Art Classes not covered under the free offer will be capped at 100 euros.
The first edition of the Education fair, known as the Schoulfoire will take place from May 2 to the 4th, 2022 at Luxexpo The Box. The fair is organised to illustrate the diversity of Luxembourg’s educational landscape, with an emphasis on guidance. Luxembourg has for several years pursued an active policy of diversifying the school offer. The Education Fair offers parents and students the opportunity to discover innovative, linguistic and professional offers. Secondary schools are represented, as well as the main departments of the ministry, which will answer questions from the public.
2021 was a very successful year for family planning in Luxembourg, says RTL. Family planning efforts in the Grand Duchy help over 8000 people to plan their families, educate their children and protect their health, while also substantially reducing rates of unintended pregnancy, and saving taxpayers’ money. The sexual education mandate of the Planning Familial encompasses a vast array of subjects, from erasing taboos around sexuality to educating on topics like gender stereotypes, puberty, and contraception. The service also runs a series of educational projects which answers questions frequently asked by young people and adults alike. Another project aims to sensitize young people about consent. The project helps them express their wishes and set boundaries with an underlying yet clear message “No means no”.
The City of Luxembourg has unveiled an echo friendly initiative called “Cup2Go”, which aims to reduce the waste generated by single-use cups in paper or plastic. The goal is to eliminate single use in the Cafe and Food to Go industry by encouraging cafes and other outlets to incentivise customers to bring their own.
The City of Luxembourg is giving away 2,500 porcelain cups specially created for the occasion. To take part in the competition, residents can fill out the coupon available in the May edition of City, the official magazine of the City of Luxembourg and deposit it before May 31 in one of the ballot boxes provided for this purpose. The winners will be drawn at the end of June.
WEDNESDAY, 27 April
First, a Covid 19 update
Health officials say 1,310 new cases of coronavirus were discovered over the last 72 hours through some 4000 tests carried out nationwide, yielding a positive rate of 32.75%. Four new fatalities have been reported bringing the total death toll to 1062 since the beginning of the pandemic. Data shows 21 patients are still in standard hospital care and two in intensive care.
Lawmakers are set to vote on a waste disposal bill later today which aims to overhaul Luxembourg’s waste management system. The bill, if passed, would make State, local governments, small businesses and waste management companies more accountable to the public as regards waste management. Trade confederation CLC and the Federation of Supply and Distribution FLAD have criticized the draft bill presented by Green party rapporteur François Benoy saying they were not consulted by green ministers despite their prominent roles in the sector. They believe the bill is inadequate for Luxembourg’s ecosystem, notably the measures that will come into force in January 2023 and which bind retail businesses and large supermarkets to provide recycling centers for used package collection. The two federations also oppose the prohibition of wrappings for fresh fruit and vegetables under a certain net weight as well as the introduction of new labels on all drinks. They claim the new measures would cost businesses an estimated 12 million.
Still in the Chamber of deputies where lawmakers announced they will open an investigation into the alleged corruption case surrounding former environment minister Carole Dieschbourg. The minister had to step down from office last week following claims she had approved a building permit in a protected area to green party colleague Roberto Traversini in 2019. Dieschbourg has denied any wrongdoing.
The Chamber of deputies said it will soon review the former minister’s case “behind closed doors” before handing it to the judicial police for investigation. The findings will be submitted to parliament which must then decide whether there is enough evidence to indict Carole Dieschbourg.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, François Bausch, yesterday took part in a Consultative Group Meeting, along with forty other countries hosted by the United States Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, in Ramstein, Germany. During the meeting, the Secretary of Defense of the United States took stock of his trip to Ukraine and gave his impressions of the situation. He stressed the imminent need for additional arms deliveries. Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov also provided an update on the current situation and capabilities and called for more help to enable the Ukrainian Armed Forces to defend their country.
The cost of ground beef, pork, chicken, poultry, meats have increased since October 2021 according to Agriculture minister Claude Haagen. Beef and veal increased by 4.4% while pork went up by 3%. Although he admitted that many of the factors that led to the price increase are related to the spike in energy prices, animal feed and even packaging, minister Haagen was unable to confirm if the war in Ukraine is also to blame. The minister said he expected prices to continue to rise.
TUESDAY, 26 APRIL
Foreign Minister Asselborn and Premier Xavier Bettel have expressed relief at the defeat of France’s far-right in Sunday’s presidential elections. Asselborn said the candidate of the “Rassemblement National” would have nourished nationalism and false patriotism in Europe and he warned that the 41% of votes that went to Marine Le Pen should not to be underestimated. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said Le Pen is no friend of the Grand Duchy while praising Macron for his landslide victory.
Emmanuel Macron won a little over 52% of the votes in the Grand Est region, neighboring Luxembourg, compared with the 58.5% national result. He came very close to Marine Le Pen in the Moselle region where he scored 50.4% against 49.5% for his rival.
Local Media reported that Defence minister François Bausch yesterday revealed that Luxembourg has so far given €50m to support Ukraine.
On the 28th February Luxembourg announced it would provide Ukrainian forces with 100 anti-tank weapons, jeeps and 15 military tents, as well as contributing too a collective €250m aid package from the European Union. Prime minister Xavier Bettel in March said another €3m would be donated as well as fifty tons of medical and firefighting equipment and telecommunication material.
Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Defense, François Bausch Monday said the future of the European mission in Mali was discussed during a meeting of the Chamber of Deputies’ Defense Committee. Bausch explained that the situation in the West African country was deteriorating and safety can no longer be ensured for the 22 Luxembourgish soldiers on the ground. A possible scenario would be to anticipate the end of the mission, initially scheduled for 2023, to the end of this year. Speaking about the war in Ukraine, Bausch stated that Luxembourg sent more than just defensive weapons to Ukraine and that the total support already amounts to €50 million.
Minister of the Economy Yurika Backes addressed the Chamber’s finance commission on Monday afternoon to report on the first three months 2022.
The Minister expressed cautious optimism about the fast financial recovery since the pandemic. Revenue in the first three months, has increased 13% over the same period last year, with the government receiving €6.1 billion in revenue. Spending has remained consistent at €5.3 billion. Minister Backes however emphasised that effects of the war in Ukraine, as well as those of the tripartite agreement would be felt at a later stage and warned that the financial situation is expected to worsen again in coming months.
Drivers in Luxembourg will receive 4 penalty points and a fine if they hold or use a phone, tablet, or any device that can send and receive data while driving a motorcycle. The new measure which has already been proposed twice has finally made it to the floor of the House of Deputies. It is expected to come into force in 2023.
Cell Phone use while driving has been recognized as the second most likely cause of fatal and serious accidents according to several European studies.
The Transport Ministry is also proposing tightening the laws to deal with the issues of driving under the influence of drugs. Motor vehicle drivers caught under the influence of psychoactive substances will have their licences revoked immediately. So far, licence withdrawal applies mainly for speeding and alcohol-related offences.
MONDAY, 25 April
On Friday, The Greens environment minister Carole Dieschbourg announced her resignation, only hours after the public prosecutors had forwarded the investigation on the so called “Traversini-affair” to the Chamber. Dieschbourg said, she had a clear conscience regarding the affair, but didn’t want her immunity as Minister to delay the work of the parliament.
Members of the government in Luxembourg cannot be interrogated nor accused by the public prosecutors. The prosecutors hand the case over to the parliament, it is on the members of parliament to study the case and decide whether the immunity might be lifted. Dieschbourg’s resignation allows the public prosecutors to set up a court case.
The affair dates to 2019. Differdange’s Greens mayor Roberto Traversini resigned after the public prosecutors accused him of unauthorised constructions in his garden shed in an environmental protection zone. Environment Minister Dieschbourg allegedly backdated the necessary authorizations. Energy minister Claude Turmes will take her position as environment minister.
The Ministry for Mobility and Public Works has presented a strategy to manage the increasing traffic in the next 13 years. The National Mobility Plan foresees numerous projects such as new railways, tram routes, Park&Ride sites and motorway modifications which are to be implemented by 2035. The plan shall manage the projected 40 percent increase in total journeys compared to 2017. The strategy will move the country’s mobility politics forwards towards enhanced collaboration between the state, the municipalities, employers and citizens. Minister Francois Bausch will tour the country in the coming weeks, to present the strategy to the residents.
The new MRI scanner at the Medical Centre Potaschbierg will stay operational for the moment. Health Minister Paulette Lenert will not take immediate steps to shut the private MRI scanner down, despite the Ministry’s objections. The MRI in the private clinic Potaschbierg caused a political debate after opening last Wednesday. According to the Ministry’s interpretation of the 2018 Hospital Law, private clinics are not allowed to offer MRI scans. The Ministry has planned discussions with doctors, radiologists and other actors for this week to evaluate the situation. For now, the national health insurance CNS does not reimburse the scans made in the private clinic.
FRIDAY, 22 APRIL
A new report on racism in Luxembourg published by theUnited Nations criticises the persisting lack of public data and gaps in the legislation. According to UN rapporteur Ibrahima Guissé, the absence of available statistics on racial discrimination made an evaluation difficult. Previous reports have come to the same conclusion. The UN committee further criticises the lack of a law on stateless persons and stated an increased number of racist hate speech offences in Luxembourg. A study commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign affairs in 2020 already highlighted the need for adaptations in the legislation to prevent and fight racism. Minister Jean Asselborn said that the Ministry had developed a national strategy to combat racial discrimination. The Luxembourg Commission on human rights CCDH however fears that inequalities between Luxembourgish and non-Luxembourgish citizens could become more severe with the introduction of the constitutional reform.
It has been confirmed that Müllerthal Nature reserve will receive the label UnescoGeopark. Yesterday, Unesco officially accepted the application. Tourism Minister Lex Delles says the label will guarantee the preservation and protection of the cultural and nature heritage. He hopes that it will attract more visitors to Luxembourg. The region Müllerthal in the Eastern part of the country is known for its unique geology and rock formations. 177 regions in 46 countries are labelled “Global Unesco Geopark”, an initiative that acknowledges the geological relevance of a region. Members of this international network regularly exchange about protection and sustainability of their regions. From 30 May to 5 June, visitors will be invited to several events in Müllerthal to celebrate this success.
From today on, travellers landing at Luxembourgairport will no longer need to provide a covid certificate, the health and foreign affairs ministries announced in a common statement. These eased restrictions however concern only residents of EU-member states and their relatives. The ministries hope for a boost for the tourism industry.
LUkraine asbl have received permission to host a demonstration Mothers Against War this Saturday. The event will take place on Saturday the 23. April at 14h at the Place de Paris. The organisation is asking the public to join the demonstration that aims to highlight the plight children suffer in the war in Ukraine.
Thursday, 21 APRIL
French Utility company (EDF) has confirmed reports of corrosion at the Cattenom nuclear power plant in the eastern region. In a statement published online, Electricité de France said “signs of corrosion have been detected” during ultrasound imaging at Cattenom’s third reactor, as well as at the Chinon and Flamanville nuclear plants in the west of the country. The French power multinational said “Investigations are underway to determine the nature and origin of the corrosion.
Luxembourg’s Energy and Environment ministers filed an urgent demand with France’s nuclear authority as regards the defect and its consequences on the Cattenom site. The Grand Duchy has long lobbied for the closure of the nearby nuclear plant, even though it invests in EDF through its national pension fund and sources 10% of its electricity needs from Cattenom.
The Cattenom’s reactors, which went into service between 1986 and 1991, should be shut down for five years as of 2026, but reports say the French energy operator plans to extend the plant’s lifespan till 2035.
Some 250 hectares of fallow land marked for biodiversity conservation have been cleared for agricultural use amid fears of wheat shortages related to the war in Ukraine. The exceptional measure was hailed by the Centrale Paysanne, Luxembourg farmers’ association, which described it as a step in the right direction although it pointed out that more planning time would be needed to benefit farmers. The association of Young Farmers also criticized the timing of the measure saying it would be hard to switch the crops in these fields at this point. Environmentalists were the most vocal against the new measure. Jacque Pir of the Mouvement Écologique said ploughing fields that need rest « was a bad sign for biodiversity, and the million plants and animals facing extinction ».
NGO’s have repeatedly warned that skyrocketing wheat prices due to the Russian military operation in Ukraine could put millions of people at risk of illness or death due to hunger.
Luxembourg’s Ministry of Health has recommended a fourth Covid jab for vulnerable residents. The fourth vaccine shot will be available for people over-80, following recommendations by the superior council for infectious diseases. Senior residents will be notified by mail with instructions on how to make an appointment at the Victor Hugo vaccination centre, doctor’s office or pharmacy. The fourth jab should be administered at a minimum interval of four months from the third dose.
The unemployment rate in Luxembourg continues its downtrend with a further drop to 4.7% in March, the lowest in 13 years according to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (STATEC)
The number of job seekers is down for all labor categories, including those who have been registered for more than 12 months. Nevertheless, the long-term unemployed still represent 48.7% of all available job seekers.
The Luxembourg workforce will soon hit the 500 000 mark, says STATEC, with a notable increase in cross-border workers from France, Germany and Belgium.
WEDNESDAY 20 APRIL
300 new school staff have been employed by the Ministry of Education to assist with the influx of Ukrainian pupils.The senior civil servant in charge of the program told radio 100.7 yesterday that a further 77 Ukrainian-speaking staff will translate lessons, explain cultural differences, and liaise with parents. Education Minister Claude Meisch told RTL that less than half of the 1,200 school-age Ukrainian children were able to start school because they live in temporary housing and might relocate, or because their refugee status is not yet determined.
Economy minister Franz Fayot and finance minister Yuriko Backes joined lawmakers and government representatives of the newly formed tripartite committee for their first session yesterday. The committee is tasked with implementing and making legal the €830m energy crisis package agreed last month by the government, employer groups and trade unions. The energy package agreement aims to help households and businesses through the energy crisis by providing tax credits for employees, higher subsidies for home renovations and loan guarantees for businesses.
Russia yesterday said it had summoned Luxembourg’s envoy and issued a warning that it might take reciprocal measures for the Grand Duchy’s expulsion of the Russian ambassador earlier this month. Moscow also announced it was expelling 36 diplomats from Belgium and the Netherlands over similar measures taken against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. The Russian foreign ministry called decisions to expel its envoys “groundless” and the decision by Luxembourg “unmotivated” and an “unfriendly step”.
A medical centre in Grevenmacher, which includes an MRI machine, will open today despite opposition from the health ministry. The mayor of Grevenmacher said yesterday that more care options were now available for people living in the east of Luxembourg, which does not have a hospital of its own. The MRI machine has been a point of conflict between the commune and the health ministry, which denied a first request for a licence in 2017. A licence was finally granted in 2020 after a court ruled that prohibiting doctor’s offices from operating radiology equipment was unconstitutional. There are still questions surrounding CNS reimbursements for treatment at the Grevenmacher medical centre which isn’t yet regulated.
TUESDAY 19 APRIL
Motor vehicle accidents and fires across Luxembourg kept firefighters busy for the 3rd night in a row, the Grand Ducal Fire and Rescue Corps reports. The fire department was dispatched first to Frisange Sunday evening where a car caught fire in a garage then to Angledorf where a rubbish container was ablaze. One person was injured after a motorcyclist fell off of his vehicle around seven in the evening on the road to Mertzig, in Germany. Another person was injured Sunday evening in Dudelange when his car crashed into a tree and another one on Monday morning when his car crashed into a wall in rue de Strasbourg downtown Luxembourg. Police said injuries were also reported in a head-on crash between a bus and another vehicle in the Remich region Monday morning.
The body of a 46 year-old woman was found in the basement of a restaurant on Avenue John F. Kennedy in Kirchberg Sunday morning. Law enforcement officers who were dispatched to the scene to determine whether a crime had occurred. The Prosecutor’s Office ordered a forensic examination of the body to ascertain the cause of death.
Demonstrators took to the streets of Luxembourg Monday to demand an end to Russia’s devastating invasion of Ukraine. The March for Peace organized by the Peace and Solidarity Platform (FriSol) and trade union OGBL, called on World leaders to seek a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the war and urged them to adopt a collective response to combat climate change, a further threat to mankind. The OGBL also stated that the war should not be an excuse for the Luxembourg government to overlook the deepening social inequalities. In late March, the OGBL, Luxembourg’s largest trade union, pulled out of negotiations between the government, business representatives and trade unions on a financial aid package to help households with rising cost of living.
An Easter break flight turned into a nightmare for dozens of passengers after a Luxembourg bound plane was forced to land in Lyon this past Friday. The 90-minutes flight took 24 hours for passengers onboard flight V72578 from Nice to Luxembourg. The plane took off with an hour delay, and 500 km from destination, the pilots turned back toward Lyon because of the night landing curfew at Findel airport, this according to a passenger’s report. Passengers had to spend the night in Lyon and were shuttled by bus to Luxembourg where they arrived at quarter to seven in the evening. Spanish low cost carrier VOLOTEA has since apologised saying it paid for the passengers’ hotel night, meals and transfer. A few passengers said they plan to file claims against the carrier for failing to communicate properly.
FRIDAY 15 APRIL
Greenpeace Luxembourg has this week demanded an urgent investigation into reports of cracks in a reactor at Cattenom Nuclear Power Plant. In March EDF Cattenom announced that reactor number 3 would shut down to check for damage caused by cracks due to stress corrosion. The Luxembourg government immediately requested explanations and clarifications from the French Nuclear Safety Authority concerning the problems but neither they, nor EDF, have since communicated officially on the detection of the cracks. Greenpeace Luxembourg demanded the Luxembourg and German governments, whose borders are a few kilometres from the Cattenom power plant, to intervene urgently with the French authorities and request an urgent investigation into the plant’s safety. A ministry official said yesterday that Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg had contacted her German counterpart with ongoing concerns about the plant, and that a new demand asking for more details from the ASN was being finalised.
The Communist Party of Luxembourg announced yesterday that it “categorically rejects” the recently agreed tripartite solidarity package. The Party called for the decision to move the next indexation to April 2023 to be reversed, saying the index has virtually no effect on price increases and should not be used as an instrument to determine social policy. They added that to combat wage inequality it was essential to raise the minimum wage, and denied claims this would harm businesses. The KPL president pointed out that while the indexation was delayed, a Luxembourg bank had reported profits of several hundred million euros calling it “a redistribution of working people for big business,” The Party will join the OGBL union for the 1 May protest march to oppose index theft and social degradation.
According to figures released by Eurostat yesterday, the number of flights at Luxembourg’s Findel Airport has grown to near pre-pandemic levels. Figures show that commercial flights to and from Luxembourg were 15% lower in March than the same month in 2019 – a smaller comparative drop than most other EU countries, and below the average fall of 27% across the bloc for the same period. Statistics show that the sector is recovering. Eurostat reported a 156% increase in the number of commercial flights last month compared to March 2021. A full recovery is not expected until 2024 and Luxair losses for 2021 are expected to be between €20 and €30 million after recording a loss of over €150 million the year before.
UNESCO announced this week it has added Müllerthal to its list of global geoparks. Luxembourg and Sweden both became the newest additions to the global network of 177 official parks across 46 countries. UNESCO is a specialised United Nations agency aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, arts, sciences, and culture. Its website praised the Müllerthal region, saying it “is one of the most spectacular sandstone landscapes in Western Europe and has been a tourist attraction since the late 19th century”. UNESCO Global Geopark status will boost the national tourism sector and increase appreciation and understanding of the area.
THURSDAY 14 APRIL
The Independent Luxembourg Trade Union Confederation said yesterday it is “astonished and outraged” by the announcement that the Luxembourg International Bank is considering selling its shares in Luxair. In its statement, the OGBL said that neither they nor Luxair staff representatives had been informed and strongly condemned the possibility of a sale after employers, trade unions, and the government had agreed on a plan for the future of Luxair. The ‘Luxair Plan’ provides for the preservation of all jobs and the rejection of collective wage increases until the end of 2023. The union claims that an early exit by one of the shareholders is inappropriate, irresponsible and disrespectful towards the Luxembourgish company and its 3,000 employees. In the event that BIL did sell, the OGBL demanded the government take over the shares, adding that full support should be given to a sector of the economy which is in crisis.
During a working visit this week, Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis met with his Luxembourgish counterpart Jean Asselborn to speak about the war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia. Lithuania, which shares a 670km border with Russian ally Belarus, is the only EU country to date to have implemented a full ban of Russian gas and energy and Minister Landsbergis believes other countries should do the same. Minister Asselborn this week stated that supplying weapons to Ukraine would be more effective, explaining that an energy embargo would not stop Russia and would have knock-on effects across the EU with some countries suffering more than those with big economies. The ministers discussed the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and the large influx of refugees into the EU and Asselborn assured that Luxembourg is increasing its refugee capacities, as well as its aid to Ukraine.
The 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices was published by the US this week. The report documents the status of human rights and worker rights in 198 countries and territories around the world. The report found that, as in the previous year, there were no reports of significant human rights abuses in 2021 in Luxembourg, adding that the Luxembourg Government had “mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who may commit human rights abuses”. US Ambassador to Luxembourg, Thomas Barrett, said he was grateful to the Government of Luxembourg for continuing to uphold high standards of human rights. The Ambassador added that as the world witnessed gross human rights violations being perpetrated by Russia in Ukraine, all democratic countries must defend the values of the free world and continue to work to improve democracy.
Minister of the Economy Franz Fayot said yesterday that the EU’s SME Fund, which reimburses up to 75% of companies’ filing fees for trademarks and 50% for patents, has been extended until 2024. The SME Fund was launched in 2021 by the European Commission, the EU member states, and the European Union Intellectual Property Office to help small and medium-sized enterprises protect their intellectual property rights. The fund will have a budget of €30 million for the next three years and can grant a maximum reimbursement of €2,250 per company. Minister Fayot also emphasised the information and awareness-raising work that the Luxembourg Institute of Intellectual Property provides to companies.
WEDNESDAY 13 APRIL
Luxembourg’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Jean Asselborn, took part this week in the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU, which was held in the European Convention Centre in Kirchberg. EU foreign ministers discussed aspects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and Minister Asselborn expressed his condemnation of the horrific crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. Minister Asselborn emphasised the importance of continuing humanitarian and military support to Ukraine and greeted the third instalment of European Peace Facility aid bringing the amount to €1.5 billion. Minister Asselborn stated that to date Luxembourg had accepted over 4,600 refugees and had made humanitarian contributions of nearly €3 million and provided medical, weapons and satellite communication equipment. The Minister said he welcomed the latest wave of sanctions which included measures on energy for the first time, adding that existing sanctions should be fully applied.
Luxembourg’s consumers union – the ULC – yesterday criticised the state-owned Post’s decision to shut down several of its offices, claiming the elderly would be the most affected due to a lack of local postal services. The ULC said it had attempted to speak with finance minister Franz Fayot to voice its concern with recent developments and to request an urgent meeting. The union asserted that online postal services were not an acceptable replacement for physical offices as elderly people are less digitally literate.
Post’s managing director claimed that their restructuring activity was based on clients’ demands and that branches considered to be redundant had already been shut down. Regarding the difficulties faced by senior citizens, he explained that all transactions in Post branches could be executed by letter carriers. Post says they conduct client polls twice a year to better understand what customers need from their services, and announced a new branch will open in Belval this month.
The president of the OGBL trade union – Nora Back – has defended the union’s rejection of the tripartite agreement, claiming that the interests of employees and their families “are being attacked”. Back stated that the OGBL had not radicalised itself but is “exactly where it needs to be” and would never consent to an agreement that meant “an extensive redistribution from the bottom to the top”. Back said that by claiming that the OGBL is “not social enough”, the government and employers were attempting to distract people from the manipulation of the index. Back claimed that government campaign pledges had been broken and that politicians were retreating from pledges made to the OGBL and that trade union’s members must “stand up, fight back, and, if necessary, take to the streets”.
Police announced yesterday that 15-year-old Tiago Santos Goncalves de Oliveira has been missing since 5 April 2022. The missing boy was last seen wearing a black jogging suit and white Nike sneakers and could be in the Luxembourg-Strassen or Esch-sur-Alzette area, the police suggested. Anyone with information should contact 113 or 244 48 1000 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
TUESDAY 12 APRIL
47% of the 28,151 registered French voters in Luxembourg cast their ballots Sunday during the first round of the French presidential election. The results in the Grand Duchy, which were announced early Monday, confirmed the clear lead of current President Emmanuel Macron, over his 12 opponents. Speaking to the Luxemburger Wort on Monday, the coordinator for Macron’s campaign in Luxembourg – Frédéric Schauli – warned against the notable rise of the far right and urged voters to block Macron’s main rival, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, in the second round of the election. Although Macron won the 2017 election against Le Pen by a landslide to become France’s youngest ever president, opinion polls suggest this year’s vote could be much closer. The duel between pro-market Macron and his deeply Eurosceptic rival will take place on April 24.
Politicians in Luxembourg called on French voters yesterday to form an anti-far right front to prevent Marine Le Pen from coming to power. Foreign Minister Jean Asselbaum said a victory for the far right in neighbouring France could set the European Union on a “different path, at odds with European values” and he compared France’s current situation to a “political civil war”. Demokratesch Partei leader Corinne Cahen took to twitter to thank the defeated socialist, environmentalist and conservative candidates for their endorsement of Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the vote. Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel came out in support of Macron on the campaign trail last week in Strasbourg.
The latest Eurobarometer survey on public opinion in Luxembourg says housing and inflation are the biggest concerns for residents in the Grand Duchy. Climate change comes in third position, while younger people appear to have the most optimistic views about the EU’s economic prospects. Although the survey was carried out prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 85% of respondents said they support closer defence cooperation in the EU as well as closer cooperation on energy, foreign policy and immigration.
The population in Luxembourg has increased by 10,667 people in 2021 according to a recent report from the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (STATEC). Over 25 000 people moved to the Grand Duchy last year, mainly from France, Italy and Portugal. A reverse movement during the same period, shows nearly 16 000 people left the country, including 3,063 Luxembourgers, 3,055 Portuguese and 2,394 French nationals.
MONDAY 11 APRIL
Around 100 people attended a candlelit vigil in support of Ukraine in Place de Paris in Luxembourg City on Saturday evening. Organised by LUkraine asbl, this event invited members of the public to come together to express their joint desire to put an end to the war waged by Russia in Ukraine. Attendees lit candles and held placards with anti-war messages.
Luxembourg’s food safety authority announced the recall of all Kinder chocolate products made at the Ferrero factory in Arlon. The decision came after the Belgian authorities withdrew the site’s licence over links to a salmonella outbreak in Europe.
A 38-year-old man was fatally injured during a quarrel in a flat in Dudelange at the weekend. The public prosecutor’s office ordered the arrest of the 32-year-old presumed culprit. An autopsy is underway and the judicial police are investigating the incident.
Luxembourg Air Rescue sent a team to Lublin, a Polish city near the Ukraine border, to evacuate an injured Ukrainian refugee. The evacuation was ordered by Luxembourg’s Foreign Ministry and saw LAR provide the injured individual with initial medical treatment before transferring the patient to the CHL hospital.
The National Museum of History and Art has offered to return various items from its inventory to Tanzania. During the setup of its new exhibition on Luxembourg’s colonial past, curators found several problematic objects which would be considered “loot” nowadays. The items concerned came from the region known today as Tanzania. The curators confirmed they would return said objects should their Tanzanian counterparts request this.
FRIDAY 8 APRIL
A new police report presented yesterday reveals that the number of crimes per 100,000 inhabitants has risen in Luxembourg over the last five years. However, statistics show that the number of police cases is declining, explained at yesterday’s press conference by the fact that police case files usually contain several incidents. The percentage of crimes solved by the police has stayed constant over the last five years at 53.2%. The Minister of Internal Security – Henri Kox – praised the statistics but warned that the report indicated a rise in the number of physical aggressive and violent acts as well as on social media. The Minister said that violence towards police officers had increased, as had what he called “a spitting phenomenon.”
Following the temporary closure of the CHDN maternity unit in Ettelbruck this week, the medical director of the Chem maternity hospital has demanded a national agreement be put in place to ease the precarious situation. The Ettelbruck hospital was forced to close as it was “no longer able to comply with the law” by having a gynaecologist-obstetrician, an anaesthetist, and a paediatrician available on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Furthermore, Romain Schockmel warned that in the next five years, almost half of the Chem doctors will retire. Schockmel said there is also the problem that the hospital makes no provision for compensation for doctors who are on call, making it difficult to recruit specialists. The medical director urged that a global and national solution be found, particularly in the maternity sector, to provide structure and accountability. Health Minister Paulette Lenert said earlier this week that the issues could not be resolved overnight and was a part of the problem of childcare services in general.
The Minister of Finance Yuriko Backes said yesterday that the deferral of August’s indexation to 2023 will not affect child benefit. Speaking to RTL, Minister Backes confirmed the government plans to exclude family allowance from the delayed indexation as agreed by the tripartite agreement meant the family allowance would increase by 2.5 percent in August.
Figures released this week show that a third of compensation claims filed by businesses, farmers and households have been paid out following last July’s flooding, equalling approximately 10% of the €100 million announced by the government. According to ministers, the government had paid €12 million in compensation claims by mid-March with requests for support totalling €34 million. The figures showed that just over half of households which applied for assistance have received funds to date with each household receiving an average of €16,000. 130 households were refused compensation, while a similar number are still awaiting a decision.
THURSDAY 7 APRIL
Luxembourg ordered the expulsion of a Russian diplomat yesterday following accusations of war crimes committed in the Ukrainian town of Bucha. The diplomat has been instructed to leave Luxembourg within 15 days. Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn announced the move, saying the diplomat’s activities are contrary to the security interests of Luxembourg. The Minister told the Luxemburger Wort that the Luxembourg government is showing solidarity with most EU states that have also taken such steps. It is likely that Russia will now expel a Luxembourg diplomat in Moscow – a move that will close all diplomatic channels between the two countries. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has sought to keep diplomatic channels open, speaking twice with Russian President Vladimir Putin seeking de-escalation and dialogue between Putin and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyi.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen this week announced a new wave of sanctions against Russia, including a ban on coal imports. Energy Minister Claude Turmes said yesterday that these EU sanctions, and any future bans, present “no problem” for Luxembourg’s energy. Speaking to RTL, the Minister said the recent reports from Ukraine were “intolerable”, but added that a gas embargo would hurt industries although Luxembourg is one of the countries that would have the fewest problems. Minister Turmes stressed that EU sanctions would “only make sense” provided all member countries stuck to a joint plan.
Following Ukraine’s request last week that countries ban the letter “Z” used by Russia to show support for the war, Minister for Justice Sam Tanson has said that symbols, words, or actions on their own cannot be banned in Luxembourg. Minister Tanson explained that each case is considered in context but stressed that inciting hate with the use of symbols is a crime and that it would be up to a court to decide in each case. The minister added that trivialising war or war crimes would also be a crime but only after the International Criminal Court had concluded that war crimes were committed in Ukraine – a process that is ongoing.
Luxembourg’s new political party – Fokus – yesterday called for an immediate halt to imports of gas and oil from Russia and stressed the need for practical solutions. Regarding housing, Fokus’ spokesman Frank Engel demanded a “major construction campaign” to build 100,000 dwellings “as fast as possible” to alleviate the crisis. The party proposed a new form of indexation system that would give people on low incomes a wage indexation of 3%. At the same time, the suggested “social index” would be reduced by degrees for people earning higher incomes.
WEDNESDAY 6 APRIL
Foreign minister Jean Asselborn announced this week that a quarter of the requests from Ukrainian refugees for temporary protection have been processed. 4,069 refugees have requested temporary protection in the grand duchy with the immigration office processing between 80 and 100 applications a day. Minister Asselborn deemed it would take six weeks for all existing applications to be processed. The rate of refugee arrivals has slowed with 350 applying for temporary protection last week, compared to more than 1,000 the previous week.
While most Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, the crisis is not over for everyone in the horesca sector with many restaurants in the city centre still recording a 40% decline in turnover and a 50% to 60% decline at lunchtime, because of teleworking. The Ministry for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises confirmed to l’essentiel newspaper that since March 1, aid for uncovered costs is only available for hotels and campsites. A ministry spokesperson said that requests for aid are decreasing, both for stimulus aid and for that of uncovered costs”, adding that the economy “is on the road to recovery”. Stimulus aid continues for all sectors, including the hotel and catering industry, in order to “meet liquidity needs” but, in line with EU directives, it could disappear from July. The general secretary of Horesca called telework a “scourge” for his profession, claiming it costs the sector 625,000 euros a day.
The Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Trade Unions this week warned that attacks on bus drivers are becoming more violent. The LCGB, the largest trade union in the transport sector, described an attack last week in which a bus driver was threatened and beaten in Luxembourg City and pointed to four similar incidents since the beginning of the year. As discussions between the LCGB and the public transport administration continue about the possibility of installing anti-aggression cabins for drivers, the union is asking for more immediate protection for drivers in the form of security guards. However, the Ministry of Mobility claims that assaults mostly occur at stations or stops, and less so on buses themselves.
A new study, published yesterday, has revealed that over half of Luxembourg’s employees would be uncomfortable asking for a pay raise for fear it would harm the good working relationship with their manager. According to the Jobs.lu survey, more than 60% of employees surveyed did not feel comfortable asking for a pay rise while 38% have never requested one. 1 in 4 employees ask for a salary raise every year, but only a third of those receive one. A third of the 1,240 people surveyed claimed they found it difficult to evaluate their own worth, while a quarter said they lacked self-confidence.
TUESDAY 5 APRIL
On Monday, the Ministry of Health reported 2,411 new coronavirus infections in Luxembourg residents. The numbers refer to the period from Friday to Sunday. The positive results were found in a total of 6,437 tests. There have been four further deaths.
The maternity ward at the Ettelbruck hospital has been shut down because of a lack of paediatricians. The announcement was made late Sunday by the Centre Hospitalier du Nord (CHdN) which stated that the measure was temporary. The ward oversees an average of 800 births every year. It will be transferred to either the CHL Children’s Hospital or the Robert Schuman hospital in Kirchberg. Lawmakers from both the Democratic Party and the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) submitted an urgent question to Health Minister Paulette Lennert. They want to know whether the minister supports a centralisation of maternity services towards the capital city.
Speaking to RTL on Monday, Lennert said the situation is likely to remain unchanged over the coming weeks in Ettelbruck but she stated that the Health Ministry has a mobile unit specialised for pregnancy-related emergencies, and made she clear that the priority for now is that coordination between the remaining maternity units remains efficient. Minister Lennert also pointed out that the shortage of specialised medical personnel is not only a problem in the Grand Duchy while calling for a “systemic approach to the health sector problems”.
The Ministry of mobility and public works has launched a road safety campaign ahead of the summer season, asking motorcyclists to wear proper equipment. The campaign entitled “Gutt equipéiert, gutt protegéiert” or ‘Well equipped, well protected’ draws attention to the advantages of proper safety equipment for motorcyclists. Among the 24 people who lost their lives in road accidents in 2021 three were motorcyclists. The Motorists Training Centre (CFC) at Colmar-Berg offers special courses to prepare motorcyclists for the road after the winter break.
Thousands of Muslims in Luxembourg celebrated the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan Saturday April 2nd. Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar and is centred around fasting, self-reflection, and prayer. Due to the Muslim calendar being shorter than the Gregorian calendar, Ramadan begins 10 to12 days earlier each year. Observers refrain from eating, drinking, every day from sunrise to sunset. The month ends with a celebratory feasting holiday called Eid Al Fitr, slated for May 1st.
MONDAY 4 APRIL
Around 4,000 Ukrainian refugees have applied for international protection in Luxembourg, RTL reported. 950 of those are children. The initiative LUkraine concluded in their roundtable discussion last week, that more than 460 tons of humanitarian aid have been delivered from Luxembourg to Ukraine since Russia invaded the country. On Friday, the rescue service CGDIS sent out a reminder about the monthly test of the sirens network in Luxembourg, to not cause panic or stress to recent arrivals from Ukraine. The sirens are tested today and every month, they are designed to alert the citizens in a potential emergency, for instance in case of a nuclear threat.
The Wanteraktioun has been prolonged for three days due to the forecasted freezing temperatures, the Ministry for Family Affairs announced on Saturday. Instead of closing its doors at the end of March as planned, the homeless shelter at Findel will remain open until tomorrow. According to RTL, Minister Corinne Cahen had received loads of criticism for putting the homeless to sleep on the streets despite the cold temperatures. Usually, the Wanteraktioun, a service led by the Red Cross, Caritas and the Ministry for Family Affairs, provides beds to homeless people for the night from 1 December until 31 March. Since last Friday, the Ministry of Immigration is in charge of the buildings as refugees have been transferred there from the Kirchberg facility which now accommodates only refugees from Ukraine.
The trade union OGBL continues to critizise the results of the tripartite on the reduction of the inflationary pressure on companies and households. The union said that it could not “give the government a blank cheque to manipulate the index until 2024”. The “Solidarity package” by the government will only allow one wage indexation per year and postpone the one that was due in August until next year. Instead, all employees and pensioners receive a tax credit from August 2022 until March 2023. The aid will be applied on a sliding scale, the higher the income, the smaller the financial aid. Everyone who earns up to €44,000 per year will be paid the maximum of €84 per month in tax credits. Francine Closener, party president of the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (LSAP) defended the measures saying that the aim of her party was to “help people with low and medium incomes”. She stresses that people in tax class 1 with a gross salary below €5,700 will get more money from the tax credit than they would have received through a wage indexation in August.
Yesterday, the inhabitants of the municipalities Bous and Waldbredimus voted in a referendum for the fusion of the two municipalities, which has been in preparation for five years. In Waldbredimus 75 percent voted for the fusion and in Bous 57 percent. It is now up to the municipal councils to officially vote on the merger, the corresponding law shall come into force in September 2023. About 3.000 inhabitants live in the two municipalities in total. On 100komma7, the mayor of Bous Carlo Kütten explained, the fusion would reduce the administrative workload which becomes more and more complex, particularly for small municipalities. The fusion allows to join the staff and work more efficiently. Already to date, both municipalities share several facilities, such as schools.
THURSDAY 31 MARCH
Salaries, wages, and pensions will increase by 2.5% from April to match the inflation rate. Interim figures from STATEC – the national statistics bureau – showing a 6.1% annual inflation rate of the consumer price index for March triggered the new indexation. The new rate of indexation will start on 1 April and STATEC will present the final and detailed results of the consumer price index for March on 8 April after a meeting with the index commission. Salaries were last adjusted in October 2021, also rising by 2.5% to match inflation.
The National Health Fund yesterday announced an increase in the cost of medical bills due to the wage indexation. The CNS declared a 2.5% increase of the applicable medical care rates on 1 April. This applies to doctors, dentists, health professionals and palliative care providers.
Nearly 2.5 billion euros of assets and securities have been frozen in Luxembourg because of sanctions against Russian persons and entities. The figure was provided by the Minister for Finance Yuriko Backes during a joint meeting of the Finance and Budget Committee and the Justice Committee of the Chamber of Deputies which reviewed the EU’s sanctions in response to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. Minister Backes said the EU sanctions against Russia were producing tangible results and claimed that Luxembourg is playing its full role in the common EU response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Minister of Justice, Sam Tanson, provided information about the issue of seizure of assets and the legal framework relating to criminal seizure and confiscation. Minister Tanson also specified that the Luxembourg Business Registers had identified 86 companies in relation to eleven different natural persons as on the EU sanctions list.
The condition of natural habitats and biodiversity in Luxembourg is very troubling, according to the Natural Environment Observatory which published its report for 2017-2021 this week. The Observatory claimed that two thirds of the 28 natural habitats in the country are in a concerning or bad state. Regarding animal species, the group warned that three quarters of 50 species observed are in a concerning condition. As well as climate change, the Ministry for the Environment blamed intensive agricultural practices such as too much fertiliser and pesticides. The Ministry also pointed to the threat of urbanisation as Luxembourg continues to take a lot of space for housing and office buildings. The Observatory announced several recommendations, including the reduction of livestock and targeted ecological programmes.
WEDNESDAY 30 MARCH
Concerned locals this week questioned the suitability of a proposed refugee centre to be located near the Irgäertchen roundabout, placing it between the A1 motorway and the Findel airstrip. Four refugee sites are planned for the site which will house up to 685 people, as well as classrooms, sport and medical facilities, and administrative buildings. The president of the Cents Interest Club said she believed the closeness of planes landing and the constant noise from the nearby motorway would be discomforting for people who had just escaped from terrible experiences. The Club is demanding an urgent meeting with Luxembourg City Mayor Lydie Polfer. Speaking to RTL, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Jean Asselborn dismissed demands for smaller refugee sites at different locations, explaining that catering and medical care can be organised more efficiently if everyone is at the same place.
Luxembourg’s Minister of Justice this week met with her counterparts from Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain to discuss the situation in Ukraine. The ministers denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine before discussing the importance of collecting any evidence for current and future investigations in the conflict. The group also urged Europeans not to travel to Ukraine to fight because, even though no national law prohibited it, citizens who enlist would be judged by international law and applicable jurisdiction and might face prosecution as foreign terrorist fighters. Also discussed was the seizure and confiscation of assets of those enabling the war in Ukraine.
Minister of Defence François Bausch this week introduced plans to boost Luxembourg’s defence budget by €100 million in 2024. Minister Bausch said this would increase the budget to €558 million and would make up 7.5% of the government’s budget, or 0.72% of GDP. Minister Bausch stated that the NATO requirement of devoting 2% of a member’s GDP to military spending was “unrealistic”, given that Luxembourg’s elevated GDP could see as much as €1.7 billion spent on defence every year.
There were 147 applications for international protection last month according to figures released this week by the Directorate of Immigration of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. This equates to a rise of 9.7% from January and by just over 126% over one year. 285 asylum application decisions were taken in February, with 105 applicants being granted refugee status in Luxembourg. The largest number of applicants remains Syrian, followed by Eritrean, Venezuelan, and from Afghanistan.
The European Commission on Tuesday approved the merger of train companies Eurostar and Thalys, clearing the way for the creation of a cross-border rail operator serving five countries. The combination will connect up the U.K., France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. The new company, to be called Eurostar, will be headquartered in Brussels.
TUESDAY 29 MARCH
MONDAY 28 MARCH
The ministry of Justice on Friday warned about the danger of human trafficking and exploitation for war refugees fleeing from Ukraine. The Monitoring committee for the fight against trafficking of human beings, chaired by the ministry, has put in place preventive measures. The National reception Office (ONA) and other actors such as the Red cross and Caritas are instructed to raise awareness and inform potential victims of their rights. According to the press release, Ukraine’s neighbouring countries have already reported attempts of exploitation or trafficking, including through fraudulent travel arrangements or offers of accommodation in return for household or childcare services. Victims can seek by calling the Judicial Police on 113, and through the organisation Infotraite via www.stoptraite.lu. If you want to learn more about human trafficking in Luxembourg, check our website aracityradio.com where we focused on the topic for the series Local Matters.
The Luxembourg Bar association of lawyers provides free legal advice for refugees coming from Ukraine, Delano has reported. The association’s vice chairman, Pit Reckinger, said the association’s commission for immigration and international protection has been actively “supporting refugees coming from Afghanistan” in recent months. He added that the commission was now ready to help Ukrainian refugees in Luxembourg with immigration issues and any related regulatory matters. In Reckinger’s eyes however, refugees from Ukraine will not encounter many problems.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for a global boycott of the French supermarket chain Auchan. On Twitter, he wrote: “If Auchan ignores 139 Ukrainian children murdered during this month of Russian invasion, let us ignore Auchan and all their products.” Calls for a boycott on social media target include the stores of Auchan Luxembourg. Despite several calls for sanctions, Auchan continues operating in Russia. Auchan CEO Yves Claude defended the company’s decision with the objective to keep the staff employed. Ukraine’s call for boycott also includes the French chains Leroy Merlin and Decathlon.
Several hundred people followed the Youth4Climate call to protest in the city centre of Luxembourg on Friday. The mostly young protesters criticised the slowness of the government in climate protection. “Stop investing in our deaths”, one of the protesters said through the megafone. They urge the government to end tapping fossil energies immediately.
FRIDAY 25 MARCH
The government’s weekly coronavirus report, published yesterday, shows that the number of coronavirus infections in Luxembourg is rising again. Luxembourg’s CovidCheck regime was lifted, as was most of the mask mandate, on 11 March. Government reports revealed that there was a 30% increase in the number of diagnosed infections for the week of 14 to 20 March but numbers had already been rising due to the spread of the more infectious sub-variant of the omicron mutation. However, the number of patients hospitalised with a coronavirus infection remains low, with 33 patients in regular care and four in intensive care as of Tuesday, the latest data available. Luxembourg’s vaccination rate continues to stagnate with just 141 people getting a first jab in the last week. Earlier this week the government announced a helpline for people who remain sceptical or have questions about covid vaccinations. The free helpline is open between 2 – 6pm, and can be called on 4411-9955.
Luxembourg’s political parties yesterday reacted to the results of the tripartite meeting between the Luxembourg government, trade unions and employers. The Green party said the announced reduction in energy prices did not comply with the party’s wishes, but the party viewed it as a temporary measure in a volatile situation and they would accept it as a compromise. The CSV party said they applauded the announcement, saying the government needed to act during these exceptional times, while The Left announced that the measures barely plastered over the issues in question. In a tweet, the Pirate Party said the measures would mostly benefit those with the highest wages and cars.
The price of a flat in Luxembourg has almost doubled in the eight years between the start of 2013 and the end of last year. Figures released yesterday by Statec – the country’s official statistics agency – revealed that the average cost of a flat of 80 square metres was €696,000 at the end of 2021, roughly double that of 2013, when it was priced at €349,000. The report also showed that the average price of a house in or close to Luxembourg City was €1.35 million while the national average is around €900,000. Two weeks ago, an IMF assessment warned that the “rapid rise of housing prices poses medium-term financial stability risks and could deter new and existing employees. In a poll released last November, 82% of voters said they were “greatly worried” about access to affordable housing.
There were 1,355 first-time asylum applications from non-EU citizens in Luxembourg last year, according to figures released on Wednesday. This is up from 1,167 in 2020, when borders closed due to Covid-19. Almost two-thirds of those seeking refuge in the Grand Duchy in 2021 were from just three countries; Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan where the Taliban’s takeover in August caused a mass exodus of refugees.
Ahead of their protest against fossil fuel investments today, Youth for Climate Luxembourg this week presented an updated list of demands. Regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the group restated the fact that they are pacifists as well as climate activists and expressed solidarity with all victims of war. In a press release the YFCL also recognised the link between the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Luxembourg’s dependence on fossil fuels, among them Russian gas and oil. The group demanded that the Luxembourg finance sector aligns its investments with the demand for carbon neutrality by 2030, and that the Luxembourg pension fund aligns its new investment strategy with the Paris Agreement with employees having a say concerning these investments. Today’s protest departs from Place de Clairefontaine in Luxembourg City at 2pm
THURSDAY 24 MARCH
Approximately one third of Luxembourg’s groundwater cannot be used for drinking due to high levels of pollution, the environment ministry and water authority announced this week. A joint press release blamed agricultural pollution, especially fertilisers used on crops, as the main contributor to high pollution levels. Groundwater provides approximately 55% of Luxembourg’s drinking water supply, half of which is polluted. Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg said this presented a “big challenge as there is a growing need for drinking water due to climate change, and Luxembourg’s demographic and economic growth”. Stricter rules will be introduced by the ministry in areas where pollution levels are too high. Last year, Luxembourg experienced a 50% rise in reports of surface water pollution due mostly to fuel oil leaks following the floods of July 2021.
The agreement between Luxembourg and Germany providing easy access to telework, or working from home, for cross-border workers will end on 30 June 2022. The agreement, introduced at the beginning of the pandemic, ensured employees could benefit from telework without tax disadvantages. From 1 July 2022, a cross-border worker may only make use of 19 days of telework without needing to declare them fiscally in their country of residence. At the same time, the current agreement on social security affiliation will also end, meaning a cross-border worker from Germany will fall under the German social security scheme if they spend more than a quarter of their work time teleworking.
The tripartite meeting between the Luxembourg government, trade unions and employers drew up a plan on Wednesday to relieve people and companies. The 2.5% index tranche expected in April will likely be the last of the year. A second index tranche – which Statec said could be due as early as this August – is to be postponed to 2023. Losses are to be compensated for by tax credits.Finally, fuel prices are to be reduced by 7.5 cents.
The Russian embassy in Dommeldange was the target of vandals this week with the message “KILL PUTIN” sprayed onto one of its walls. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked several protests in Luxembourg, one of them outside Gazprombank which has not yet been sanctioned by the West. Earlier this month, the colours of the Ukrainian flag were sprayed on the walls of the embassy, according to L’Essentiel. Amnesty International Luxembourg has called for another protest in front of the Russian embassy today to mark the start of the war one month ago.
WEDNESDAY 23 MARCH
Screenshots have appeared on Twitter this week suggesting that Lucie Kunakova – the Pirate Party treasurer – has liked and shared tweets containing coronavirus disinformation and propaganda tweets spreading false information about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. One faked photo claims to show the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, holding a jersey in Ukrainian colours with a swastika on it. Pirate Party MP Sven Clement clarified that the matter “has been dealt with internally”, adding that Kunakova would not be asked to resign by the Party as she has already announced that she would not continue as treasurer. Clement emphasised that the Pirate Party does not share the same views as Kunakova, who has deleted her Twitter account.
As the vaccination rate in Luxembourg rests at around 78% and with a vaccine mandate still being discussed, a helpline has been launched for people who remain sceptical or have questions about covid vaccinations. People getting their first vaccination has dropped from nearly 4,000 per week at the beginning of the year to just 230 in early March. The free helpline, operated by the health directorate in cooperation with the CHL hospital, will offer information about the different vaccines on offer. It’s open between 2-6pm, and can be called on 4411-9955.
The vaccination centre at Victor Hugo hall in Limpertsberg closes in mid April.However, pharmacies, doctor’s offices and a mobile vaccination service will continue to offer vaccinations.
Greenpeace has again called for legislation to reduce fossil fuel funding and deliver a transparent definition of sustainable investment, claiming that Luxembourg could have a massive impact on sustainable development and finance. In an open letter, the NGO cited the fact that assets worth over €5 trillion were managed by investment funds based in Luxembourg at the start of 2021, many of whom were still investing in fossil fuel companies. Furthermore, they claim that the 100 largest Luxembourg funds support the equivalent of four times the direct greenhouse gas emissions of the grand duchy. Greenpeace called for transparency of all financial products and also warned that the sustainable investments label creates a risk of greenwashing .
On Tuesday night, unknown perpetrators blew up an ATM in Esch-Sûre around 2 a.m. Those responsible were able to escape undetected, according to the police. Police are working to secure evidence and investigate the crime scene.This is not the first time that thieves have operated in this way, unknowns blew up an ATM in Niederkerschen last week.
Luxembourg’s water management administration this week warned that groundwater levels are low as not enough was replenished over the winter, and spring has been too dry.The administration explained that despite the July floods of last year, the water recharge rate is 30% below average because of the lack of winter rain. The water recharge rate has fallen short for several years in a row now, and this year is no different with the absence of snow, which soaks slowly into the soil. As temperatures begin to rise, the recharge will stagnate and any rain will benefit the growing plants but not the groundwater.
TUESDAY 22 MARCH
Luxembourg’s unemployment rate continues to fall amid a record rise in job vacancies, according to the latest employment figures from the job agency ADEM. The unemployment rate in February this year stood at 4.9%, down 21.2% from the previous year. The number of jobs available with the ADEM continued to rise to a new record of 11 000 in February, with 3,500 new job postings. The number of people who have been out of work for a year or more dropped from 7,102 in February 2021 to 5,460 last month. The most sought after jobs in Luxembourg are ICT, Accounting and Secretarial related roles.
Meanwhile, Economy minister Franz Fayot on Monday warned the current energy crisis may be harder on businesses than the pandemic. This, as the EU Commission is working on a new aid package to mitigate rising energy prices for companies. Fayot stressed the need for a sustainable reorganisation of EU energy markets, saying talks are underway to reduce dependence on Russian gas and oil while investing for a step-change in decarbonisation, and the production of renewable energy. The EU aid package, which will be disclosed in the coming two weeks, aims to compensate companies for the additional costs of energy through direct aid and the EU Emissions Trading System.
Telecom operator POST LUXEMBOURG announced a new solidarity action in favour of refugees displaced by the war in Ukraine. Post Luxembourg is offering free mobile subscriptions, standard bank accounts as well as payment cards with no monthly fees. Poste also said it was lending The National Reception Office (ONA) a certain number of premises and housing facilities to accommodate refugees. As of Monday, Ukrainian refugees who wish to benefit from the offer can report to Post Telecom’s sales points with a certificate of temporary protection benefit delivered by the Directorate of Immigration.
Grand Duke Henri and Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn are on an official visit to the United Arab Emirates to promote Luxembourg. The Grand Duke and the foreign Minister Monday visited the Luxembourgish pavilion at the World Expo 2020, where they met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai. The Luxembourgish stand will celebrate the tenth anniversary of emergency.lu, Luxembourg’s emergency satellite communications platform.
MONDAY 21 MARCH
During a phone call with Vladimir Putin on Saturday, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel urged the Russian president to agree to a ceasefire. Bettel offered support in bringing negotiations between Russia and Ukraine forward and to de-escalate the situation. Bettel concluded this second phone call with the Kremlin in one week, by saying: Nobody will win this war, neither Russia, nor Europe, and certainly not Ukraine.
Meanwhile, hundreds of protestors again gathered in the city centre on Saturday to demonstrate against the Russian war in Ukraine. A second group of protestors formed at Royal Hamilius to protest against the war in Syria, in which Russia is also involved.
The National Reception Office ONAopened a second hall at Luxexpo in Kirchberg , to accommodate more Ukrainian refugees, RTL reported on Saturday. 600 additional beds are now available. The facility is only a temporary solution, since the building will be used for other purposes from 11 April on. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is trying to set up more accommodation centres. According to the Luxemburger Wort, more than 2.900 refugees from Ukraine have arrived in Luxembourg. The former building of the newspaper, owned by the catholic diocese of Luxembourg, will also give shelter to 200 refugees, after conversions are completed.
And the Ministry of Education has put in place an office for the registration of Ukrainian children into the education system. The Ministry’s press release says, they aim to offer schooling adapted to the diversity of Ukrainian children and highlights the advantage of the six international schools and English teaching. The Service for foreign students’ schooling – SECAM – invites all the parents to have an interview in person at the office at 38, rue Philippe II in Luxembourg. The office is open from Monday to Friday from 8 to 12 am and from 1 to 5pm. A hotline is available in English and Ukrainian. Hotline English: (+352) 247-76570 / Ukrainian: (+352) 247-76976. And, the Ministry hires Ukrainian speaking teachers and educational staff. You can find all addresses, contacts, and additional information here: https://1drv.ms/b/s!Au-ksifI-KKugrBKFzpqcGQslZ7H9A?e=MSC3kR
Luxembourg’s government is appalled and concerned following Belgium’s decision to maintain its nuclear plants longer than planned. Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg and Energy Minister Claude Turmes both tweeted that the government had sent an urgent letter to Brussels, saying they were stunned by the Belgian government’s decision to postpone the nuclear exit again. The tweet added that the decision jeopardises the safety of Luxembourg citizens. The nuclear power plants near Liege and Antwerp were to be closed by 2025. Due to the high energy prices, the Belgian government announced on Friday that they will keep them running ten years longer, until 2035.
Fred Keup has been elected the new president for the political party the ADR. The party confirmed his election at their national congress in Roeser yesterday with 86 out of 94 votes. Keup succeeds Jean Schoos, who was the head of the party since 2012. In his first speech as president, Keup said the adr was the only party that addresses “the real concerns of the people ” and that security, family, language and identity remain the main topics for the party.
FRIDAY 18 MARCH
Four out of five people are worried about the war in Ukraine and dread a larger-scale conflict. According to the results of a study published this week by market research institute TNS-Ilres, 82% said they were emotionally affected by the war, with 31% saying they felt severely affected. Another question revealed that over two-thirds of the 503 respondents were opposed to NATO military armed intrusion in Ukraine. Ukraine is not a member of NATO and the alliance said it will not enter the war beyond supplying weapons and ammunition, for fear of sparking a larger conflict. 70% feared a third world war, while 90% of those surveyed were concerned about a potential European economic crisis. Despite this, hundreds of Luxembourg residents have assisted the thousands of refugees from Ukraine and the government will open six temporary shelters for displaced people this year.
Approximately one in six women in Luxembourg have been a victim of rape or attempted rape and other forced sexual acts according to a report published yesterday by STATEC. Over 5.5 thousand people took part in a 2020 study about the various types of violence experienced over the last five years and during their lifetime. 13% claimed they had suffered physical violence in the last five years, while victims of sexual violence grew to 6%. More than a quarter had been the victim of psychological violence in the last five years and nearly half said they have experienced psychological violence in their lifetime. STATEC advised that while the figures might indicate a rise in violence, they could also be due to an increase in openness among participants to talk about incidents.
Luxembourg lawmakers this week approved changes to the labour law that allow companies and employees now to negotiate how and when workers can work remotely. The revised law states that companies with more than 150 employees must all agree on arrangements for teleworking, while at smaller companies, the employer must only inform and consult the staff delegation. In 2020, a petition signed by nearly 6,000 people had sought a labour right to work remotely but it was opposed by the government and labour unions who feared “letterbox” firms which exist as nothing more than a mailing address to dodge tax liability.
The Minister of the Environment, Carole Dieschbourg, this week explained the delay in paying out subsidies for electric bikes was because of a lack of staff in the department. The minister said the ideal wait time was between four and eight weeks, but a lack of ministry staff has led to delays of up to a year. The Minister said recruitment was ongoing which would help with the long wait times.
In collaboration with the Kirchberg Fund, Flex Carsharing yesterday opened three new sites. The car sharing platform can be found at train stations and specific sites around the city, Flex carsharing now has a total of 60 stations and 110 cars spread across Luxembourg.
THURSDAY 17 MARCH
Luxembourg has pledged €2.8 million in aid to Ukraine. The money will support the work of the United Nations, the International Red Cross, and various Luxembourg-based NGOs hosting Ukrainian refugees in Ukraine and in adjoining countries. Luxembourg has also supplied equipment for the satellite-based telecommunications platform emergency.lu to be used in Ukraine and coordinated training for the installation and use of satellite antennas. The Grand Ducal Fire and Rescue Corps has provided more than 50 tonnes of fire-fighting equipment as well as medical supplies. Prime Minister Bettel also spoke of unspecified military aid that had been provided to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean Asselborn, participated in a UN conference that addressed the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Mr Asselborn stated that while all eyes are on Ukraine, and every effort must be made to address the humanitarian crisis growing there, the people of Yemen, who have suffered from war and destruction for more than seven years, must not be forgotten. Minister Asselborn announced a contribution of 2 million euros from Luxembourg to respond to the crisis in Yemen, which is considered one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. Under the coordination of the Minister for Cooperation and Humanitarian Action, Franz Fayot, this support will be channelled through the World Food Program , the Red Cross, the Common Humanitarian Fund of the UN for Yemen, as well as non-governmental organisations.
Luxembourg City mayor Lydie Polfer announced yesterday that the refugee shelter at Luxexpo in Kirchberg will only be used until mid-April. Two extra halls at Luxexpo have been opened to temporarily house refugees, Polfer explained, but these will need to be vacated as other solutions are found to accommodate the influx of refugees from Ukraine. Polfer said the city has rented the Graace hotel in Bonnevoie from 1 April, with 28 rooms available and that a former office in Hollerich has been converted into a shelter. The mayor added that there was a possibility that the former fire station on Route d’Arlon could be converted into a welcome centre. The commune of Contern is preparing a facility that will hold up to 1,000 refugees, Polfer said, adding that there were structures in place across the country and people might have to be moved between communes.
Luxembourg city announced plans to increase its solidarity allocation subsidy yesterday to help poorer households manage with the rising cost of fuel and other essentials. It was announced that the subsidy will rise to €780 from €615 per year for a family of four, and that families can also apply for a separate €350 energy subsidy as well. The Luxemburger Wort reported that approximately 6,000 households will benefit from the changes, and that nearly half of those currently collecting the subsidy are single-person households. The measure was approved on Tuesday by the city council’s finance committee with a plenary vote due in about two weeks.
WEDNESDAY 16 MARCH
The Pirate Party this week asked that Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn explain conditions at the winter homeless shelter, where refugees are being moved to make room for Ukrainian refugees. Some 70 refugees, including Syrians and Eritreans, who have been relocated from the emergency refugee centre at LuxExpo in Kirchberg have complained about conditions at the winter homeless shelter. Asselborn told RTL yesterday that around 2,500 Ukrainian refugees have applied to register for Luxembourg’s temporary protection scheme, allowing them access to healthcare, jobs and schooling, adding that many more were coming. Luxembourg City Mayor Lydie Polfer told radio 100.7 that the council is preparing an additional site to host refugees, and said she believed private citizens who are hosting refugees should receive financial support from the government.
Following his conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel later spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by telephone. According to a statement from Luxembourg’s Ministry of State, Prime Minister Bettel agreed with President Zelensky on the need to end the ongoing Russian attacks and establish an immediate ceasefire which would allow humanitarian corridors to remain open and respected. Prime Minister Bettel repeated his support for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people and emphasised the solidarity of the people of Luxembourg towards people fleeing the war in Ukraine. President Zelensky and Prime Minister Bettel committed to maintaining regular contact.
The International Monetary Fund has cautioned that urgent actions are required to reduce pressures in Luxembourg’s housing market. The IMF’s recently released annual assessment of Luxembourg’s economy said that rising property prices and construction costs, high demand and restricted supply pose medium-term financial stability risks and could reduce Luxembourg’s attractiveness for workers. The organisation suggested the creation of affordable and social housing, and higher taxation of unused land and empty dwellings as well as policy changes that could ease housing pressures. The IMF said that in general Luxembourg’s economy had “recovered rapidly” from the pandemic but pointed to rapid inflation and long-term unemployment as worries.
Replying to a parliamentary question from the Left Party, Minister of Social Security Claude Haagen denied that reimbursement of medical bills by the CNS is taking much longer than usual. However, the minister admitted that patients currently must wait up to six weeks to be reimbursed and that there are currently 220 unprocessed boxes of claims at the CNS – three times as many as usual. Minister Haagen explained the backlog is due to a general increase in claims and internal reassignments of some staff members, adding that the CNS has difficulty in finding new employees with the required qualifications. The project for immediate direct payment, which will reimburse patients immediately after a doctor issues a bill, is expected to be operational by 2023.
TUESDAY 15 MARCH
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel held a telephone conversation with Russian president Vladimir Putin yesterday urging him to end the invasion of Ukraine and to establish direct contact with his counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky. Russian billionaires who are backing Putin have substantial assets in Luxembourg, which, contrary to other Western allies, has refrained from implementing a “Freeze and Seize” plan of Russian assets and property. EU leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have repeatedly spoken to Putin since the start of the war, but there is no sign that Russian forces are de-escalating in Ukraine.
Luxembourg’s Gross Domestic Product is estimated to have increased by an average rate of 6.9% in 2021, according to a recent report by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (STATEC).The third quarter of 2021 was most dynamic with close to 13% increase. The finance, insurance, Commerce and hospitality sectors recorded a decrease in additional value while the real estate and the industrial sectors recorded a plus of up to 5%.
A malware is circulating by SMS in Luxembourg impersonating the German transportation and logistics company DHL. The spam SMS asks the recipient to follow a link to a hacked website from where an app can be downloaded. The downloaded app has been designed to install harmful software or access confidential information, such as passwords, telephone numbers, or credit card information. Recipients of such SMSs are strongly advised not to interact with the message or click on the link. According to the cyber threat website “Check Point Research », DHL surpassed Microsoft as the brand most spoofed in phishing campaigns, for the final quarter of 2021.
MONDAY 14 MARCH
The workers’ unions OGBL and LCGB have criticised the government’s announcement to hold a Tripartite on the increasing energy prices in April. On Thursday, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said discussions between government, employers and trade unions would start before Easter. LCGB and OGBL published a common position on Friday saying they were stunned at the government’s slowness in this matter. They demanded immediate action to avoid losing valuable time and the people’s purchasing power. According to an RTL interview, the Industrial Federation (FEDIL) expects fast targeted state aid to reduce the impact for the sector. According to their Director René Winkin, the price for electricity and gas is 10 to 12 times higher than what they were used to paying. He noted the state’s economic interest in the productivity of the industries and expected concrete steps in the coming days.
During the past week and this weekend, local news media reported that asylum seekers were forced to leave the emergency accommodation centre at Kirchberg to make room for the refugees arriving from Ukraine. Last Tuesday the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs confirmed 70 asylum seekers had been transferred to the homeless shelter at Findel. The larger space at Kirchberg has 200 beds and shall be reserved for Ukrainians only, to facilitate the organisation of new arrivals.
Meanwhile, Minister Jean Asselborn repeated his request that private individuals should not bring large numbers of Ukrainian refugees to Luxembourg unless short-term private accommodation is secured beforehand. The centres provided by the government, as well as the homes of the people who registered for hosting, are filling up and there is concern that structures will not cope with large numbers of people who arrive without a designated space. There is also increasing concern amongst governments and agencies that individual initiatives leave the way open for exploitation and trafficking of individuals.
Several hundred protesters again gathered in the city centre of Luxembourg to demonstrate solidarity with Ukraine and to condemn Russian aggressions. On Friday, a dozen protesters gathered in front of the offices of the Gazprombank in Luxembourg demanding the Russian bank’s closure.
The municipality of Strassen has started a new initiative to welcome Ukrainian refugees. The ‘Ukrainescht Haus Stroossen’ is a place for exchange, to spend some time and for common activities. Children and teenagers will be offered activities including games, toys, a garden to play in and excursions. Citizens who have lived in Strassen for years will be present to help with overcoming language barriers. D’Ukrainescht Haus Stroossen is open every day from Monday to Sunday from 1:30 until 5:00 p.m, at 48, rue des Romains.
The Luxembourg City Film Festival ended on Saturday with the award ceremony. Grand Prix winner, “Atlantide” by Italian director Yuri Ancarani tells the story of a young man growing up on an island near Venice. Through his participation in illegal and dangerous motorboat races, he tries to earn the respect of his environment. The film juxtaposes the idyllic timeless image of Venice with the cruel and doomed rituals of male initiation. Ignacio Ceroi’s film “What Will Summer Bring” was awarded the documentary prize at the Luxembourg City Film Festival.
FRIDAY 11 MARCHThe price of a litre of diesel in Luxembourg passed 2 euros per litre yesterday for the first time.On Wednesday evening, the department of energy announced the increase in fuel prices prompting long queues outside petrol stations across Luxembourg as drivers sought to stock up.The cost of diesel increased the most, up by 38 cents to a record high of 2.11 euros per litre.
95 octane petrol increased 23 cents to 1.89 per litre while 98 octane petrol is now 1.93 a litre, up 17 cents. The cost of heating oil also rose to 1.55 euro per litrePrime minister Xavier Bettel said yesterday the government would assemble the national Tripartite of government, employers, and trade union representatives to discuss the energy crisis. Minister of the Economy Franz Fayot announced that the tripartite will take place before Easter due to the urgent situation. The LCGB union yesterday urged the Tripartite to “adopt a package of substantial measures to support businesses, sustain jobs and strengthen the purchasing power of households. The union warned that Luxembourg faces an “economic and social tsunami”, saying it had witnessed disturbing reports from all sectors of the Luxembourg economy as well as from individuals. Energy minister Claude Turmes yesterday repeated his position that Luxembourg’s fuel and energy supplies were guaranteed. Turmes claimed that reducing excise or VAT on fuel would promote petrol tourism and not help the grand Duchy’s own budget.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development yesterday announced it was relaxing regulations to ease the entry of Ukrainian refugees with pets into Luxembourg. Current regulations demand that pets from Ukraine entering the EU are subject to certain identification and vaccination conditions. However, the European Commission, along with the EU Member States, has agreed to abandon these conditions. Refugees arriving from Ukraine must register their pets by contacting a veterinarian in Luxembourg. The Veterinary Services Administration will also be visiting reception centres to support the registration of animals. An online pet registration form, available in French, Ukrainian and English, can be found here.
The Ukraine-Luxembourg Business Club has created a project to inform and help individuals and companies which aim to support Ukraine and Ukrainians. At their website, any business can share actions they have taken or will take to support the Ukrainian people. The ULBC says that companies can help by funding local humanitarian aid, supporting Ukrainian organisations and by offering their services to Ukrainian refugees. Further assistance can be given by incubating Ukrainian businesses, employing Ukrainian refugees and by refusing to finance the Russian economy. More details can be found at https://www.biz4ukraine.org/
TUESDAY 8 MARCH
First a Corona virus summary: Covid Updates containing the data from Friday, Saturday and Sunday show that 1,611 new cases of coronavirus were discovered from 5,138 tests conducted in 72 hours, yielding a positive rate of 31.35%. Three new deaths from Covid-19 were reported. There are 26 patients in standard hospital care, up one from Friday’s report, with five patients in intensive care. There are 9,611 active infections in Luxembourg. The R rate is at 1.10.
Two people were killed when fire tore through a residential building on Route de Volmerange in Dudelange Monday morning. Choking, blinding smoke trapped the victims, authorities say. Firefighters and Emergency services were immediately deployed to the scene but first responders were unable to revive the victims. The prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation and commissioned a report on the fire.
Fuel prices in Luxembourg look set to reach €2 per litre. Since the beginning of the year, the price of diesel has increased by 25% in Luxembourg. Its price currently sits at €1.72 per litre for the regular fuel and €1.858 per litre for its premium version.
Works to add a lane to the A3 motorway connecting Luxembourg to France will start this week after several years of delay according to the Francophone daily Wort. Although sources at the Luxembourg Public Roads Administration say traffic flow will be maintained in both directions, a speed limit of 70 km/h is likely to create delays and congestion for nearly 90 000 vehicles that pass by this route everyday. The €350m project, financed in full by Luxembourg, will link the Croix de Gasperich to the French border. Roadworks are expected to last until 2027.
Women’s rights groups in Luxembourg are holding a general strike this afternoon to mark International Women’s Day. Demonstrators are expected to march in downtown Luxembourg to demand wage justice, working time reduction, Parenthood and Housing rights and an end to violence against women. The Campaign theme for this year’s edition of the International Women’s Day is BreakTheBias, urging people to speak out against bias, discrimination and stereotyping. The march will kick off from Luxembourg main train station around 5 p.m. and will proceed to Place d’Armes in the old town.
MONDAY 7 MARCH
Luxembourg is prepared for the arrival of Ukrainian refugees. Between 200 and 250 arrived on Friday, among them 20 Luxembourgish residents who were in Ukraine when the invasion started. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs set up an emergency refugee centre at Kirchberg last Thursday, and at least 600 households in Luxembourg volunteered to host refugees at their homes.
On Saturday, several organisations again protested the Russian invasion. Between 1.500 and 3.000 people gathered in the city centre, according to different media outlets.
The price of petrol keeps rising. This weekend, prices reached a new record, at 1.80 euros per litre for diesel. RTL reported long queues at several gas stations in the country on Friday evening, after the unprecedented price increase was announced. On Thursday, the government had announced they would try to ease the burden for consumers by freeing more than 108.000 barrels of petroleum from the national oil reserve.
A report published by STATEC on Friday, measured 6.6 percent inflation in February, mostly due to energy prices and increased prices for clothing. The next wage indexation is likely to be introduced soon. Sanctions against Russia would only have a limited impact on Luxembourg’s economy, Minister of Finances Yuriko Backes said in an RTL interview. Luxembourg’s farmers demanded financial aid from the government as they suffered losses due to the high prices for energy and wheat. About 30 percent of global wheat exports come from Ukraine and Russia.
Luxembourg will drop the covid-19 restrictions soon, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel announced on Friday. The obligation to wear a mask as well as the covid check will be dropped . Both will only be needed when entering hospitals, care homes and homes for the elderly. The number of new infections is no longer a measure of the danger posed by the pandemic because the number of hospitalisations has been relatively low during the last wave. According to the Ministry of health’s latest report, 30 individuals are in hospital, with 5 of those in intensive care. Bettel’s proposals to ease the restrictions will now be up for vote in parliament.
The government has set up a new disaster alert system to warn residents in case of extreme weather conditions. A single platform will channel alerts from different sources and broadcast them on to mobile phones, social media, press releases and alerts spread throughout the country. The ministry of interior presented this system on Friday. The current system GouvAlert had been heavily criticised in the aftermath of the storms last July. The system based on text messages failed to send any warning about foreseeable floods, and only 15.000 residents had signed up for the alert last year.
FRIDAY 4 MARCH
Foreign minister Jean Asselborn yesterday called his remarks on the “physical elimination” of Russian president Putin a mistake.
Mr Asselborn will take part in the extraordinary meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers today as well as the extraordinary meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union in Brussels. On the agenda of both meetings will be the latest developments in Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, as well as EU and NATO responses to the war. The NATO ministerial meeting will take place in the presence of the Foreign Ministers of Finland and Sweden, while the extraordinary meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council will take place in the presence of the Ministers of Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as the Secretary General of NATO. An exchange by videoconference with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine is also planned.
The Ministry of Energy confirmed yesterday that Luxembourg had released 108,685 kilobarrels of petroleum from its oil reserves to counteract soaring oil prices and the likely impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on the oil market.Minister for Energy Claude Turmes said securing oil supply and stabilising prices is a priority for the government.”Minister Turmes also announced that the Grand Duchy would support European efforts to match the Ukrainian electricity network with the European network.
Vaccination centres in Luxembourg began offering the Novavax vaccine at vaccine centres this week but figures show the number of people getting their first jab is currently stagnant. It was hoped that Nuvaxovid, a protein-based vaccine, would appeal to those who were reluctant to get any of the existing vaccines. The LuxExpo vaccine centre will close this weekend and operations will be transferred to the Victor Hugo Hall in Limpertsberg. Vaccines continue to be administered at GP practices and more details on vaccination centres can be found at www.impfen.lu .The Family and Integration Ministry yesterday announced procedures are in place to support displaced persons from Ukraine, including those who have already arrived.All are asked to contact the Immigration Department of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs: email@example.com.A first reception centre to house people, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is located at 11 rue Carlo Hemmer in Kirchberg.The centre offers shelter for the first days and meals as well as basic necessities, for people wishing to apply for protection.
THURSDAY 24 FEBRUARY
Youth for Climate Luxembourg have announced another protest to highlight the involvement of the financial sector in funding fossil-fuel industries. Youth for Climate Luxembourg last took to the streets in September when they also called a nationwide school strike. All ages are invited this time to join them and Greenpeace Luxembourg, who are collaborating under the slogan #PeopleNotProfit. Planned for 25 March, the protest rally will start at Place de Clairefontaine at 2pm and will finish on Avenue de la Porte-Neuve at the Luxembourg Sovereign Pension Fund who the protesters are explicitly focusing on. Youth for Climate Luxembourg claims the FDC is investing approximately 500 million euros in coal, fuel, and gas industries every year, and demands it align its investments with the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C.. The group is also calling for an end to investment in nuclear energy.
The Belgian government earlier this month announced it was introducing the option for employees to opt for a 4-day working week if they are willing to work ten hours a day. The Minister of Labour Georges Engel this week criticised the Belgian scheme, stating he would prefer an overall reduction of working hours, spread over the full working week. Speaking to RTL, Minister Engel reasoned that 10-hour days represented a “safety risk” in some sectors, adding he thought it questionable that the Belgian scheme was drafted without social dialogue. The Independent Luxembourg Trade Union Confederation believes the Belgian model would likely lead to a worse work-life balance and instead pushes for a reduction of working hours with full wage payment.
The health directorate announced yesterday that the temporary vaccine centre at Luxexpo The Box will close on 5 March and the Victor Hugo Hall in Limpertsberg will reopen on 8 March. Opening hours at the Victor Hugo centre will be 7am to 7pm on weekdays and from 7am to 1pm on Saturdays – the same as the national centres in Esch-Belval and Ettelbruck. The three national centres are accessible without an appointment for patients getting their first vaccine dose. Booster vaccinations will only be administered by appointment. A full list of pop-up vaccine centres at which no appointment is required is available from the national website: covid19.public.lu
Think tank, the Idea Foundation said this week that Luxembourg’s housing crisis requires a different outlook. The foundation released a report examining Luxembourg’s longstanding housing issues and proposing more than 20 recommendations. The foundation warned that simply building more properties would only lead to a higher number of expensive residential units in an already high-priced market. They advised that government’s subsidies for those buying real estate should take into account the buyer’s revenue which should stop people with higher income having an unfair advantage due. The Idea Foundation suggested action against vacant residential buildings and rewarding companies to play a more responsible role in the housing market as key steps to improving the current situation.
WEDNESDAY 23 FEBRUARY
The government announced yesterday that they will immediately lift restrictions on where public demonstrations can take place in Luxembourg city. A perimeter was introduced in December, following riots during a protest against Covid-19 measures, that diverted protestors from the city’s centre to an area stretching from the Glacis in Limpertsberg, across the red bridge to the Kirchberg district. The relaxing of the restrictions means that an International Women’s Day demonstration on March 8 can now march from the central train station to the Place d’Armes as it has done for the past two years.
The Ministry of Education, Children and Youth announced yesterday the extension of compulsory education in Luxembourg until the age of 18. Minister Claude Meisch presented the plans which are at the centre of the bill on the right to education and compulsory education. The move aims to reduce the school dropout rate and ensure better integration into the professional world and will be accompanied by the creation of alternative training offers. It is predicted that the extension, in line with trends in neighbouring countries, will not come into force until three years after the publication of the law.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development yesterday announced it would no longer send animals for slaughter beyond EU borders. The new regulation, which comes into effect on 1 March 2022, was reached after a lengthy debate on improving standards in the agricultural sector. In May of last year, the Luxembourgish Rural Youth and Young Farmers association called for a ban on the slaughter of Luxembourg cattle in abattoirs which are not certified to European Union standards. Luxembourg MEP Tilly Metz had also condemned the transportation of animals for slaughter outside of the EU, where conditions sometimes fail to protect animal welfare.
Finance minister Yuriko Backes has tested positive for covid-19 following a PCR test, the government’s press and information service announced yesterday. The minister, who is fully vaccinated, will continue to carry out her tasks and duties via teleworking, the statement says. Last week foreign minister Jean Asselborn tested positive, which meant he could not attend this week’s meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels.
TUESDAY 22 FEBRUARY
The Moselle Prefecture announced yesterday that a spill on the Moselle River at the weekend is “likely” to have come from the sewage system of the Cattenom nuclear power plant. Early assessments indicate the spill is “in all likelihood” the result of “hydrocarbons coming from the discharge station of the Cattenom power plant”. Hydrocarbons are organic chemical components that are the main component of fossil fuels such as petrol and oil. Firefighters, river police, and specialists from the Cattenom Nuclear Power Plant have been working to halt the spread of potential pollution on the Moselle River since Sunday. The Moselle Prefecture stated that no fish deaths had been observed and that the drinking water supply remained safe.
The latest figures from ADEM show that in January Luxembourg’s unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in 13 years, in a sign that the economy is recovering from the pandemic. ADEM said approximately 15,400 people were looking for employment in January, a drop of 22% in a year, adding that Luxembourg’s official unemployment rate stood at 4.9% a figure last seen in 2009. January is the third consecutive month that unemployment rates were recorded at below pre-pandemic levels. Figures show that over 4,000 new vacancies were posted last month, a rise of 46% from a year ago, and that more than 10,000 posts remained unfilled.
Luxembourg’s Ministry of the Interior announced yesterday the swearing-in of the new mayor and two new aldermen of the town of Kayl. In the presence of Luxembourg’s Minister of the Interior, Taina Bofferding, CSV politician Jean Weiler was sworn in as the new mayor and Romain Becker and José Goncalves were sworn in as aldermen for the municipality. The new appointments come after the previous coalition in power, made up of the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ and the Greens, was ended through a vote of no confidence.
Campaigners from the Centre for Urban Justice have criticised the municipality of Luxembourg City for having hundreds of illegal zebra crossings in town and for not improving the situation. The ZUG was established last year and focuses on inner-city challenges relating to public infrastructure. Following the municipality’s denial that 425 pedestrian crossings had issues, the ZUG claims it will get access to the relevant documents through legal challenges to prove its case. Furthermore, the group is calling for official transparency to be increased and more data published.
MONDAY 21 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The spread of the omicron variant seems to be getting less. During the last week, the number of new infections decreased by 53 percent. According to the Ministry of Health’s latest report, 22 percent of the administered PCR-tests gave a positive result, with an effective reproduction rate of 0,59. 60 individuals are in hospital.
The storm fronts “Zeynep” and “Eunice” turned out less severe than expected in Luxembourg. Wind gusts of up to one-hundred-20 kilometres per hour had been predicted and the weather service Meteolux issued a red alert, estimating extreme danger. The Ministry of Interior recommended people to stay indoors, Luxair cancelled certain flights and the city of Luxembourg closed public parks. On Friday, the rescue service CGDIS reported 49 missions. No one was injured but several trees were damaged. The rescue services will stay on alert as new gusts are forecast and meteolux has issued an orange alert to warn of “violent winds” with a potential danger. In many European countries, the storms of the last week disturbed traffic on roads, rail, on water and in the sky. In the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom at least 16 people died and more were injured. It was the fourth storm in a row.
Luxembourg’s socialist former Foreign Minister Jacques Poos died on Saturday at the age of eighty-six. Jacques Poos started his political career for the LSAP in 19-69 as a member of the municipal council in Esch. In 19-84, when the LSAP became a coalition partner of the CSV, Jacques Poos was appointed vice prime minister and foreign minister for the first time. He held this position in Jean-Claude Junckers government from 19-95 until 19-99. Poos then became a member of the European parliament and retired from politics in 2004. Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said Poos was one of the most impressive Luxembourgish politicians of the last 50 years.
FRIDAY 18 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 559 new resident cases, derived from 2,702 tests. There were 3 new deaths, with the death toll at 982. 63 individuals are in hospital, with 10 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.60. To date, 354,855 people have received an additional booster dose.
The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology said this week that the trace levels of Covid-19 in wastewater will be key to predicting if falling virus numbers are set to continue in the coming weeks. Covid levels present in wastewater are a key indicator of how common the virus is in Luxembourg. The Institute said that levels are still high but last week’s amounts showed the number of cases is falling, adding that the results of the next few weeks will be essential in confirming the downward trend.
Police yesterday appealed for any witnesses to come forward after a man was found by officers bleeding heavily from a stab wound on Rue Bender on Wednesday evening. Police received reports of the attack at around 9pm and emergency services located the victim on a public street. Initial reports suggest an argument had taken place between the victim and two other men, one of whom proceeded to physically attack him before fleeing before police arrived. The perpetrators have not yet been identified. Anyone with information should contact 244 40 1400 or email police.LUXEMBOURG@police.etat.lu.
A recent study by confused.com has shown that drivers in Luxembourg City have the fifth highest chance in Europe of experiencing a GPS signal drop and slow internet. The city’s navigation failure score of 82.77 out of 100 was assessed from the total number of GPS satellite failures, internet download speeds and internet latency between January and April 2021. Although Luxembourg City suffered just eleven GPS signal failures overall, it had the highest percentage of high internet latency which affects digital map applications. Drivers in Sofia, Bulgaria, are most likely to experience GPS signal loss and slow mobile internet, while Paris was the only European city with a perfect score.
The organisers of the Zeltik Festival announced this week that the event will go ahead on two separate dates this year. The organisers revealed the new structure on social media, explaining that they had been very busy juggling various tour cancellations, travel restrictions, availability, COVID-19 measures, and the public’s expectations. The Zeltik Festival is the only one in the Greater Region dedicated to Celtic music and will take place first on Saturday 12 March and then on Sunday 19 June 2022. The organisers added that they are also preparing a “Zeltik Prelude”. Further details and tickets can be found at zeltik.lu.
WEDNESDAY 16 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 549 new resident cases, derived from 2,351 tests. There were 3 new deaths, with the death toll at 979. 67 individuals are in hospital, with 11 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.81. To date, 353,751 people have received an additional booster dose.
Two of the organisers of the recent anti-Covid measures demonstrations in Luxembourg City, made their first appearance in court yesterday morning. Jean-Marie Jacoby and Peter Freitag were in court accused of not respecting sanitary measures and using equipment to amplify speech and play music in violation of the regulations of Luxembourg City. The defendants said that not wearing masks was exactly the message of the protests. They maintained that the measures violated their right to health and accused the measures of being “an experiment on the population”. Jacoby and Freitag claimed the criminal justice system was not able to judge whether the covid measures were justified and legal and requested the intervention of the Constitutional Court in this case.
The Luxembourg Association for Occupational Health announced yesterday it is offering dedicated training to make sure the grand duchy has enough occupational physicians to meet future demand. As Luxembourg faces a severe shortage of healthcare staff, the need for more occupational physicians is one that the association is raising now, saying that 50 occupational physicians will be required in the next five just to provide the minimum service. The association is appealing for support from political decision-makers for a specialisation course in occupational medicine at the University of Luxembourg.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence François Bausch will participate in the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers, which will take place on 16 and 17 February 2022 at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. The meeting will be dominated by the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. The Defence ministers will also discuss NATO-EU relations.
The police announced yesterday that they had been contacted over 200 times in recent days by people who had received fraudulent e-mails. The scam e-mails claim to be contacting the individuals in connection with criminal investigations and purport to be from the director general of the Luxembourg police or from foreign police forces. The police advised people not to react to the content of the e-mail.
The Directorate of Immigration of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs confirmed yesterday that Luxembourg received a total of 133 applications for international protection in January. This was a slight drop from the number of people applying for asylum in December of last year but almost double the figure recorded for January 2021. 41 applicants were granted refugee status in Luxembourg from the 115 asylum applications received. The largest number of applicants came from Syria , followed by Eritrea , Afghanistan and Venezuela.
TUESDAY 15 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 1,437 new resident cases, derived from 6,926 tests from Friday-Sunday. There were 7 new deaths, with the death toll at 976. 63 individuals are in hospital, with 12 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.51. To date, 353,107 people have received an additional booster dose.
Data released by the non-governmental organisation Global Footprint Network showed that Luxembourg was the second country worldwide to reach its overshoot day yesterday. Overshoot day is the day on which people’s consumption of non-renewable resources exceeds what the earth can generate in that year. Qatar was the only other country to reach the threshold so early in the year – four days before Luxembourg. The NGO declared that if everyone consumed non-renewable resources like Luxembourg residents, it would need eight planet earths to keep up with their needs. The next countries due to pass their overshoot day are the US, Canada and the United Arab Emirates, on 13 March.
In her response to an enquiry from the Democratic Party, Minister for Home Affairs Taina Bofferding admitted that just 11 out of 102 municipalities submit data to the Ministry, meaning an overview of towns that award “solidarity support” is very limited. Besides standard government support, low-income families are eligible to receive financial aid from their respective municipalities but each town is free to control the process in terms of amounts and eligibility. The municipality of Differdange reacted yesterday by stating that the town has been regularly allocating and adjusting the solidarity support for low-income families. Secretary general Henri Krecké claimed that he was certain many other southern towns had been allocating solidarity support consistently for years.
The environmental non-profit organisation Mouvement Ecologique released a statement yesterday criticising the apparant vagueness of the City of Luxembourg’s proposed plans for the site of Villeroy & Boch. The organisation said the plans as presented lacked citizen participation, had insufficient connection to the surrounding districts, lacked public spaces and an attractive green area and was neglectful of cyclists and pedestrians. Mouvement Ecologique concluded that the present design was extremely problematic and called on the City of Luxembourg, with the involvement of residents, to amend the partial development plan in order to “ensure future-oriented, contemporary urban development”.
The Ministry for Culture yesterday announced the launch of a new financial aid to support artists who want to record music. Artists of any genre can apply for the programme and official requests for applications will be issued twice a year. Luxembourgish artists and bands can apply, as well as foreign residents creating music within the Grand Duchy and Luxembourgish labels. The closing date for the first round of applications is 15 March.
MONDAY 14 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The positive rate is decreasing. According to the ministry of health’s latest report, one in five tests turned out positive at the end of the week, with an effective reproduction rate of 0,61. The number of individuals in hospital remains stable. More than 350.000 people have received their third vaccine dose. The new covid-19 law was voted in by parliament on Friday afternoon removing the 11pm curfew for the hospitality sector.The 3G CovidCheck regime (recovered, vaccinated or tested negative) will come into force everywhere except in hospitals and retirement facilities. The CovidCheck regime will now become optional in the workplace.
The Saturday protests against the covid restrictions attract less and less participants. The police reported around 60 protestors who marched peacefully from the Glacis square towards Boulevard Schuman. Some of the protestors however repeated the chants of the week before including such lines as “Bettel will be hanged on the new Red Bridge because he is completely insane”. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel reacted in an 100komma7 interview last week: it was up to the public prosecutor’s office to decide whether the incidents would be followed up with legal action.
The mayor of Wiltz Fränk Arndt is subject to an investigation for illegal conflict of interest and corruption. The public prosecutor’s office in Diekirch announced the launch of the new investigation; in addition to the ongoing one on illegal dumping sites in the municipality of Wiltz. The first one suspects the mayor is involved in a potential corruption affair related to real estate transactions. The second investigation examines a potential violation of the Environmental Protection Law. The newspaper Luxemburger Wort reported on illegal renovation works on a chalet owned by the mayor. Last Wednesday, searches were carried out and prosecutors seized documents at the municipal administration and other buildings in the municipality.
Another judicial investigation was concluded last week. Two employees of the communal council of Hesperange and a third person have been charged with embezzlement of public money, the judiciary announced on Friday. The judges seized around 5 million euros in real estate and funds, which the three persons had allegedly fraudulently withdrawn from public money through fake companies and accounts for years. The investigation was launched in 2019, after the two municipal agents had been accused during a local council meeting. All three accused are now facing a trial in court.
FRIDAY 11 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 1,050 new resident cases, derived from 4,280 tests. There were 2 new deaths, with the death toll at 968. 81 individuals are in hospital, with 9 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.66. To date, 476,544 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 422,489 have received a second.
The Ministry of Health confirmed this week that a fourth covid vaccination booster will be offered to people who are deemed immunocompromised, and not all over-65s, as previously stated. Adults with a compromised immune system include those who have had an organ transplant or are on dialysis. Physicians or specialists will register the patient on myguichet.lu to verify their classification in the vulnerable category, who will then be contacted by the Vaccination Helpdesk to schedule an appointment. The ministry explained that the 4th vaccination dose will be given at least three months following the third jab and can be administered by attending physicians, or through a vaccination centre.
The new Covid-19 law was debated in the Parliamentary Health Commission yesterday where it was decided to incorporate all the proposals made by the Council of State to hopefully prevent opposition to the text. Provided that the law is passed and published by the Chamber of Deputies today, the 11pm curfew in the hospitality sector may be lifted as early as this evening. The Parliamentary Health Commission also specified that the 3G regime will become voluntary in both the private and public sector as suggested by the Council of State.
The transport ministry has said it is planning legislation on autonomous vehicles which could take effect after the signing of the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic in March 2022. The transport ministry is currently conducting a study to clarify how the implementation of such legislation can be carried out. Luxembourg’s road regulations were modified in September 2018 to prepare for automated driving and trials have been carried out with autonomous shuttles in industrial and urban areas. François Bausch confirmed that, under the new legislation, manufacturers would accept liability for accidents provided the automated driving system is on, which would limit the vehicle to a maximum speed of 60km/h.
The US Embassy this week confirmed that Thomas Barret had been appointed the US ambassador to Luxembourg. The official statement said Barret had previously served as the Mayor of Milwaukee from 2004-2021, making him the longest-serving mayor of one of the 50 largest cities in the United States. Barret met with Grand Duke Henri yesterday and said he was looking forward to working together to advance the countries’ shared priorities on human rights and climate change and defending common values as NATO allies.
THURSDAY 10 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 1,352 new resident cases, derived from 5,053 tests. There were no new deaths, with the death toll at 966. 80 individuals are in hospital, with 8 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.88. To date, 476,439 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 422,025 have received a second.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel commented yesterday about chants calling for him to be hanged at last week’s protest against Covid-19 measures. Speaking to Radio 100,7, the Prime Minister said videos of the chanting had been sent to the public prosecutor’s office and that it was now up to them to decide whether to take legal action following Saturday’s occurrences.
Education Minister Claude Meisch announced yesterday that the Gaston Thorn state-run international school will open in September across two sites, a primary school in the Cessange district and a secondary school at the Geesseknäppchen campus in Merl. Admissions for the new international school are set to open in March, with 300 places available across the first two years of primary and secondary school. Both schools will ultimately move to a campus in Limpertsberg and will follow the European curriculum with an English, French and German section. Pupils will also be able to learn Portuguese, Spanish and Italian.
A police press officer yesterday defended the recent purchase of 96 diesel vehicles for Luxembourg’s police, explaining they were an exception to the government’s shift to electric mobility because they did not meet law enforcement requirements. Speaking to Delano, the spokesman said the minister of internal security and the Luxembourg police fully supported the government’s plan for the electrification of the state transport system. However, electronic vehicles do not yet meet the requirements for the smooth running of the daily operations of the police and the 20 existing electric vehicles would primarily be used for administrative tasks and pre-planned itineraries.
The Action solidarité tiers monde charity this week accused Luxembourg’s financial sector of not showing enough commitment to human rights. In its new report, the ASTM, which advocates for developing countries, examined publicly available documents from institutions and associations and established that the financial sector appears reluctant to assume a clear position on human rights. The report also highlighted some examples showing a link between Luxembourg-based financial actors and human rights violations in China, Palestine, and Latin America. The charity demanded the creation of a law that will oblige businesses to verify whether their activities, services or products pose risks for human rights. Furthermore, they urge that if a violation is detected, the business should compensate the people affected.
WEDNESDAY 9 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 1,112 new resident cases, derived from 3,798 tests. There were 2 new deaths, with the death toll at 966. 82 individuals are in hospital, with 10 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.90. To date, 476,260 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 421,410 have received a second.
Police have confirmed that at around 9am yesterday morning a man was seen setting fire to himself near a bus stop at the Royal Hamilus centre. The man, thought to be in his 40s or 50s, is in critical condition. Eyewitnesses said the man was walking around, engulfed in flames, before collapsing in the bus lane where a bus driver helped extinguish the flames. The incident seems to be the result of an act of self-immolation, but a motive for the act remains unclear.
In response to a parliamentary question from the Democratic Party, Minister of Health Paulette Lenert declared that the Patient Advocacy Group had been asked to remove an online form which allows people to report side effects from the Covid-19 vaccination. Minister Lenert said the Group’s unilateral initiative had not been agreed upon by the National Health Directorate, and that there was no legal foundation for such a database. The Minister added that she had requested the Patient Advocacy Group redirect people using the form to the national system.
Luc Majerus, a member of the Green Party, this week declared he will join a new political party set up by Frank Engel, who quit as the president of the CSV when he became entangled in a fraud scandal last year. In a letter, Majerus wrote he had decided “not to renew his membership as The Greens, who are part of the ruling three-way coalition, had abandoned many of their principles through their participation in government”. Majerus joins Marc Ruppert and Gary Kneip from the Democratic Party. Frank Engel is expected to officially launch the new party on 21 February.
The Ministry of State announced that it had recently received another demand for a referendum over the constitutional reform and that Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has deemed it admissible. Municipalities will again have to organise lists for people to sign in support of a request for a referendum. To support the request, voters must attend their municipality of residence and register themselves on the lists. The request is successful if it collects at least 25,000 valid signatures within two months. If enough signatures are collected, the government will have six months to organise a referendum.
TUESDAY 8 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 3,030 new resident cases, derived from 9,022 tests for Friday – Sunday. There were 6 new deaths, with the death toll at 9964. 83 individuals are in hospital, with 11 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.74. To date, 476,167 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 421,008 have received a second.
Health minister Paulette Lenert said yesterday that the reduced covid measures announced last week won’t undercut the vaccine mandate that should be ready prior to the summer. Speaking to RTL, Minister Lenert clarified that while spring and summer may mean fewer admissions to hospitals it was vital as many of us as possible are vaccinated ahead of a potential surge in infections in autumn. The Minister explained that rather than the eradication of the virus, the focus of her strategy was lighter hospital loads, less severe symptoms, and fewer deaths. Under the new rules, the 11pm curfew imposed on restaurants and bars will be lifted, and CovidCheck will become optional in the workplace.
Minister of Immigration and Asylum Jean Asselborn yesterday presented an overview of the 1,473 refugees that Luxembourg accepted last year. At a press briefing, the Minister confirmed that 754 people were given refugee status, with a further 144 granted subsidiary protection, and that most of the refugees came from Afghanistan, Syria, and Eritrea. Over 75% of Afghans who sought protection in Luxembourg were accepted but Minister Asselborn clarified that not every Afghan citizen can routinely get refugee status in the Grand Duchy. He added that the Ministry is doing all it could to assist people to stay.
The organisers of the International Women’s Day demonstrations yesterday voiced their shock that their annual march will be limited between Glacis in Limpertsberg and Place de l’Europe in Kirchberg. They complained that they were being penalised for the prior troubles at anti-government demonstrations, calling it “scandalous” that they are lumped together with anti-vaxxers. Michelle Cloos from the OGBL union said the government cannot hide behind the Luxembourg City council in this “debate on principles and democratic rights”, and hoped that Mayor Lydie Polfer would change her decision.
Friendship Luxembourg – a local non-profit organisation – has announced that a rural hospital in Bangladesh, funded by Luxembourgish donors, has been awarded the world’s “best new building” by the Royal Institute of British Architects. The construction of the Friendship Hospital Shyamnagar, located in the coastal region of Bangladesh, was mostly financed by Luxembourg’s development cooperation programme and the private donors of Friendship Luxembourg. Last July, the building had made it to the shortlist with sixteen other candidates from eleven different countries.
MONDAY 7 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: According to the ministry of health’s latest figures, around 2000 new infections were recorded per day at the end of the week, with one in three tests positive. The numbers of patients in the hospitals remained stable with 73 on Thursday. 475.834 people have received their first vaccine dose according to the latest report, while 1,237,787 doses have been administered in total. At a press conference on Friday, prime minister Xavier Bettel repeated his urge to get as many people vaccinated as fast as possible.
The government will ease the covid restrictions currently in place. Prime minister Xavier Bettel and minister of health Paulette Lenert confirmed the government council’s decision on Friday afternoon. The government is going to cancel the 11-pm-curfew for the Horesca sector and the 3G regime will replace 2G meaning that also people who are not vaccinated are allowed in cafés and restaurants with a negative test – provided by a certified test centre. There will be no restrictions for private gatherings anymore. The covidcheck at workplaces is no longer mandatory for private companies, the trade unions as well as the government though have decided to maintain it. Parliament is going to vote this Friday on the new measures.
Primary school classrooms in the city of Luxembourg will be equipped with air filters. According to the city’s school officer Colette Mart, 400 of these machines have been ordered, at a total cost of 400.000 Euros. Air filters reduce the amount of aerosols in the air, voices for more protection in schools have raised recently, since the majority of new covid-19-infections in the beginning of this year concern school children.
The Rating agencies S&P Global and DBRS Morningstar confirmed Luxembourg’s AAA credit rating, the highest possible rating, the ministry of finance reported Saturday. The rating certifies the country’s economic stability and resilience after the covid-19-crisis. Luxembourg’s GDP only decreased by 1.8 percent in comparison to the 6.5 percent average of the Eurozone. The minister Yuriko Backes commented, the government had put in place a forward-looking policy and supported the country’s economy without jeopardising the sustainability of public finances.
FRIDAY 4 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 1,994 new resident cases, derived from 6,222 tests. There were no new deaths, with the death toll at 956. 82 individuals are in hospital, with 12 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.87. To date, 475,631 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 419,420 have received a second.
At yesterday’s press briefing with the Ministry of Health it was revealed that 454 people had applied and been accepted as patients for the Long Covid pilot programme, with symptoms ranging from issues with smell and taste to long-term breathing difficulties. Regarding vaccine-related deaths, Dr Staub claimed there had been fewer than 10. Minister of Health Paulette Lenert said the covid situation is easing and would be considered when looking at current measures. Minister Lenert added that more will be advised at this afternoon’s press briefing after the government council meeting.
Luxembourg’s real estate lobby group – Chambre immobilière – yesterday attacked a reform that would see the government restrict brokerage fees to halt the increase in housing prices. The group accused the government of “populism” and blamed high property prices on failed policies. They labelled Minister for the Economy Franz Fayot’s proposals ” an affront against the real estate sector” adding there was no proof to the government’s claims that agent fees lead to higher property prices. Meanwhile, data from the economy ministry shows that nearly 400 new agencies opened in Luxembourg at the end of last year – a 33% rise compared to the previous year.
Following the EU Commission’s decision to classify nuclear and gas power as “green and sustainable”, Minister for Energy Claude Turmes yesterday accused the Commission of using legal methods to “smuggle in” nuclear energy despite amendments against it from the European Parliament. Minister Turmes added that the ruling hurts the Grand Duchy’s financial sector which plans to invest in greener energy sources. Furthermore, the Minister declared the decision a slap in the face of opponents to the Cattenom power plant which can now be subsidised with green funds. Luxembourg, with Austria, is now appealing the decision with the EU Court of Justice.
Sales of Luxembourg-produced alcohol returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2021 the Agriculture Ministry revealed this week. 3.2 million bottles of crémant were purchased last year and, including other local wines, the Grand Duchy consumed 5.7 million litres. Although figures dropped slightly, officials explained that the quality of wines consumed has increased. Despite the second-wettest summer on record, an influx of seasonal workers added to the good harvest in 2021, with rapid tests being handed out for the harvest, the Ministry reported.
THURSDAY 3 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 2,548 new resident cases, derived from 6,806 tests. There were 3 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 956. 83 individuals are in hospital, with 13 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.94. To date, 475,495 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 460,371 have received a second.
The government council yesterday raised the possibility of lifting the 11pm curfew in cafés and restaurants, and reducing restrictions in the sports and culture sectors, as part of the next Covid law. The next amendments will be presented at the council tomorrow, before going to a vote next week at the earliest. Because of the relatively stable situation in Luxembourg’s hospitals, all three coalition parties agreed yesterday that some Covid restrictions could be eased.
Minister of Health Paulette Lenert will hold a press briefing at 3pm today, where it is expected she will provide an assessment of the covid current situation and give details of government plans going forward.
The Health Ministry is organising a Facebook Live Q&A session this evening on the subject of COVID-19 vaccination in pregnant and breastfeeding women. For 60 minutes, Dr Thomas Dentzer from the Department of Health and Dr Pit Duschinger, President of the Luxembourg Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, will answer questions from spectators live, in English, French, German and Luxembourgish.
The Luxembourg Bankers’ Association and the Association of Insurance and Reinsurance Companies have agreed to strengthen their cooperation. This will apply to the areas of sustainable finance, labour law, taxation and financial education, among others. The two associations will remain independent.
Knuedler car park in Luxembourg City will be closed to the public again from 7th to 18th February inclusive. The temporary closure is the result of redevelopment work taking place in Place Guillaume II, particularly work linked to the sewage pipe networks located at the car park entrance.
Kinga Rose, a Hungary-born Luxembourg-based pianist and jazz singer, has set a date for the release of her debut album. “Vision” will be released on all the usual platforms on 25th February. The album features string and horn arrangements by some of Luxembourg’s most renowned musical arrangers, with the executive production of singer-songwriter and guitarist Lata Gouveia.
WEDNESDAY 2 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 1,453 new resident cases, derived from 4,327 tests. There was 1 new death, with the death toll standing at 953. 81 individuals are in hospital, with 9 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.95. To date, 475,326 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 418,291 have received a second.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel gave up his postgraduate degree yesterday, months after an investigation found that he had plagiarised most of the work. In October the newspaper story, published by the Reporter, found that just two pages – the introduction and conclusion – out of 56 in Bettel’s degree did not contain any plagiarised passages. Bettel’s popularity dropped in a survey of Luxembourgish voters following the scandal. In a statement, Bettel apologised for what had happened and explained that he had asked for the work to be rescinded to remove any doubts about the merits of the DEA and to avoid a loss of confidence in the academic work. In a separate statement the Université de Lorraine said that Bettel’s work contained passages that “could be considered a form of plagiarism” due to inaccurate references.
A survey released this week by the European Investment Bank shows that just over half of Luxembourg’s car owners plan to buy an electric vehicle when they next purchase a car. This figure is far below the EU average of 67% and puts Luxembourg second to last in terms of intentions to purchase electric or hybrid vehicles. Luxembourg has the lowest fuel taxes and the highest number of cars per person in the EU, as well as the highest level of carbon emissions compared to the size of its population. The Grand Duchy has vowed to cut emissions by 55% over the next decade, but has faced criticism from climate activists for showing no evidence of being able to meet that commitment. Plans to levy higher taxes on company cars will be introduced next year which will reward drivers for producing a smaller carbon footprint.
A member of the board of directors in the Real Estate Chamber yesterday criticised measures proposed by Minister of the Economy Franz Fayot at the weekend. Manuel Rizzo referred to comments made by the Minister during his recent interview with RTL in which he revealed plans to reduce sales commissions for real estate agencies via a Grand Ducal Regulation to reduce prices in the housing market. Further amendments are planned to reduce deposits from three to two months of rent for rented properties. Rizzo denied that real estate agencies are to blame for increased prices on the housing market, adding that sales commissions rarely exceeded 2% and instead pointed to the high prices of building lands and higher construction material costs.
On Sunday at around 7.30 in the evening, a group of 10 to 15 young men attacked three men on rue Michel Rodange in Differdange. Police report that the group attacked and beat the three men. The victims had to be taken to the hospital for treatment. The perpetrators were able to flee the scene without detection.
Den Atelier have booked the much-hyped supergroup The Smile fronted by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. Following sold out live shows in London, The Smile will be on tour this spring and summer and will arrive at Luxembourg’s Neimënster on 27 June. The band has received much media coverage and recently released a new single, The Smoke. Tickets for the Neimënster show go on general sale this Friday at 11am via the den Atelier website and The Waste headquarters site. Subscribers to the Smile mailing list will receive a link to access a pre-sale at 11am today.
TUESDAY 1 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 4,550 new resident cases, derived from 11,874 tests for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There were 4 new deaths, with the death toll standing at 952. 79 individuals are in hospital, with 8 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.88. To date, 475,202 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 417,931 have received a second.
Education Minister Claude Meisch said yesterday that approximately 10% of primary and secondary school teachers were unable to teach at present due to Covid-19. In an interview with RTL, Minister Meisch stated that some 300 substitute teachers were hired last year to replace staff off sick with Covid but that was before the more transmissible Omicron strain hit at the end of 2021.
Minister for Family Affairs and Integration, Corinne Cahen, told the Chamber yesterday that abuse and misconduct within nursing homes cannot occur in the Grand Duchy thanks to strict regulation. Minister Cahen was responding to a request from the CSV party, following allegations of serious misconduct in several nursing homes operated by the French care provider Orpéa Group who plan to open homes in Luxembourg. The Minister reassured MPs that the State Council is currently amending a draft for even stricter regulations and, if Orpéa received permission for a nursing home in Luxembourg, they would have to comply with the country’s laws.
The Pirate Party yesterday filed a request to the President of the Chamber of Deputies for a joint session between the economy and housing commissions. In their request, the party referred to comments made by Minister of the Economy Franz Fayot during his recent interview with RTL in which he revealed plans to reduce sales commissions for real estate agencies via a Grand Ducal Regulation to reduce prices in the housing market. In their request, the Pirate Party stressed they had already suggested a near identical proposal earlier in January, and wanted to stop the government from proceeding without discussing it with elected officials first.
STATEC – the government statistics service of Luxembourg – reported this week that there was no increase in bankruptcies in 2021 compared to 2020 or to the pre-Covid period in Luxembourg. Bankruptcies dropped by nearly 40% in the accommodation and catering sector, which received support from Covid aid. The institute reported that liquidations did increase, but did not seem to be linked to the covid crisis. Loss of jobs caused by bankruptcies in 2021, however, increased by over 50% compared to 2020 with the impact most felt in non-financial service activities, construction and trade.
MONDAY 31 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: In the past ten days, Luxembourg experienced a record with covid-19-infections, counting more than 3.000 new infections per day. According to the Ministry of health, more than one in three tests were positive on Thursday. The number of individuals in hospitals remains stable with 71 at the end of the week with ten of those in intensive care.
The situation in the schools is critical as the number of covid-19-infections increases among teachers. 12 percent of the teachers in primary schools are on sick leave or quarantined, a spokesperson for the ministry of Health reported to Tageblatt. The president of the teacher’s union Julie Barthel said, the Lycée du Nord in Wiltz reported more than twice as many absences as usual in January. The Ministry od Health had put in place substitute teachers but many of them were unqualified and regular lessons could not be guaranteed. The lack of private tutoring due to the absences would foster inequalities among the students. Barthel is also concerned about the high numbers of students who consult the schools’ psychological services.
A Covid-19-cluster in the Southern main hospital network CHEM urged the responsibles to ban visitors from their hospitals in Esch-sur-Alzette, Niederkorn and Dudelange. Since Saturday, visitors are no longer allowed, this is to protect the staff as well as the patients. Exceptions will be allowed for the fathers of newborn infants or two people visiting pediatric patients. In a statement, the medical centre said: The cluster had caused an unprecedented increase in Covid-19 cases among healthcare and medical staff, forcing them to significantly reorganize teams to compensate for people absent from their workplace.
In an RTL interview on Saturday, Minister of the Economy Franz Fayot said he wanted to reduce the commission on sales for real estate agencies, and that he was preparing a grand-ducal regulation. He explained the prices for flats have doubled during the past ten years – partly due to the sales commissions. The current rate is three percent, but agencies may calculate higher fees. Since 2004, real estate agencies are free to fix their rates without capping. Fayot added, the government suspects they simply pass on that charge to the buyer by raising property prices.
FRIDAY 28 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 3,029 new resident cases, derived from 7,698 tests. There have been 1 new death, with the death toll standing at 947. 70 individuals are in hospital, with 13 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.12. To date, 474,452 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 416,761 have received a second.
Yesterday Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Jean Asselborn, received Teresa Ribeiro, Media Freedom Representative for the OSCE, for an interview, followed by a working lunch. This is Ms Ribeiro’s first visit to Luxembourg since taking office as OSCE Media Freedom Representative in December 2020. The discussion with Minister Asselborn was dominated by news about media freedom in OSCE countries and the protection of journalists.
The Patients’ Representatives Association announced yesterday that it would be collecting vaccine side effects reports and forward the data to the Ministry of Health. In partnership with scientists, the organisation has created an online form for users to report any Covid-19 vaccination side effects including symptoms, duration, and severity. The online form can be completed in either German, Luxembourgish, English or French. More information can be found at aracityradio.com.
Luxembourg’s Medical College repeated its call this week for a widespread, unrestricted vaccine mandate in Luxembourg. The statement questioned an occupational and age-related mandate from a scientific and social point of view, as well as expressing worries over the risk of possible social division.
Minister of Housing, Henri Kox, this week presented key elements of the reform of the 1979 law relating to housing assistance. Two bills will replace the current law. The first presents a clear framework for the financing of affordable housing and support for its inhabitants. The second bill will expand and simplify the individual support for housing, rental and private market ownership. Lack of affordable housing in Luxembourg has been identified as one of this government’s biggest failures. Minister Kox said the aim was to boost the creation of affordable housing, and called the reform “a cornerstone of the housing strategy which is the realisation of the right to housing”.
The first gathering of the Citizens’ Climate Council, first announced by Prime Minister Xavier Betel during his State of the Nation speech last autumn, is set to take place this weekend. The council is comprised of 100 people, selected from over 1,100 volunteers, who over the coming six months will attempt to find answers regarding Luxembourg’s climate policy and its future proposals. The launch of the Citizens’ Climate Council will be at 2pm on Saturday and will be broadcast live online. The conclusions reached by the council will then be presented to parliament in a report for a later debate.
THURSDAY 27 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 3,073 new resident cases, derived from 7,894 tests. There have been 1 new death, with the death toll standing at 946. 70 individuals are in hospital, with 12 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.08. To date, 474,272 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 416,236 have received a second
Responding to a parliamentary question yesterday, Health Minister Paulette Lenert confirmed that more than 6.5 thousand people have caught covid a second time. When two positive PCR tests are recorded 90 days or further apart then it is counted as a second infection. Minister Lenert verified that second infection numbers have increased recently, confirming that the Omicron variant infects those who have previously recovered from an infection.
The Federation of Construction Companies warned yesterday that a shortage of landfill sites in Luxembourg could force building firms to halt projects. There are eight landfill sites in Luxembourg, but it is estimated that 15 are needed to deal with the backlog of construction debris. Around 30,000 tonnes of debris are collected every day but existing sites can only cope with 20,000 tonnes. The Federation clarified that the first construction sites will soon have to close and the employees there will have to be sent on short-time work.
The Luxembourg Consumer Protection Association yesterday called for a limit on energy prices and financial aid for low-income households. In its press release, the ULC explained that recent price increases of petrol, diesel, and gas represented “a major problem” for disadvantaged households. The association called for short-term financial aid for the many families who have recently received a large annual bill for 2021. ULC states that the government should consider capping energy prices or introducing a minimum unit price for gas during the winter months.
Luxembourg’s statistics bureau Statec claimed this week that the effects of the Omicron covid variant on the economy will be felt through inflation and recruitment difficulties. In its latest report on the state of Luxembourg’s economy, Statec explained that although the health impact of omicron seems to be limited, current supply chain difficulties and pressure on prices could pose a threat to economic activity in 2022 if the variant were to last. The bureau’s report declared that disruptions linked to the health crisis were hampering the recovery in supply creating an excess demand for goods, and raising input prices and transport costs.
WEDNESDAY 26 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 1,714 new resident cases, derived from 4,789 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 945. 70 individuals are in hospital, with 11 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.98. To date, 473,933 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 456,988 have been fully vaccinated.
ASTI, a non-profit supporting migrant workers in Luxembourg, has unveiled its new management team. Evandro Cimetta will succeed Laura Zuccoli, who stepped down after twelve years as President of ASTI. The team is composed of volunteers and employees working under the motto of “living, working and making decisions together”.
Microcredit institution microlux announced the launch of a new interest-free loan, in partnership with the Banque de Luxembourg and impact investment fund Funds For Good. The so-called “honour loans” are zero-interest, unsecured loans with a grace period of up to 24 months. These are granted in addition to a usual microcredit and are aimed at helping to finance business creators with quasi equity. The initiative has an initial budget of more than €100,000.
The Luxembourg Institute for Science and Technology signed a 5-year sustainability partnership with wood panel manufacturer Kronospan, which has a site in Sanem. One of the foreseen projects will see LIST monitor and analyse how Kronospan can improve its decarbonisation strategy. The agreement also foresees work on the sustainability assessment of the manufacturer’s products and industrial value chain.
The Ministry of Labour and nyuko asbl have launched a new call for projects with social and societal impact as part of the IMPULS 2022 programme. This edition once again features an acceleration phase and a tailor-made support phase for future social entrepreneurs. The programme starts at the beginning of March. To register, visit www.impuls.lu.
TUESDAY 25 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 5,497 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 14,338 tests. There have been two new deaths, with the death toll standing at 945. 71 individuals are in hospital, with 12 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.25. To date, 473,723 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 456,567 are fully vaccinated.
The Christian Social People’s Party focused on the recent protests in the capital at their press conference yesterday morning. The CSV demanded the introduction of a demonstration law to regulate illegal and violent demonstrations while respecting people’s freedom of opinion, stressing that violence and chaos should not be tolerated. The party welcomed last week’s announcement by Minister of Justice Sam Tanson of a series of new measures with increased sentences for civil disorder and making spitting on officers a punishable offence. CSV members similarly advised that the government should have the right to ban some protests under certain conditions and confirmed their previous call for authorities to have the right to banish people from public spaces, as well as introduce the use of bodycams.
Speaking in an interview with local media, Health minister Paulette Lenert stated she is now totally in favour of compulsory vaccination but does not regret not having introduced it sooner. Minister Lenert added that she believes it was fair to attempt to convince the population before enforcing vaccination. Infectious disease expert Gérard Schockmel had previously criticised Lenert for ignoring the recommendations of experts in favour of compulsory vaccination. Ms Lenert declared she was in favour of introducing compulsory vaccination for those over 50 as soon as possible but stressed the need to wait until the bill was ready before assessing the need for such a measure, as vaccination rates might increase in the interim. The assessment is expected to be ready by mid-February.
According to a Eurostat report released this week, Luxembourg included nearly 12% of green energies into its annual consumption – exceeding the country’s renewable energy objective in 2020. The Grand Duchy was one of 30 European countries that surpassed their given objectives. Foremost countries in terms of green energy use were Sweden, Finland, and Latvia, while France was the only country that failed to reach its goal. Luxembourg plans to achieve a mix of 25% renewable energies by 2030, before becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
The Ministry for Mobility and Public Works announced yesterday that transportation between the Park and Ride at Roussy-le-Village in France and Kirchberg will be made free of charge as part of a pilot project. The pilot project will come into effect on 31 January and is initially planned for a period of six months to assess its usefulness and impact. This new Park and Ride facility has 253 parking spaces.
MONDAY 24 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: After having seen the highest positive rate on record since the start of the pandemic, the number of new cases decreased a little around the end of the week. The Ministry of Health reported 2.838 new resident cases on Friday, derived from 7.728 tests. With 70 individuals in hospital and 14 of those in intensive care, the situation in the hospitals remains stable despite the spreading of the omicron variant in Luxembourg and the neighbouring countries. After the introduction of the 3G-rules at workplaces, long queues resumed at the vaccination centres – as more people decided to get the first vaccination. The ministry’s latest report states that 473.103 people have received their first vaccine dose.
Once again, protesters assembled in the city of Luxembourg on Saturday to demonstrate against the government’s covid-measures. According to the police, around 200 people gathered at the Glacis square at 2.30 pm and moved towards the Place de l’Europe. A second group of around 50 people assembled at the roundabout Robert Schuman near the Place de Théâtre. Both protests had been declared and authorized beforehand. The police temporarily closed some roads for traffic. But in general, the protests have been peaceful and without any notable incident, the police stated in their press release. The weekend before, a non-authorised protest had resulted in violence and several arrests.
Energy supplier Enovos issued a warning for phishing-attempts on Saturday. According to their press release, several people had received e-mails allegedly coming from Enovos. The messages claim that the addressee had mistakenly paid a bill twice and asked to receive the reimbursement by following a weblink provided in the e-mail. In this way, the defrauders try to get personal information. Enovos clarified that the e-mail was not coming from them and warned their customers not to click on any link in the e-mail, nor respond or give any personal information. The company emphasized that the phishing-e-mail was not relying on any customers’ data stating that no third party had access to the clients’ personal information.
The government’s council adopted the national Strategic plan on the future EU’s common agricultural policy on Friday. New agriculture minister Claude Haagen stressed two priorities: fair wages for farmers – and to make the industry more ecological and sustainable. Luxembourg will invest more than 470 million in agricultural subsidies over the next five years.
In November, the EU ended years of negotiations on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy setting the guidelines for the period 2023 – 2025. Each member state had then to elaborate a national strategy on how to implement the new agricultural measures. In line with the EU-directive, the Luxembourgish agricultural ministry announced an investment of 25 percent of the budget for environmental protection. This amount has been criticized by the greens as not being in line with the European Green Deal and not sufficient. Luxembourg’s Strategy Plan now has to be approved by the European Commission. The EU invests one third of its total budget in the common agricultural policy.
FRIDAY 21 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 3,064 new resident cases, derived from 9,373 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 941. 74 individuals are in hospital, with 15 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.18. To date, 472,731 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 413,904 have received a second.
Official data released this week shows that the city of Luxembourg continued to entice new people in 2021, particularly foreigners, with 70% of its inhabitants, comprising 167 different nationalities, coming from abroad. By the end of 2021, the capital had a population of just under 130,000 people – a 6% increase from the previous year and 40% more than in 2010. Most foreigners in the city are Europeans.
The latest edition of the Luxembourg Index of Well-Being, published by the STATEC, indicates that well-being in Luxembourg continued to be stable in 2020, although some areas suffered. Speaking to RTL, STATEC’s director explained there had been a decline in physical security at a household level, as well as social ties, and a drop in the criteria of education and competence. It was also noted that immigration had slowed too, meaning fewer highly-skilled workers had come to Luxembourg. Housing and household costs remained an issue but these were offset by a better balance between professional life and private life thanks to teleworking.
Figures released yesterday by the National Employment Agency show that the number of unemployed jobseekers in Luxembourg remained at pre-pandemic levels for the second consecutive month in December. Unemployment figures have gradually decreased since December 2020 and in December approximately 16,400 people – or 5.2% – were registered with ADEM – a 18% decrease compared with December 2020. The agency added that the number of jobseekers who have been unemployed for over a year dropped but long-term unemployed still make up the majority.
Jessie Thill (TILL) was sworn in as the new MP for the Greens in the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday becoming, at just 25 the youngest MP to ever be appointed to the Chamber. Thill succeeded Carlo Back, and in her first address to the Chamber, Thill stated her wish to focus on housing, climate protection, and gender equality. The MP said she intended to work towards a more inclusive society and to discuss the real-life experiences of young women with topics like miscarriages, abortions, sexual education, and menstruation no longer be out of bounds.
THURSDAY 20 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 2,551 new resident cases, derived from 6,941 tests. There has been 1 new death, with the death toll standing at 941. 72 individuals are in hospital, with 15 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.96. To date, 472,430 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 413,404 have received a second.
Following a heated debate in parliament yesterday, the government announced that it would back a limited mandate for the over-50s and healthcare staff as proposed last week by a panel of independent experts, but said it would leave the next steps to parliament. The parliamentary session came on the same day that Luxembourg recorded its highest ever number of daily infections since the start of the pandemic.
Following recent demonstrations, in which protestors clashed with police officers on several occasions, Minister of Justice Sam Tanson yesterday announced three changes to the criminal code. Spitting at a police officer, something that occurred numerous times during recent protests, will be made a punishable offence. Ms Tanson further announced that resisting or rebelling against police officers would now carry a potential maximum penalty of three years. The third change would see an expansion of ‘investigations under pseudonym’, where investigators using fictitious names carry out investigations in the digital realm. Minister Tanson explained that currently this type of investigation is lawful only in cases of terrorism and national security.
Minister of Justice Sam Tanson also presented a new draft bill yesterday that modifies the criminal code on sexual violence. The definitions of sexual abuse and rape will be defined more precisely strengthening the rights of the victims. The draft bill clarifies that people are entitled to withdraw their consent at any time of the act. The new definitions apply not only to physical violence, but also to acts committed via the internet.
The Court of Appeal in Nancy yesterday granted the extradition of Frank Schneider, former head of operations of the Luxembourg State Intelligence, to the United States for his suspected involvement in a huge cryptocurrency fraud called ‘OneCoin’. Schneider’s lawyer said that they will appeal the decision, while the public prosecutor commented that “his possible extradition should still take some time”.
Yesterday, a Diekirch court ruled that a police officer who shot a man armed with a knife, who later died, had acted in self defence and all charges against the police officer were dropped. The court upheld the officer’s account of self-defence and confirmed the officer’s reaction was proportionate to the danger posed by the victim. Last July, the victim stole a car at knifepoint and was chased by the police. He was stopped in Ettelbruck, where he attempted to attack the officers who stopped him. It was at this point that the police officer shot the attacker.
WEDNESDAY 19 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 1,324 new resident cases, derived from 3,704 tests. There have been 2 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 940. 76 individuals are in hospital, with 19 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.05. To date, 471,942 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 454,023 have been fully vaccinated.
The Ministry of Labour clarified that employers need only check their employees’ 3G CovidCheck certificates once per day. This means that employees are required to present a valid COVID-19 vaccination, recovery or negative test certificate only upon their arrival at the workplace each day.
According to the Justice Ministry, 6,801 people acquired Luxembourgish nationality in 2021. This figure includes those who became Luxembourgers through the option, reclamation or naturalisation procedures. It represents a 27.5% decrease compared to 2020, which the ministry attributed in part to COVID-19-related travel restrictions, which prevented some applicants abroad from travelling to Luxembourg to sign their declaration in person.
Dan Biancalana was nominated as the interim president of the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party. He is set to replace outgoing party leader Yves Cruchten who is assuming a new position in parliament.
The administrative board of the Centre Hospitalier du Nord confirmed that Dr Paul Wirtgen will take over as its new general director. Dr Wirtgen also serves as medical director at present. He will take over from Professor Dr Hans-Joachim Schubert who is set to retire in the near future.
Petrol prices are set to increase by €0.022 per litre today. The Energy Ministry confirmed that the price of Super 95 Oct. petrol will rise to €1.497 per litre, including VAT.
TUESDAY 18 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 546 new resident cases, derived from 1.651 tests. There have been 4 new deaths, with the death toll standing at 938. 72 individuals are in hospital, with 20 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.02. To date, 471.615 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 453.429 have been fully vaccinated.
In a move to help accelerate traffic between the cities of Luxembourg and Thionville in France, the National Roads Administration yesterday announced that work on expanding the Dudelange A3 motorway to three lanes will start today. Preparatory work will commence on the stretch of motorway between the Gasperich intersection and the Aire de Berchem, and is expected to last one month. Work will then move along the motorway towards the capital. Although trees will be cut down as part of the work, the Administration said they would be replaced elsewhere and spaces would be created for wildlife along with a bridge for animals to cross the motorway.
A nurse working at the Covid test centre at the Picken Doheem centre in Ettelbruck was physically assaulted and left injured yesterday. Speaking to RTL, BioneXt’s communication manager, explained that tensions have increased in the long queues to get tested, and that a female patient punched a nurse in the arm when told the centre was going to close and that she would have to go to Leudelange. The patient then chased the nurse into an examination room and continued to shout at the nurse. The incident was reported to police. BioneXt LAB said they condemned violence against their employees, adding that the only way out of this crisis is in solidarity and by respecting one another.
Yesterday, environment minister Carole Dieschburg announced that a new draft law for financing the SuperDeckskescht – the company responsible for disposal of toxic waste in Luxembourg – had been deposed in parliament. Last week, parliament’s research service declared that a law governing the SDK initiative – under which Luxembourg paid Oeko-Service Luxembourg (OSL) close to €10 million a year until 2028 – did not meet the strict rules needed for a project of this size and duration. Minister Dieschbourg had sought to create a legal basis for the controversial contract four years after the government awarded it.
MONDAY 17 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 2,103 new resident cases, derived from 6.370 tests. There have been 3 new deaths, with the death toll standing at 934. 63 individuals are in hospital, with 18 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.10. To date, 470,430 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 451,905 have been fully vaccinated.
Since Saturday, all companies and institutions are obliged to enforce covidcheck with their employees according to the 3G-rules. Everyone has to present either the certificate of vaccination, the certificate of recovery or a negative test result certified by an official test centre. Five new test centres have been installed in military tents in Esch/Alzette, Howald, Fridhaff, Kirchberg and Junglinster. People who got their first vaccine dose recently, receive 20 codes by the government for tests. Those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, are entitled to unlimited free test codes.
On Friday, a panel of medical experts gave the Green Light for a mandatory vaccination. The five doctors, who specialise in contagious diseases, had been engaged by the government to scientifically evaluate compulsory vaccination. They recommend mandatory vaccination for people over 50 and health care workers. The debate in Parliament is set for this week.
Demonstrations against the covid measures continued in the city of Luxembourg on Saturday. The protest was not officially registered and not allowed by the police. Around 350 people met at 2.30 pm at Place de la Gare and moved towards the city centre. The police blocked several streets to avoid protesters spreading in the city centre. A second demonstration with 20 participants took place at the Glacis Square. The police arrested 30 people, 16 of whom face a trial in court.
On Friday, around 300 participants assembled for the eighth silent “Marche blanche” in Kirchberg. For the first time, a counter-movement had been organised. Their signs said: “Don’t leave the streets to the Covidiots”.
RTL News reports that a collective of lawyers are reported to be ready to launch legal actions against CovidCheck from 15 January. The ASTREE collective was formed in opposition to the Covid and CovidCheck laws and is made up of lawyers from Luxembourg and the Grand Est region in France. Spokesperson for the collective, Anthony Winkel, fears that the non-vaccinated could be discriminated against and need someone to defend them. Winkel’s alternative to vaccination is to make the tests more affordable and accessible. The lawyer says he is ready to meet with the government to discuss compulsory vaccination, which he believes runs counter to several standards. Many believe that the covid check at work that is now in effect until the end of February will be extended. The collective is asking whether current law conflicts with the Constitution and the various European standards.
FRIDAY 14 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 2,312 new resident cases, derived from 7,408 tests. There has been 1 new death, with the death toll standing at 931. 69 individuals are in hospital, with 20 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.96. To date, 469,586 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 451,155 are fully vaccinated.
Figures released by the Health Ministry this week show that the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 almost doubled for the second consecutive week. The number of PCR administered in the week from January 3 to January 9 rose by a third but the number of infections detected rose by 89%, with 10,680 cases reported in the first week of 2022. The Ministry report revealed that more than 42,000 vaccination doses were administered last week, which was the highest weekly amount for nearly six months, with 81% of people aged now vaccinated.
Former Democratic Party politician Gary Kneip announced yesterday that he will join Frank Engel and Marc Ruppert in founding a new political party. Kneip had previously been president of the national economic and social council and has held several other positions. Writing on Facebook, Kneip said he had departed from the Democratic Party at the end of last year and declared that the new party would be different from existing political parties, more democratic, more digital, and with a strong commitment to solidarity in society and civic engagement.
The citizen group #NousCitoyens yesterday urged prospective protesters to ditch plans to hold a demonstration outside the Robert Schuman hospital in Kirchberg next week. In an open letter, the group explained that one group of protesters against the government’s current COVID-19 measures are attempting to organise a demonstration against nurses next week. #NousCitoyens called on the protest organisers to cancel the demonstration and abandon all similar initiatives because hospitals must remain free of political, partisan or any other kind of dispute.
British Airways announced yesterday that it will launch four new routes out of London-City airport, including one to/from Luxembourg from 27 March 2022. The flight will be operated “up to seven times a week” and flight time will last between 70-90 minutes. It is assumed that British Airways will use a turbo-prop aircraft because of restrictions at the London-City runway.
THURSDAY 13 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 1,924 new resident cases, derived from 6,609 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 930. 65 individuals are in hospital, with 19 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.07. To date, 468.920 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 450,399 are fully vaccinated.
A draft law, presented yesterday, aims to create a whistle-blower office, and offer wider protection for employees who expose wrongdoing or illegal behaviour as part of an EU-wide directive. The EU directive covers only specific areas of EU law, but Luxembourg has decided to extend its scope across all national law and, although not required, create a whistle-blower office under the authority of the justice ministry Justice minister Sam Tamson explained that a whistleblower would be able to bypass internal reporting and go straight to an external authority but stressed there was a list of information that cannot be disclosed such as doctor/patient confidentiality. The draft law will need to be discussed in a parliamentary committee before being voted on in the plenary, and will not replace existing obligations to report suspicious activities.
In a press release, the Independent Luxembourg Trade Union Confederation claimed that the recent surge in Omicron variant cases had led to a higher demand than ever before on private laboratories.The OGBL further noted that extremely long queues at testing centres were causing stress among the staff as employees were exposed to aggression from the public and that overtime was now regularly expected to cope with the extremely high work rates.The Union commented that private laboratories had become “a real hub of social dumping” and hoped to continue to raise awareness of the “inequalities and poor working conditions that employees of private laboratories face on a daily basis”
Following the announcement on Tuesday that Frank Colabianchi would step down as Mayor of Bertrange, a press release yesterday confirmed that first alderwoman Monique Smit-Thijs will take over the succession on 1st March. Colabianchi, who gave personal reasons for his resignation, has led Bertrange since 2009 and is also an MP for the Democratic Party. He will remain as a councillor as well as MP for the Centre. Mrs Smit-Thijs, also from the Democratic Party, still needs to be sworn in by the Minister for the Interior and has also been in the council since 2009.
Tributes flooded in yesterday for cartoonist and Déi Lénk politician Guy W. Stoos who died aged 71 on Tuesday evening. As well as being a clever caricaturist and politically active on the left, Stoos co-founded the satirical weekly newspaper De Neie Feierkrop, (DE NIGH FIRE-KROP) and was a councillor in the City of Luxembourg from 2003 to 2006, and campaigned for foreigner’s rights with Asti. He was a candidate for Déi Lénk in the centre constituency at the 2013 national parliament elections.Minister of culture, Sam Tanson praised Stoos’ uncompromising political commitment, while former Déi Lénk MP David Wagner said that Stoos drew for those who did not have a voice and that his humour and gentleness could hardly be surpassed.
WEDNESDAY 12 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 961 new resident cases, derived from 3,850 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 930. 65 individuals are in hospital, with 18 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.24. To date, 468,109 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 449,693 have been fully vaccinated.
MPs approved changes to the Covid Law on Tuesday afternoon. The measures passed with a narrow majority of 31 out of 60 votes – the government parties voted in favour whilst the opposition voted against the changes. Under the new rules, which come into force today, vaccination certificates for a first vaccination schedule are valid for 9 months. People who were fully vaccinated or recovered within the last six months, as well as those with a booster dose, are exempt from having to perform a rapid test under the 2G+ CovidCheck regime. The new rules will apply until the end of February.
The Education Ministry announced new rules aimed at curbing the spread of the Omicron virus variant. Pupils who are neither vaccinated nor recovered will be required to quarantine for 7 days as long as they take a PCR or rapid antigen test on the 6th day after contact with an infected individual. Infected students who are vaccinated will need to isolate for 6 days and take two rapid tests on the 5th and 6th days. Unvaccinated infected students will need to isolate for 10 days. The new rules also foresee the possibility of switching to distance learning in case of increased infections.
Transport Minister François Bausch presented draft regulations for company car benefit schemes aimed at incentivising the use of zero or low CO2 emission vehicles. The new benefits calculation rate will apply from 2023. This rate will start at 0.5% for cars with low electrical energy consumption and is increased by 0.2% for most car categories with emissions exceeding 80g per km. The maximum rate of 1.8% will apply to company cars with emissions above 130g per km.
Legal experts advised MPs that an 11-year-old contract between the state and the SuperDrecksKëscht recycling centre lacks a solid legal basis. The experts maintained that a special law concerning multiannual expenses should have been drafted since the agreement has generated a total cost of more than €40 million. Next week, Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg will meet with MPs to discuss the issue further.
The number of bankruptcies declared in 2021 remained stable over one year. According to Creditreform, 1,199 Luxembourg companies closed their doors last year – the same number as in 2020. The services sector accounted for 836 bankruptcies, whilst the hospitality industry saw 116 closures. Companies in the trade sector accounted for 244 bankruptcies.
TUESDAY 11 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health has reported 3,835 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 13,263 tests. There were 8 new deaths over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 930. 68 individuals are in hospital, with 20 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.49. To date, 467,593 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 449,037 people have been fully vaccinated.
The State Council has criticised the government’s proposals to relax COVID-19 measures amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Last week, the government announced plans to shorten the isolation period for infected individuals to 6 days and remove the requirement for a booster jab for entry to bars and restaurants. The State Council questioned the logic of such a decision “in the face of an explosion in the number of infections”.
Mark Ruppert, former secretary general of the Democratic Party, and Frank Engel, former president of the Christian Social People’s Party, are joining forces to form a new political party. Mr Ruppert stepped down from the role as DP secretary general due to personal reasons in November 2017. Mr Engel left CSV last March after being sued by his own party over allegations of financial fraud. He was eventually acquitted.
Police confirmed that one person died in a house fire in Steinsel on Monday. Firefighters searched the house and found a 57-year-old resident who passed away at the scene of the accident. Forensics have been tasked with determining the cause of the fire and an autopsy is being carried out.
The Federation of Automobile Distributors and Mobility confirmed that this year’s Auto Festival will take place from 24th January to 5th February. Car dealers will be required to implement safety concepts and no food will be on offer.
Following the increased popularity of electric vehicles, the federation is demanding increased efforts from the government in terms of providing the necessary infrastructure for such vehicles and extending their subsidisation beyond 31st March.
MONDAY 10 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 1,905 new resident cases derived from 6,112 tests over the last 48 hours. There has been 1 new death, bringing the death toll to 922. 72 individuals are in hospital, with 22 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.42. To date, 466,309 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 447,471 people have been fully vaccinated.
The waiting time for COVID-19 booster shots is being reduced from four to three months for people having received two doses of an mRNA or AstraZeneca vaccine, or mix and match vaccine doses. People testing positive for the virus can get boosted one month after their positive PCR test. Booster shots will also be offered to children aged 12 and over in the coming days.
Germany has classified Luxembourg as a high-risk area due to the high number of COVID-19 infections. As of yesterday, anyone over six years of age entering Germany after having stayed in Luxembourg in the previous ten days must present a valid vaccination certificate issued more than 14 days ago, proof of recovery within the last six months or a negative PCR or rapid antigen test no older than 48 hours.
People who are neither vaccinated nor recovered from the virus and travelling to Germany for less than 24 hours must possess a negative test certificate which must be renewed twice a week.
For trips exceeding 24 hours, a digital entry registration form must be completed in advance.
A 53-year-old man who was hit by a train in Schifflange last week passed away from his injuries at the weekend. According to the police, the man was on the train platform at Schifflange railway station when he lost his balance and fell onto the tracks just as the train departed the station. He sustained serious injuries and was taken to hospital.
The government has tasked an independent group of experts with determining whether mandatory vaccination will be necessary. A questionnaire will be sent out to all concerned actors to assess public opinion on the issue. Collected responses will be used as the basis for a parliamentary debate.
FRIDAY 7 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 1,932 new resident cases, derived from 6,113 tests. There has been 1 new death, bringing the death toll to 921. 67 individuals are in hospital, with 20 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.53. To date, 465,593 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 446,681 have been fully vaccinated.
Health Minister Paulette Lenert and hospital representatives are holding a press conference this afternoon. They are expected to provide an update of the situation in Luxembourg’s hospitals in light of rising COVID-19 cases.
Moreover, the State Council is expected to debate the potential introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate later today.
The Ministry of Health confirmed that pregnant women will be offered a booster jab after their first trimester. This came in response to an urgent parliamentary question on the subject.
The government has negotiated the purchase of 20,000 Pfizer Paxlovid COVID-19 treatment pills. This treatment is believed to reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death by 89% among adults. It is currently awaiting market authorisation in the European Union, with a decision by the European Medicines Agency expected this month.
The Luxembourg journalists’ association issued a statement condemning the latest threats against representatives of the press. Reporting on anti-democratic activities is part of the journalist’s work. “The consequences are often threats, insults, agitation, and sometimes physical violence against the reporters,” the ALJP said in a press release. They also stated that “this increasingly serious action against the press must be combated with all possible political and legal means. According to the statement an RTL journalist was threatened publicly in a Telegram group, and a Tageblatt photographer was verbally assaulted at a recent demonstration.
Jean-Louis Schiltz and Michel Wurth have stepped down as President and Vice-President, respectively, of the Robert Schuman Hospitals foundation. Their resignations come following last year’s coronavirus vaccine queue-jumping scandal.
The hospital foundation announced the arrival of four new, reportedly “more female and younger” members in its administrative committee.
THURSDAY 6 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 2,131 new resident cases, derived from 7,146 tests. There have been 2 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 920. 69 individuals are in hospital, with 19 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.18. To date, 464,939 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 444,896 have been fully vaccinated.
The government has now rethought some of the December legislation to fight the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. If the revised proposals are passed, fully vaccinated people and those who have recovered from Covid in the last six months will not have to self-test before entering a hospitality venue. Under the revised proposals, people who test positive for the virus might only have to isolate for four days. There are also plans to limit the duration of vaccination certificates to 270 days, or nine months. The health commission is set to discuss the proposed changes later this morning.
Opposition parties yesterday voiced their opinions on the Covid-19 regulation changes, with most accepting the shortened isolation period but the CSV and the Left Party stressed the need for scientific evidence to justify the proposed measures. The CSV stated that people are struggling to keep up with the latest changes, as the Covid-19 law has now been amended three times in just four weeks. The Pirate Party questioned the reason for easing the 2G+ regime, accusing the government of “artificially” lowering infection numbers to avoid looking like they have lost control of the situation. The Pirate Party also called for more testing in general, in order to detect positive cases earlier, and asked why the large-scale testing programme has not been reactivated.The education ministry confirmed yesterday that nearly 400 teachers are currently in isolation because of a positive covid-19 test result, adding that the absences presented “big organisational challenges.”In an email to Delano, the education ministry said that 162 primary school teachers and 236 at secondary school level are isolating because of covid-19.The ministry has recommended that class trips abroad be cancelled to prevent the possibility of having to quarantine abroad and not being able to travel back.
WEDNESDAY 5 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 877 new resident cases, derived from 3,553 tests. There has been 1 new death, bringing the death toll to 918. 69 individuals are in hospital, with 20 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.10. To date, 464,165 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 444,896 have been fully vaccinated.
Grand Duke Henri has tested positive for COVID-19. The Grand Ducal Palace announced yesterday that the Grand Duke was self-isolating after a rapid antigen test came back positive. A PCR test confirmed this result. The head of state is displaying mild symptoms and will continue to perform his duties remotely. Such tasks include today’s swearing-in of new government ministers Claude Haagen, Georges Engel and Yuriko Backes which the Grand Duke will carry out via video conference.
According to Luxembourg’s central bank and Statec, the country’s balance of payments showed a surplus of over €1.6 billion at the end of the first three quarters of 2021. The goods surplus reached more than €1.1 billion, with exports up 9% and imports up 12% during the quarters in question. The balance of international trade in services rose by 10% during this same period.
The COPAS organisation grouping together retirement and nursing homes argued in favour of a generalised rather than a sectoral vaccine mandate. The organisation warned that imposing a vaccine mandate on specific sectors such as healthcare could lead to stigmatisation. Instead, COPAS argued that a generalised vaccine mandate would better protect vulnerable people whilst avoiding further division in society.
Sunflower Montessori announced plans to open a new creche in Belval. The creche will open its doors in May, with 60 places available for children up to 4 years of age. This will be the seventh childcare facility run by Sunflower Montessori in Luxembourg. The institution specialises in a method of education based on self-directed activity and hands-on learning.
TUESDAY 4 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health has reported 1,592 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 6,586 tests. There were 2 new deaths over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 917. 68 individuals are in hospital, with 21 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.32. To date, 464,003 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 444,414 people have been fully vaccinated.
Taina Bofferding, Minister of the Interior and of Equality between Women and Men, has tested positive for COVID-19 following regular self-testing. Whilst the result still needs to be confirmed by a PCR test, the fully vaccinated minister is currently self-isolating and will continue to work from home. She shows no symptoms.
The wait time for COVID-19 booster shots has been reduced from six to four months after a second dose of Moderna, BioNTech-Pfizer or mix & match vaccines.
A new pop-up vaccination centre is also opening at Luxembourg’s central station in an effort to encourage people to get their boosters. This centre will open its doors on Thursday. No appointment is needed.
Luxembourg’s water agency has warned of heavy rain and potential flooding across the country. Downpours were expected yesterday evening, with crisis units on standby for a 48-hour period. Flooding could impact the Alzette and Sûre rivers.
Meteolux has also put in place a yellow weather warning for heavy rain until this afternoon. 30 to 45 litres of rain per square metre are expected in some places.
Luxair witnessed a busy holiday season with more than 55,000 people travelling with the national airline over the past two weeks. Gran Canaria was among the most popular destinations for Luxembourgish passengers.
MONDAY 3 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 1,280 new resident cases derived from 4,497 tests over the last 48 hours. There have been 3 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 915. 67 individuals are in hospital, with 21 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.53. To date, 463,638 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 444,085 people have been fully vaccinated.
From today, the Victor Hugo vaccination centre in Limpertsberg is relocating temporarily to Luxexpo The Box in Kirchberg. The move comes in response to technical problems at the Victor Hugo centre. Anyone with an appointment at this centre should show up at the same date and time at Luxexpo.
The Health Ministry announced changes to its contact tracing system in response to rising COVID-19 cases. These changes, introduced at the weekend, are designed to increase the responsiveness of the health authorities in contact tracing.
The ministry also recalled that anyone testing positive for coronavirus should self-isolate as well as make a list of, and inform, the people with whom they have been in close contact in the past two days. Those who have been declared (or declared themselves) a close contact of an infected individual will now no longer be contacted by the contact tracing team.
According to a report by the national meteorological service AgriMeteo, 2021 was marked by below-average temperatures and extreme weather. With an average temperature of 9.3 °C, last year was colder than the average of the reference period from 1991 to 2020, during which a temperature of 9.9 °C was recorded. A slight rainfall deficit was recorded in the north, whilst the rest of the country saw rainfall exceed multi-year standards. July saw precipitation reach record levels, which resulted in severe flooding.
The annual winter sales kick off in Luxembourg today. In “normal” times, these sales start between Christmas and New Year’s Day. This year, the CLC trade confederation, together with retail representatives, has decided to start the sales later, partly to give staff a break over the holidays. The sales will end on 29th January. The aim is to clear stocks ahead of the new spring-summer collections.
FRIDAY 24 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 582 new resident cases, derived from 5,151 tests. There has been 1 new death, bringing the death toll to 907. 69 individuals are in hospital, with 19 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.93. To date, 459,894 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 441,277 have been fully vaccinated.
All children aged 5-11 are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Children in this age group can get the jab voluntarily in the Victor Hugo, Belval and Ettelbruck vaccination centres. They cannot get vaccinated in pop-up vaccination centres and must be accompanied by a legal representative. Some paediatricians can also administer the vaccine. Children will receive a reduced dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. To make an appointment, visit www.impfen.lu.
The syndicate of Luxembourg pharmacists announced that on-duty pharmacies will not be carrying out certified rapid antigen tests during the Christmas holidays. Due to huge demand and limited capacity, pharmacies which are on duty will not carry out rapid test certification from 24th to 26th December inclusive, on New Year’s Eve or on New Year’s Day. A list of pharmacies which carry out such tests during their opening hours is available at: www.pharmacie.lu.
The government is adapting its financial aid schemes for businesses impacted by the new COVID-19 measures. The amount of recovery aid per self-employed or employee is being increased from €1,000 to €1,250 per month, with the total amount per company capped at €2.3 million instead of €1.8 million. Similarly, the percentage of operating costs considered for the aid scheme to support uncovered costs will rise from 75% to 100%. These adjustments are valid for the months of December, January and February. The changes still require approval from the Chamber of Deputies and the European Commission.
Lawyer André Lutgen has been found not guilty of intimidating investigating judge Felipe Rodrigues. However, the court found him guilty of contempt of court and fined him €2,000. He is also required to pay a symbolic €1 to Mr Rodrigues. Mr Lutgen’s lawyers intend to appeal the ruling.
In a phone conversation with Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel expressed his concerns over Russian military activity near Ukraine. Mr Bettel urged the Russian President to defuse tensions along the border. The two leaders also discussed current and future bilateral cooperation, as well as EU-Russian relations.
THURSDAY 23 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 600 new resident cases, derived from 5,533 tests. There have been 2 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 906. 72 individuals are in hospital, with 19 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.03. To date, 459,379 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 440,854 have been fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert announced new covid restrictions set to come into force on Christmas Day. The measures are aimed at curbing the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs will have to shut their doors at 11pm. Customers who have not received their booster dose will have to take a rapid test on the spot. The 2G CovidCheck system will apply to gatherings of more than ten people and 2G+ for groups of 20 or more. Events with over 100 people can only take place with prior authorisation of the Ministry of Health. A mask mandate will be reintroduced in schools, and all children over 5 will be allowed to get vaccinated. People are also encouraged to exert caution and self test before meeting with friends and family. MPs are set to vote on the revised COVID law on Friday, with changes coming into effect on Saturday until 28th February 2022.
In an RTL interview, the secretary general of the Horesca Federation criticised the government’s last-minute plans to re-impose a curfew in the hospitality sector. François Koepp questioned the usefulness of this measure, saying that a midnight curfew would have been “more logical”. However, the federation welcomed the adaptation of financial support from the state in response to the new measures.
Opposition parties also slammed the government’s decision to announce new measures so soon after the latest COVID law was adopted. CSV MP Claude Wiseler warned that this short-term decision could result in “bad legislative work”.
Rising energy prices look set to also impact charging stations. According to Eurostat, a family with one child in Luxembourg spends roughly 3% of their budget on petrol. Recharging electric vehicles is expected to get more expensive in the future, as well. The price until recently was 20 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) but from 1 January 2022, the price will increase to 35 cents for ‘Chargy’ or nearly 50 cents for ‘SuperChargy’ respectively. Despite the rise in cost, people are still better off using electricity compared to petrol, according to electricity trader ‘Electris’.
WEDNESDAY 22 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 229 new resident cases, derived from 3,196 tests. There has been 1 new death, bringing the death toll to 904. 70 individuals are in hospital, with 19 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.03. To date, 458,575 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 440,325 have been fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert are holding a press briefing this morning. They are expected to give an update on the current COVID-19 situation at the national level, possibly announcing additional measures.
The Foreign Ministry announced that Luxembourg now recognises vaccination certificates issued from five additional non-EU countries. Third country nationals with proof that they have been fully vaccinated in Brazil, Canada, India, Japan or South Africa are authorised to travel to the Grand Duchy, including for non-essential reasons, provided that the vaccine administered is accepted by Luxembourg. The accepted vaccines are BioNTech-Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, as well as others deemed “bio-similar” to these four vaccines.
The Economic Committee approved short-time work requests for 11,500 employees for the month of January. At its December meeting, the committee granted 674 such requests from companies, most of which were related to economic issues linked to COVID-19. 54 came from the manufacturing sector, 11 came from companies having suffered damage in the July floods and one was related to economic dependence.
The Agriculture Ministry has filed an official complaint against three local environmental groups over a publicity stunt made at the start of this month. Greenpeace Luxembourg, Mouvement écologique and natur&ëmwelt had tried to get the ministry’s attention by publishing an open letter that featured a fictional “ministry of sustainable agriculture”. The real ministry initially accused the groups of promoting fake news and has now filed complaints with the state prosecutor’s office over their use of its logo.
Voters across the country failed to register the required number of signatures at local communes to force a public referendum on proposed changes to the Luxembourgish constitution. This marks a significant blow for campaigners in their efforts to force the poll. Voters had one month to register their support but the petition fell short of the 25,000 signatures needed to push forward with the issue.
TUESDAY 21 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health has reported 921 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 11,860 tests. There were 5 new deaths over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 903. 71 individuals are in hospital, with 18 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.00. To date, 457,987 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 439,914 have received a second.
The Ministry of State and Ministry of Health announced plans to temporarily reopen the Luxexpo The Box COVID-19 vaccination centre next month. The centre will be open for an initial period from 10th to 15th January 2022 which may be extended depending on vaccine deliveries. Only booster jabs will be administered here with vaccination by appointment only. To book an appointment, visit guichet.lu.
In response to a parliamentary question from the Christian Social People’s Party, Health Minister Paulette Lenert confirmed that an employee of the National Health Directorate attempted to get a colleague to certify a fake PCR test result. The Lëtzebuerger Land first reported the incident about a month ago. Minister Lenert assured that procedures have since been “tightened”.
The ADEM unemployment agency and STATEC national statistics institute reported that the unemployment rate has dropped below pre-pandemic levels. The rate stood at 5.3% at the end of November 2021. There were 15,232 resident jobseekers registered with ADEM, which represents 2,927 fewer people than in November 2020. Despite falling by 12.4% over one year, the long-term unemployed still represented more than half of resident jobseekers.
Over 1,850 students received their diplomas during the recent graduation ceremonies at the University of Luxembourg. This included around 640 Bachelor and 600 Master students, as well as more than 150 PhD students. An additional 470 students obtained certificates for vocational or lifelong learning courses, while 30 students graduated from the university’s Competence Centre.
MONDAY 20 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 349 new resident cases derived from 4,732 tests over the last 48 hours. There has been 1 new death, bringing the death toll to 898. 81 individuals are in hospital, with 22 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.06. To date, 456,581 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 438,905 people have been fully vaccinated.
On Friday, Luxembourg reached the milestone of having administered one million vaccine doses since the start of its vaccination campaign.
Last week, 102 homeless people were vaccinated against coronavirus as part of a special campaign organised by the Ministries of Health and of Family, Integration and the Greater Region. Mobile vaccination teams carried out the action in collaboration with various actors in the field. Nine people also got their flu jab.
Around 500 people participated in COVID-19 protests in Luxembourg City on Saturday afternoon. Unlike the week before, these demonstrations were mainly peaceful, although the Luxembourg Police said they arrested half a dozen people throughout the day.
Ahead of Saturday’s protests and following last week’s unrest, the public prosecutor issued search warrants for residencies in the east of the country. Police had identified an individual present at the violent demonstrations suspected of having thrown fireworks at police officers. During a search on Saturday morning, police found explosives, weapons and munitions at a home in Grevenmacher. The 30-year-old man was brought before magistrates that same afternoon.
The Luxembourg Future Fund announced a €10 million investment in Canadian space company NorthStar Earth & Space which is setting up its European headquarters in the Grand Duchy. This investment, which forms part of a larger €40 million co-investment, will be provided through the national space programme LuxImpulse. It is aimed at supporting sustainable space activities. In addition to its planned headquarters, NorthStar will set up a centre of excellence in Luxembourg.
The United States Senate unanimously confirmed Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett as the next US Ambassador to Luxembourg. Mr Barrett had been nominated to the post by President Joe Biden in August. He will succeed Randy Evans who was appointed by former President Donald Trump and left office in January 2021.
FRIDAY 17 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 537 new resident cases, derived from 5,509 tests. There has been 1 new death, with the death toll standing at 897. 79 individuals are in hospital, with 24 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.03. To date, 455,951 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 438,429 have been fully vaccinated.
Parliamentarians yesterday voted on new CovidCheck restrictions for leisure activities and the workplace. There will be an exemption for people who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons. They must however show a medical certificate and provide a valid test certificate or do a self-test on site.
Under the latest law, restaurants, bars, cinemas and other public venues are only accessible with a vaccination or recovery certificate. A test certificate is no longer applicable. This will take effect as of today.
From the 15 January, a 3G CovidCheck will be mandatory in the workplace. That means vaccinated, recovered or tested. Businesses will be given powers to carry out identity checks.
With the new law, the validity of PCR is reduced to 48 hours, and certified antigen tests are reduced to 24 hours.
Hospitals will only be accessible with a 3G CovidCheck certificate, except in case of emergency. People seeking treatment can also take a rapid antigen test on site.
Furthermore, pharmacists will be able to administer coronavirus vaccinations.
All passengers arriving by plane will be required to fill out a contact tracing form.
Passengers aged over twelve years still have to show proof of vaccination, proof of recovery within the last six months, a negative PCR test, or a certified rapid test. Sanitary restrictions remain for some countries.
For gatherings: groups of up to ten people can meet without specific restrictions. Groups of more than ten people are subject to the new rules. 3G rules will apply to groups aged 12 to 19, and 3G to groups of adults. For groups of 11 to 50 people, distancing and masks can replace CovidCheck. 51 to 200 people can gather without CovidCheck if seated and masked. Gatherings between 201 and 2,000 people can meet with 2G covid check. Any event with over 2,000 people must be registered with health authorities.
Finance minister Pierre Gramegna told parliament yesterday that the European Commission had closed an investigation into the LuxLetters allegations. In July, journalists disclosed that multinational companies in Luxembourg were using a tax loophole to underpay contributions and sidestep EU transparency rules.
Following last week’s acquittal of former CSV president Frank Engel and 6 other party members in the CSV-Frëndeskrees case, prosecutors announced they accepted the first instance judgement and would not appeal.
Two Luxembourgish Islamic State supporters were sentenced yesterday to a combined total of more than five years in prison for spreading ISIS propaganda, in the first trial of its kind in the Grand Duchy. The defendants, from the Kirchberg area, were charged with downloading, translating and distributing thousands of online messages in support of the Islamic State terror group. Both will have to take part in a de-radicalisation programme as part of their probation.
THURSDAY 16 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 711 new resident cases, derived from 5,920 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 896. 82 individuals are in hospital, with 26 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.99. To date, 455,271 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 437,963 have been fully vaccinated.
The national crisis unit has triggered phase 3 in Luxembourg hospitals, meaning certain non-urgent operations will have to be postponed. The move comes amid a rising number of COVID-19 patients being treated in normal and intensive care units. The Ministry of Health assured that all urgent and serious operations will go ahead as planned.
On Thursday, MPs are set to vote on the new COVID-19 law imposing stricter rules on the unvaccinated. If approved, the law will oblige unvaccinated employees to get tested daily for COVID-19 in order to enter their workplace from mid-January. Close to 6,000 people got their first jab last week, ahead of the new measures. This marks the highest number of first doses in nearly half a year. At present, 68% of Luxembourg’s population is fully vaccinated.
In his final budget speech as Finance Minister, Pierre Gramegna presented a positive vision for public finances. He announced that the government has spent €390 million on health measures since the pandemic began, spending around €13 million on more than 1.2 million vaccine doses to date. Minister Gramegna said Luxembourg has generally weathered the crisis well, with GDP falling by just 1.8% last year compared to the European average of 6.5%. In response to global changes and the need to invest, he recommended that European countries focus on “a magic triangle”, representing the green and climate transition, the digital transition and a sustainable and green financial sector.
Following similar agreements with Belgium and Germany, Luxembourg has extended its teleworking agreement with France until the end of March 2022. The agreement provides that working days during which French residents employed in Luxembourg work from home due to the pandemic are not taken into account in the calculation of taxable days in the Grand Duchy. The agreement will automatically renew for an additional three months after the new expiry date unless terminated at least one week before.
Respect.lu announced the winners of its Respect Song Contest. The six jury members chose three winning songs out of more than 15 applications. 1st prize went to Joe Weber, aka Lionheart, for his “Respekt Song”. In joint 2nd place were Abby Scheidweiler, Julie Darne-Scheidweiler, Arsène Salvestrin and Dan Theisen with “Meet me if you dare” and LTPES Band with “We’re all the same”. These songs will be recorded and a music video shot with young filmmaker Lukas Grevis at the start of the new year.
WEDNESDAY 15 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 209 new resident cases, derived from 2,873 tests. There has been 1 new death, bringing the death toll to 896. 87 individuals are in hospital, with 26 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.96. To date, 454,605 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 437,351 have been fully vaccinated.
There have been reports of several employees telling their employers that they will go off on sick leave once the CovidCheck system becomes compulsory in the workplace from mid-January. According to the Federation of Skilled Trades and Crafts, if these employees are granted a six-week sick leave to get around the obligation of daily tests, companies will face huge organisational issues. The federation urged the government and the CNS to take strict measures to prevent people from abusing the sick leave system.
Luxembourg energy provider Eida has stopped providing electricity after its Dutch supplier Anode declared bankruptcy. Anode announced its plans to file for bankruptcy and reportedly halted its electricity delivery to Luxembourg without warning. Eida said it had not been able to find an alternative supplier. Luxembourg’s state-owned Enovos has stepped in to supply Eida clients with electricity. Around 1,600 households and 1,200 companies could be affected in the Grand Duchy.
Luxembourg received 110 applications for international protection last month. Most applicants came from Syria, Venezuela and Eritrea. A total of 1,110 applications have been submitted so far this year, with a further 150 or so expected to be filed this month. Between January and November, the authorities took 1,330 decisions, recognising the status of refugee in around half of these cases.
A recent Eurostat publication revealed that Luxembourg has the lowest environmental tax share in Europe. Despite the government repeatedly emphasising its ambitions in this field, the Grand Duchy still has a long way to go. In 2020, green taxes contributed to just 3.5% of the country’s tax revenue, well below the European average of 5.4%. This may improve following the introduction of the CO2 tax which came into force in January 2021 and which is set to increase next year.
TUESDAY 14 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health has reported 871 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 10,852 tests. There were 5 new deaths over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 895. 87 individuals are in hospital, with 25 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.97. To date, 454,019 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 436,811 have received a second.
Health Minister Paulette Lenert confirmed Luxembourg’s first Omicron case at a press conference. The origins of this particular case are not yet known, according to Health Director Dr Jean-Claude Schmit. The woman in question had not left the country and had received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, although she had not yet received a booster jab. Contact tracing is underway. Minister Lenert also confirmed that the vaccine rollout for children aged 5-11 will start shortly, with bookings opening today via MyGuichet.lu or through GPs.
The President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo visited Luxembourg on Monday. He was joined by Ghana’s Transport and Finance Ministers, who signed bilateral agreements with their respective Luxembourg counterparts. The first was an air services agreement providing maximum mutual traffic rights, whilst the second related to the elimination of double taxation.
In addition to meeting with Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and the Grand Duke, Ghana’s President visited the EIB headquarters in Kirchberg where he welcomed a new €82.5 million Team Europe loan aimed at supporting his country’s national COVID-19 response plan.
The CFL has launched a new nationwide railway timetable. During the launch, the national railway company officially opened two new platforms at the Gare central station. The new pedestrian bridge in the direction of Bonnevoie is now also fully accessible.
Luxembourg is set to make it easier for third national spouses to get a work permit. The plans form part of efforts to boost the national economy and talent pool. The government announced the proposed scheme during a tripartite meeting with social partners. Details are yet to be unveiled although Labour Minister Dan Kersch confirmed that the labour law would need to be changed accordingly.
Registrations are now open for the second edition of the Cancer Foundation’s “Sober Buddy Challenge”. Similar to Dry January, this challenge encourages participants to give up alcohol, mainly for health reasons, for one month, from 1st to 31st January 2022. The challenge can be completed alone or with a “buddy”. To register, visit sober-buddy.lu.
MONDAY 13 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 369 new resident cases derived from 4,625 tests over the last 48 hours. There has been 1 new death, bringing the death toll to 890. 80 individuals are in hospital, with 23 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.97. To date, 452,387 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 435,661 people have been fully vaccinated.
Police arrested more than 20 people during COVID-19 protests in Luxembourg City on Saturday. Luxembourg police officers, who were backed by reinforcements from Belgium, used water cannons on the demonstrators and made several arrests as violence broke out for the second consecutive weekend. The Christmas markets in Place d’Armes and Place de la Constitution were temporarily closed during the demonstrations. Sunday’s protests against the government measures proved less eventful. Police officers were well prepared in advance and participants included several families and children. No police intervention was necessary.
In line with the recommendations of the Superior Council for Infectious Diseases, Luxembourg is offering vulnerable children aged 5-11 and those residing with a vulnerable individual the opportunity to get vaccinated against coronavirus from Tuesday. The recommended schedule consists of two doses spaced four weeks apart. The prescribed dose is one-third of that recommended for adults, although children who will turn 12 before the second dose can receive the same vaccine dose as adults.
A man suspected of sending death threats to Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert has been arrested. Following the introduction of stricter coronavirus measures, several public figures received threatening letters. One of the suspects is a 37-year-old man, who appeared on Friday before the investigating judge, was charged and taken to Schrassig prison to await further judicial action.
UNICEF Luxembourg has called for donations to support Syrian children in need this winter. The organisation is asking members of the public to donate money rather than clothes, explaining that this is a more efficient manner of getting people what they actually need. In addition to winter clothes, the donations will go towards investing in education in Syria. To support this cause, visit Unicef.lu. At the national level, the UN agency, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, announced plans to publish a second, more comprehensive study in 2022 of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected young people in Luxembourg.
FRIDAY 10 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 486 new resident cases, derived from 6,569 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 889. 76 individuals are in hospital, with 21 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.07. To date, 451,606 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 435,132 have been fully vaccinated.
At a press conference yesterday, Interior Security Minister Henri Kox and Luxembourg City Mayor Lydie Polfer confirmed that future COVID-19 protests can go ahead as long as participants stay within a restricted zone. The move follows last Saturday’s violent protests, which the authorities argued could not happen again. The protest zone will stretch from Glacis car park along the Grand Duchess Charlotte Bridge to Place de l’Europe in Kirchberg. Local police forces will be strengthened by police from outside Luxembourg for this weekend’s planned demonstrations.
Education Minister Claude Meisch confirmed yesterday that there were currently no plans to extend the Christmas holidays or switch back to homeschooling despite rising coronavirus cases in schools. That being said, he added that nothing can be ruled out at this point. Mr Meisch also announced that the free meals in the Maison-Relais and school canteens that were originally planned to start in January, will not be available until the new school year starts in September next year. The government is planning free meals in school canteens in primary schools, as well as for low- and middle-income families in high schools.
Former CSV president Frank Engel and 6 other party members have been acquitted of fraud and forgery charges in a case related to an allegedly fake salaried party job. The case focused on allegations that the CSV Frëndeskrees non-profit group had paid Mr Engel €40,000 per year to recruit people. The 7 party members were acquitted of all charges at Thursday’s hearing.
Luxembourg’s economy is expected to grow by 7% this year, according to STATEC’s latest forecast. In 2022, the economy should grow by 3.5%. The statistics office noted that financial services continue to benefit from a strong stock market performance, but warned that the pandemic could still have an impact on the Grand Duchy’s economic performance.
Tickets are now on sale for “Our Planet Live in Concert” which is taking place for the first time at d’Coque in Kirchberg on 8th October 2022. The award-winning Netflix documentary, narrated on screen by David Attenborough, will be reinterpreted as a live experience and highlights from the series will be combined with an orchestra ensemble. More information and tickets are available on the d’Coque website.
THURSDAY 9 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 666 new resident cases, derived from 5,432 tests. There has been 1 new death, bringing the death toll to 889. 72 individuals are in hospital, with 21 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.04. To date, 450,904 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 434,615 have been fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel announced yesterday that a delivery of 100,000 doses of the Moderna covid vaccine had arrived in Luxembourg. Mr Bettel also confirmed that the Air Rescue vaccination centre at Findel airport will open on Friday and that appointments could be booked via impfen.lu. In addition to the three vaccination centres and doctors’ offices, people can also get vaccinated at one of the pop-up vaccination sites that have been opened for vaccination week, which will run until 12 December.
In response to a parliamentary question from the Pirate Party, Health Minister Paulette Lenert this week confirmed that over 13,000 doses of unused AstraZeneca vaccines were destroyed after they passed their 30 November expiration date. Minister Lenert however did not provide an explanation for why the unused vaccines were not donated to another country before their expiration to avoid wastage. She further stated that Luxembourg had not received any shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine since mid-September. It is thought that the AstraZeneca vaccine fell out of favour in Luxembourg after reports last year linking the vaccine to deaths from blood clots.
The prison administration yesterday confirmed that the COVID-19 health restrictions currently in effect at Schrassig prison will be extended until further notice in response to the persistent rise in positive cases at the Luxembourg Penitentiary Centre. The administration said that they hoped to obtain an accurate overview of the infections through large-scale PCR testing and that a mobile health team had visited the prison and tested around 200 detainees and around 90 members of staff. The outcome of the PCR tests will determine what measures the prison administration takes next.
Amnesty International Luxembourg announced yesterday that, due to security concerns for the coming weekend, it would be replacing its traditional torchlight march with decentralized action. The organisation instead requested people stand in front of their doors with a lit candle at 6pm tomorrow – International Human Rights Day –and to take a picture of themselves to show their attachment to fundamental rights and freedoms. Photos can be uploaded directly on social networks by tagging Amnesty International Luxembourg. Supporters can also participate in the Write for Rights campaign by organizing a letter writing evening. An action kit with all the necessary material can be ordered free of charge at firstname.lastname@example.org. People can also send tweets or sign a petition at: https: //write4rights.amnesty .read/
Further details can be found at https://www.amnesty.lu/
WEDNESDAY 8 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 199 new resident cases, derived from 3,024 tests. There have been 3 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 888. 72 individuals are in hospital, with 23 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.04. To date, 450,033 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 433,880 have been fully vaccinated.
In his speech at the Chamber of Deputies yesterday, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel declared that democracy would not be brought to its knees by a violent group, and pledged to crack down on violent protests. Mr Bettel announced various measures in response to Saturday’s protests against COVID-19 restrictions in Luxembourg City. In the coming days, a route and perimeter will be set up for future demonstrations in the capital. Protestors must respect this perimeter or risk breaking the law. Police presence will be strengthened and officers will carry out identity checks.
Ketterthill laboratoires publicly condemned aggression towards their employees by patients coming in for PCR tests. Such behaviour is becoming increasingly common, with one employee even physically attacked recently, according to the laboratory. Psychological support services have been set up for staff should they request them.
Luxembourg and Germany have extended their teleworking agreement for cross-border workers until the end of March 2022. This agreement provides that working days carried out at home due to COVID-19 measures count as working days spent in the contracting state. It mainly affects the 50,000 or so German residents who work in Luxembourg.
Three Luxembourg-based tech solution providers were included in the 2022 RegTech100 list. Luxhub, governance.com and ScoreChain all made the selection, which recognises tech companies for their innovative solutions in compliance, data protection, risk management and the fight against financial crimes. This year, analysts and industry experts voted from a list of around 1,200 companies produced by RegTech Analyst.
TUESDAY 7 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health has reported 935 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 10,822 tests. There were 5 new deaths over the weekend, with the death toll standing at 885. 70 individuals are in hospital, with 22 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.02. To date, 449,348 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 433,307 have received a second.
COVID-19 vaccination week kicked off on Monday. From 6th to 12th December, several pop-up vaccination stations across the country will offer first, second and booster vaccine doses. An information day is planned for this Saturday at Cercle Cité. The full programme is available on www.impfen.lu. The aim is to encourage more people to get vaccinated.
This initiative is accompanied by a nationwide self-test week and intensive testing in primary schools and competence centres. The government is sending out letters in the post for members of the public to collect five free antigen self-tests from pharmacies.
The ALJP journalists union condemned the actions of ADR MP Roy Reding after he leaked the phone number of a Tageblatt journalist. As part of his research, the journalist in question had joined a Telegram group for people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19. He contacted Mr Reding who confirmed he was a member of the group, but the latter went on to post the journalist’s message and contact details in the group chat. The ALJP criticised the move, calling it an “attempt to intimidate the journalist”, who has since received several messages from members of the anti-vaccination group.
According to Eurostat, Luxembourg witnessed the smallest drop in air passenger transport in the EU last year. On average, EU countries observed a fall of 73%. Whilst the pandemic and related restrictions strongly impacted the whole aviation industry, Luxembourg saw the lowest drop in the number of air passengers, which was down 67%. That being said, Luxembourg Airport had 1.4 million passengers in 2020, its lowest figure since 2003.
Defence Minister François Bausch presented the results of the first assessment of greenhouse gas emissions caused by Luxembourg’s defence activity. Despite a foreseen increase of 25% in military installations, emissions are expected to fall by 78%. Minister Bausch said this would be made possible through renovations using the best technology available in insulation and energy efficiency.
MONDAY 6 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 438 new resident cases derived from 5,009 tests over the last 48 hours. There has been 1 new death, bringing the death toll to 880. 66 individuals are in hospital, with 17 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.13. To date, 448,022 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 432,001 people have been fully vaccinated.
The COVID-19 vaccination centre in the Luxembourg Air Rescue hangar in Findel is set to reopen temporarily. The centre will be reserved for appointment-only booster doses and is reopening in response to a large vaccine delivery expected this week. Further details to follow.
Around 2,000 people gathered in Luxembourg City on Saturday to protest coronavirus measures. Things turned violent, with tensions breaking out between police and the protesters at the Christmas market in Place de la Constitution. Protestors also gathered outside the homes of PM Xavier Bettle and Family and Integration Minister Corinne Cahen. Police temporarily evacuated Minister Cahen and her family from their home. At a press conference on Sunday, Internal Security Minister Henri Kox condemned the violence. He stressed that: “A boundary was overstepped that we cannot tolerate”. Several other politicians issued statements condemning the protests. According to Mr Kox, an investigation is ongoing.
The Democratic Party announced that Yuriko Backes will replace Pierre Gramegna as Luxembourg’s Finance Minister. Ms Backes will be the first woman in Luxembourgish history to assume this position. She currently serves as Marshal of the Grand Ducal Court and previously headed the Representation of the European Commission in Luxembourg. Mr Gramegna’s resignation was announced last Tuesday.
Luxembourg City won the 2022 Access City Award for becoming more accessible to persons with disabilities. Organised by the European Commission and the European Disability Forum, this award aims to raise awareness of disability and promote accessibility initiatives in European cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants. Luxembourg’s capital was chosen from among 40 applicant cities, with the jury saying the city has made accessibility a priority.
FRIDAY 3 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 570 new resident cases, derived from 5,750 tests. There have been 3 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 879. 63 individuals are in hospital, with 12 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.05. To date, 447,319 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 431,308 have been fully vaccinated.
Minister Sam Tanson has tested positive for COVID-19. The Ministries of Culture and Justice announced the news on Thursday. Minister Tanson, who is fully vaccinated, had already been in self-isolation after a family member contracted the virus and will carry out her duties remotely. She is reportedly showing mild symptoms.
The Superior Council of Infectious Diseases has recommended that only vulnerable children aged 5-12 and those living with a vulnerable person be offered the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine could be available as early as 13th December for children falling into these groups. The council said it did not consider offering the jab to all children as an urgent matter at this time.
The Agriculture Ministry has accused three environmental groups of spreading fake news. Greenpeace Luxembourg, Mouvement écologique and natur&ëmwelt issued an open letter featuring a fictional “ministry of sustainable agriculture”. According to the groups, the campaign was aimed at getting the Agriculture Ministry’s attention after previous calls for change had been ignored. Minister Romain Schneider criticised the move, describing the campaign as “fake news”.
According to the latest AgriMeteo weather bulletin, Autumn 2021 was slightly too cold and too dry, although mild weather in September benefited the grape harvest. Looking at the period between 1st September and 30th November, the report noted that autumn was colder and drier than in previous years, particularly in October, which saw the arrival of Storm Aurore, and November, which saw a cold snap towards the end resulting in the first snowfall in the Oesling region.
THURSDAY 2 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 585 new resident cases derived from 5,762 tests. There have been 1 new death, bringing the death toll to 876. 64 individuals are in hospital, with 13 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.05. To date, 446,581 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 390,403 have received their second.
As talks between trade unions, employers, and the government about the introduction of the 3G CovidCheck system within the workplace continue, the President of the OGBL union said yesterday that questions remained about who would pay for rapid tests as authorities were now putting pressure on low-income employees. Nora Back confirmed that trade unions will continue to demand that no one is fired because of the CovidCheck system. Another point of dispute is data protection, with one proposal being that an employer may ask if an employee is vaccinated and workers who voluntarily share that information would then be exempt from the CovidCheck every day.
The Association of Doctors and Dentists yesterday urged that people requesting an appointment for a booster shot with a GP do so only if they received their final dose a minimum of six months ago, or four months for the AstraZeneca vaccine. The Association stressed that, while an invitation code is not required to book an appointment for a booster shot, people who arrive at surgeries ahead of time added needless work for GPs and their staff, and delayed the vaccinations of those most at risk.
The Association of Doctors and Dentists also criticised Luxembourg’s healthcare digital record-keeping system yesterday, calling it cumbersome and inconvenient and claiming it makes administrative tasks and treating patients more difficult than needed. The Association said that only patients have access to their medical records, prescriptions and notes, making it difficult for medical professionals to compile an overall view of a patient’s health. The AMMD also pointed to the fact that certain health documents such as prescriptions cannot be signed online, and questioned whether the commercial contracts to provide the technology behind the system were awarded fairly.
Kultur | lx, an initiative launched by the ministry of culture in June 2020, announced the laureates of its Global Project Grant 2022 yesterday. In the Pop/rock/electro/hip-hop category, rock band Francis of Delirium, a Luxembourg-based rock band headed by singer-songwriter Jana Bahrich were awarded a grant meant to stimulate the career of nominees through marketing, promotion and distribution. ARA’s own Jana Bahrich said the grant would give her the opportunity to take Francis of Delirium’s music around the world, playing as many shows to as many people as they possibly can! Other winners included Claire Parsons’s for the jazz/world category and Francesco Tristano in the classical/contemporary category.
WEDNESDAY 1 DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 171 new resident cases, derived from 2,924 tests. There has been one new death, bringing the death toll to 875. 64 individuals are in hospital, with 12 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.07. To date, 446,102 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 429,705 have been fully vaccinated.
The Ministry of Health announced that COVID-19 booster jabs are now available by appointment only. Appointments for a booster vaccine dose can be made at one of the three vaccine centres in Limpertsberg, Belval and Ettelbruck, although people are advised to wait for their invite from the ministry before booking a slot.
Luxembourg’s government is getting quite the shake-up in the coming weeks. Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna is set to resign from his post for personal reasons. The Democratic Party announced the news on Tuesday and said it will convene as soon as possible to appoint a successor.
The Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party confirmed yesterday that two other ministers, Dan Kersch and Romain Schneider, are stepping down, as well. Current Health Minister Paulette Lenert will replace Dan Kersch as Deputy Prime Minister next month. LSAP parliamentary group president Georges Engel will take over from Mr Kersch as Minister of Labour and Sport, whilst MP and Diekirch Mayor Claude Haagen will replace Romain Schneider as Minister of Agriculture and Social Security.
A new poll by TNS Ilres suggests that the coalition government would lose its majority if Luxembourg voted in an election this Sunday. The DP-LSAP-Greens coalition currently holds 31 out of 60 seats in parliament. But if voters went to the polls this weekend, it would win just 29 seats, with the DP incurring the heaviest losses, according to the survey.
Luxembourg’s fund industry reported growth of more than 22% over the last 12 months. Assets under management in the industry reached €5.7 trillion at the end of October, up 2.09% over one month and up 22.33% compared to October 2020.
TUESDAY 30 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health has reported 902 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 9,918 tests. There were 8 new deaths over the weekend, with the death toll standing at 874. 60 individuals are in hospital, with 10 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.16. To date, 445,860 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 389,480 have received a second.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert yesterday announced that they would not enact a semi-lockdown or reduce opening hours, but would pursue a firmer regime for leisure activities and at the workplace. Starting next week, the 2G regime will become standard, meaning that only vaccinated or covid recovered people can attend leisure activities, including dining out, cinema, sports and the Christmas market. Non-vaccinated people will be prohibited from these activities. The 3G regime, which covers those who are vaccinated, recovered or tested with a rapid antigen test, will be compulsory within the workplace from January giving people time to get vaccinated. Identity checks will be carried out by establishments to prevent people using false documents or another person’s QR code. Test validity times will be reduced with PCR tests down to 48 hours and antigen to 24 hours. Regarding booster shots, Mr Bettel said those who had received a double AstraZeneca vaccine can already get a booster after four months without having to wait for an invitation from the health service. He added that those vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are already able to book a booster jab.
According to local media reports, deputy prime minister Dan Kersch and minister Romain Schneider – both from the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party – could step down from their cabinet positions within weeks. Both ministers had previously announced they would not stand in the country’s next general election in 2023. It is thought that Kersch’s replacement will be Georges Engel, head of the LSAP parliamentary party, and that current Health Minister Paulette Lenert might take over as deputy prime minister. Minister Schneider is expected to be replaced by Claude Haagen, the current mayor of Diekirch. Further details are anticipated later today following a meeting of the LSAP.
The Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Jean Asselborn spoke yesterday about his participation in the recent 6th Union for the Mediterranean Regional Forum, held in Barcelona. In an interview with Deutschlandfunk, Minister Asselborn judged the crisis meeting unsatisfactory, explaining that there was still no united European approach to the problem of migration. The Minister added that the situation was made more difficult because most migrants avoid legal procedures in France when heading to the UK. He dismissed the Forum’s idea of setting up an offshore asylum on remote UK territory in the Atlantic Ocean, and finished by stating that Europol should investigate the English Channel issue and the human traffickers who appear to be professionally organised with an extensive network.
MONDAY 29 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 335 new resident cases derived from 4,399 tests over the last 48 hours. There have been 2 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 866. 53 individuals are in hospital, with 10 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.18. To date, 445,230 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 428,134 people have been fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert are holding a press conference today at 5pm. It is expected that the ministers will announce new coronavirus measures amid rising cases.
New measures have already been announced for schools, with rapid tests now being carried out three times instead of twice per week. If a positive case is confirmed in a class, tests will take place daily and masks will be mandatory for one week. If three pupils test positive, the class is automatically put into quarantine.
Luxembourg also introduced new travel restrictions on arrivals from South Africa in light of the newly discovered Omicron coronavirus variant. Anyone arriving in the Grand Duchy from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia or Zimbabwe in the past 14 days has to go into quarantine for 7 days. A PCR test will be carried out upon arrival, followed by a 2nd test on the 6th day of quarantine.
In other COVID-19 news, the validity of PCR tests is set to be reduced from 72 to 48 hours and that of rapid antigen tests will be decreased from 48 to 24 hours. The government is set to submit the changes for parliamentary approval this week.
On Sunday, opponents of the coronavirus measures took to the streets again as part of the sixth so-called “White March”. Several hundred participants marched from Kirchberg to Luxembourg City centre to protest the restrictions.
Superjhemp retörns took home the Prize for Best Luxembourgish Feature Film at this year’s Luxembourg Film Prize (Lëtzebuerger Filmpräis) awards ceremony. Wolfwalkers, a co-production between Luxembourg, Ireland and France, won the Luxembourg Critics’ Prize, awarded by the Luxembourg Association of the Cinematographic Press. Other winners at this 9th edition included the hit series Capitani and the Romanian-Luxembourg documentary Collective.
FRIDAY 26 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 556 new resident cases, derived from 4,780 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 862. 48 individuals are in hospital, with 11 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.11. To date, 444,472 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 426,659 have been fully vaccinated.
Figures from the latest coronavirus weekly review issued by the Health Directorate show that approximately 77% of the population aged twelve or older are fully vaccinated. The seven-day incidence rate for vaccinated people was 217.71 while it was more than double for unvaccinated people at 450.92. The largest increase in the seven-day incidence rate, 61%, was recorded in the under 14 age group. Schools in Dudelange, Rambrouch, and Sanem had to quarantine classes because of infection chains last week.
At the trial of lawyer André Lutgen, who is accused of exerting pressure on a magistrate and directing the latter’s independent judgement in a different case, the public prosecutor’s office yesterday recommended a fine of €2,000. The prosecution alleged that Lutgen acted with full intent, as demonstrated by the emails between the defendant and the judge in question. Lutgen’s lawyer argued against prosecuting a lawyer, claiming it could be seen as intimidation, especially if the defendant is acquitted.
Responding to a parliamentary question, economy minister Franz Fayot, small and medium enterprises minister Lex Delles and justice minister Sam Tanson revealed that there are now 2,416 businesses in the real estate sector operating in Luxembourg. This means that the number of businesses in this sector, including real estate agencies, property development and property management, have more than doubled in recent years. This was put down to prices climbing steeply every year in Luxembourg’s housing market with a 16.7% increase recorded between 2019 and 2020. According to figures recently published by the European Central Bank, Luxembourg recorded the second highest price increase in Europe in the second quarter of 2021.
The charity organisation, Catch a Smile – which offers help to refugees through relief convoys to countries where help is needed most, has started an appeal for donations for mens winter clothing such as hats, scarves, gloves, coats and shoes as well as bags or phones. Donations can be taken to the Fondouq Hall in Dudelange on 4 December or at drop-off points in Diekirch or Dudelange. Further information can be requested by email from email@example.com.
THURSDAY 25 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 556 new resident cases, derived from 4,780 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 862. 48 individuals are in hospital, with 11 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.11. To date, 444,472 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 426,659 have been fully vaccinated.
Following the “Egypt Papers” revelations from news site Disclose earlier this week, foreign minister Jean Asselborn said the government was unaware of the involvement of a Luxembourg-based aviation company in crimes committed against Libyan civilians. The Egypt Papers claim that France began a secret mission on the Egyptian-Libyan border in 2016 to assist Egypt in fighting alleged terrorist groups but that the information provided was instead used to execute civilians suspected of smuggling. CAE – a Luxembourg-based aviation company – supplied a lightweight surveillance plane for the French missions as well as pilots and analysts, who had previously served in the French army. Minister Asselborn added that the state had no responsibility for the actions of CAE on foreign territory, and that France must investigate the misuse of the intelligence to harm civilians.
Parliament agreed this week that among the many updates planned for Luxembourg’s constitution are the right to start a family and children’s rights which will be added to the list of civil liberties. A draft document claimed that the state would ensure that each child benefits from the necessary protections, measures and care needed for their wellbeing and development. The update of civil liberties also includes a commitment to combat climate change, animal rights and academic freedom and access to culture. Parliament’s agreement should ensure that the changes are approved when they come to a vote in the Chamber of Deputies where they need a two-thirds majority to pass.
The State Council this week has criticised the government’s plan, announced in October’s state of the nation address, to provide free meals to children whose parents earn less than four times the minimum wage and who spend their lunch hour at maisons relais. The Council questioned the parents’ earnings threshold of nearly 9,000 Euros, arguing that this figure did not signify “precarity and social exclusion”, and complained about the overall vagueness of the plan. The State Council also pointed out that families where children went home to eat or had other arrangements would be disadvantaged. They proposed removing the plan from the current budget amendments and writing a separate bill specifically concerning the subsidisation of maisons relais meals.
Healthcare staff are planning to stage a minute’s silence today to demonstrate their opposition to the anti-vaccine movement and to help promote awareness on the dangers of a coronavirus infection. A statement released by the group stressed that the new wave of infection is real, the virus too, and that hospitals are filling up with patients infected with the virus. They added that after nearly two years, healthcare staff were at their physical and mental limits and urged the public to get vaccinated and wear a mask, before thanking those who had been vaccinated.
WEDNESDAY 24 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 159 new resident cases, derived from 2,913 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 862. 49 individuals are in hospital, with 13 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.15. To date, 444,017 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 425,854 have been fully vaccinated.
In response to a parliamentary question, Health Minister Paulette Lenert confirmed that nearly twice as many people got jabbed against COVID-19 in the month after Luxembourg introduced stricter measures compared to the four weeks before that. Between mid-September and mid-November, almost 29,000 first vaccine doses were administered, of which around 64% were carried out after mid-October when the government announced the new CovidCheck rules.
The Prison Administration announced that the COVID-19-related sanitary measures in Schrassig Prison have been extended by two weeks, until 7th December inclusive. The measures were introduced following the detection of new coronavirus infections in the prison in early November. Currently, there are 23 infected inmates and 60 others are in quarantine. Visits are still allowed, with a maximum of two visitors per inmate, behind plexiglass.
The average speed camera in the Markusberg tunnel on the A13 will go live on 1st December. This follows a test phase which began on 20th September. This is the second such camera in Luxembourg, after the installation of the one on the N11 which was put into place in June last year. These cameras calculate the average speed of vehicles over the entire length of the tunnel, where the speed limit is generally 90 km per hour.
Former Prime Minister and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has been appointed the new president of the governing board of the Academy of European Law. He succeeds fellow former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jacques Santer, who held the role for 21 years. The ERA serves as a practice and debate centre for legal practitioners to raise awareness for deeper understanding of European law.
Minister Paulette Lenert announced that Luxembourg is running low on medical cannabis. The shortage comes as the country’s only supplier struggles to meet demand, and poses a risk for patients who depend on medicinal cannabis.
On the other hand, Canadian company Tilray confirmed in a press release that it has been chosen by the Luxembourg government to supply approximately 30kg of medicinal cannabis.
TUESDAY 23 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health has reported 677 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 8,124 tests. There were no new deaths over the weekend, with the death toll standing at 862. 46 individuals are in hospital, with 10 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.19. To date, 443,667 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 425,158 have been fully vaccinated.
The unemployment rate dropped to 5.4% last month, according to the ADEM employment agency. The number of resident jobseekers available for work at the end of October stood at 15,417; over one year, this represents a decrease of 2,554 people, or 14.7%. Compared to the previous month, there were 224 fewer available resident jobseekers at the end of October. The unemployment rate has now returned to the level recorded between October 2019 and February 2020.
Luxembourg is launching a fully digital procedure for personal income tax declarations from February 2022. The Minister for Digitalisation Marc Hansen and Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna presented this new 100% online procedure on Monday. The digital declaration is aimed at simplifying and speeding up the process both for taxpayers (both resident and non-resident) and the relevant tax authorities. A new assistant on MyGuichet.lu will also be introduced in February to facilitate the procedure.
Laboratory tests confirmed that the fox that recently bit three individuals in Kehlen did not suffer from rabies or distemper. The Nature & Forest Agency said it captured and shot the fox responsible, but its lab test results came back negative for rabies and distemper. The agency assumes the bite incidents occurred because humans had been regularly feeding the wild animal, which in turn likely demanded food using aggressive tactics. It would be a mistake, however, to paint all foxes with the same brush, added the agency.
European HIV Testing Week kicked off in Luxembourg on Monday. This year’s slogan is “Test-Treat-Prevent”. Members of the public are invited to get tested for free and anonymously at the HIV Berodung (HIV counselling) service of the Luxembourg Red Cross Mondays and Wednesdays from 5pm to 7pm or at the LGBTIQ + Cigale centre Thursdays from 12.30pm to 2.30pm. This week, Bionext and Ketterthill laboratories are also offering free screenings. More information is available on the Red Cross webpage: www.dimps.lu.
MONDAY 22 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 300 new resident cases derived from 3,979 tests over the last 48 hours. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 862. 51 individuals are in hospital, with 9 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.14. To date, 442,747 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 423,883 people have been fully vaccinated.
At Friday’s press conference, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert provided an update of the national coronavirus situation. The ministers announced that everyone over the age of 18 will be invited to get a booster shot six months after vaccination with Pfizer-BioNTech or one month after vaccination with Johnson & Johnson. The first 40,000 invites are being posted out today.
They also confirmed a new vaccination centre, which opened on Saturday in Grand Rue in Luxembourg City. This centre, which is located at an existing certified rapid testing site, will remain open until the end of the year.
There are also plans for a so-called “vaccination week”, starting on 6th December, aimed at encouraging the unvaccinated to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Ministry of Family Affairs announced it is launching its “Winter Action” early this year due to cold weather conditions. A night shelter for homeless people will open in the emergency structure in Findel on Tuesday evening and will remain open until 31st March 2022. A day shelter is also set to open on Wednesday. Normally the winter action starts on 1st December.
The United Nations’ Orange Week kicked off with a solidarity march in Esch-sur-Alzette on Saturday. Organised in the Grand Duchy by the national council for women in Luxembourg, CNFL, and the local branch of Zonta International, the campaign aims to raise awareness about violence against women and girls. Orange Week will end on 10th December: International Human Rights Day. The programme is available on cnfl.lu.
The International Bazaar is returning this year after a pandemic-related pause in 2020. This annual event traditionally raises over €500,000 for charity. The bazaar opens this Friday evening at Luxexpo and runs until Sunday evening. The Grand Duchess is set to officially open the fair on Saturday. More than 40 stands are expected this year, with delicacies and treats from across the globe. The event will follow CovidCheck rules and advance booking is strongly advised.
Luxembourg City has transformed into a winter wonderland for the festive season. The Winterlights programme launched on Friday, with the highlight being the Christmas Markets which were cancelled last year. The markets are open to the public according to CovidCheck rules, with some activities accessible without CovidCheck, although masks must be worn.
FRIDAY 19 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 299 new resident cases, derived from 4,278 tests. There have been 3 new deaths, with the death toll standing at 862. 48 individuals are in hospital, with 9 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.14. To date, 442,310 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 423,279 people are now fully vaccinated.
The Ecological Movement and the Nature & Environment organisations are holding a press conference this morning at which they will present details of a lawsuit they are jointly lodging against the Luxembourg State with the European Commission for breach of EU law in the field of nature protection. The organisations claim there is insufficient consideration of nature conservation in the Luxembourg government’s agricultural policy.
Another press conference will be held at 3pm this afternoon at which Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, and Minister of Health, Paulette Lenert will provide the latest information about the coronavirus situation in Luxembourg, as well as updates about Government Council works.
A report published yesterday by the inspectorate general of social security has found that Covid-19 was the third biggest reason for Luxembourg workers being absent from work in 2020. Luxembourg workers missed 4.6% of working days on average in 2020, up from 3.9% the previous year – an increase of nearly almost 18% and costing the taxpayer €900 million. On average, workers were absent through sickness for 10 days, up two and a half days on the year before. Healthcare, administration, and transport workers were absent most often, while those in finance, research and media missed the fewest days mostly due to ability to work-from-home.
The Minister of Education, Claude Meisch, presented further details this week to the parliamentary commission on education about plans for free school meals. The minister claimed that approximately 80% of primary school pupils and 20% of secondary school pupils would benefit from free school meals under the plan, which would use two different calculation methods to determine eligibility. Meisch said he hoped the plan would be implemented as soon as 1 January 2022 and that the government had set aside a budget of 20 million euros to realise it.
The third installment of the Politmonitor poll has shown that Health Minister Paulette Lenert continues to be the most popular politician in Luxembourg, followed by Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Asselborn, and Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. Lenert’s 86% rating is down three percentage points compared to the same poll in June, while Asselborn dropped four points to 77%. Prime Minister Bettel saw the biggest drop of seven percent presumed to be related to the recent plagiarism scandal. Fourth place is shared by Romain Schneider of the LSAP, and Sven Clement of the Pirate Party, whose approval increased by three points compared to June. Surprisingly, politicians from the The Green Party were not represented in the top rankings.
THURSDAY 18 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 491 new resident cases, derived from 4,613 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 859. 45 individuals are in hospital, with 10 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.95. To date, 441,894 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 422,053 have been fully vaccinated.
Further to a decision by the European Commission, Luxembourg will now recognise vaccine certificates from four additional countries. Fully vaccinated residents with certificates issued in New Zealand, Georgia, Moldova and Serbia can now enter Luxembourg, even on non-essential visits.
Greenpeace activists yesterday protested outside the offices of the European Investment Bank in Kirchberg, condemning the financial institution for greenwashing as it pushes to become the EU’s climate lender. The activists displayed a banner that changed the name of the bank to “European Greenwashing Bank”, contending that the bank conceals climate-damaging investments despite using green rhetoric. In a press release, Greenpeace yesterday alleged that the bank continues to finance climate-damaging activities such as fossil-gas projects. An EIB spokesperson meanwhile said the bank welcomed the peaceful nature of the demonstration by Greenpeace highlighting the importance of climate action. Two years ago, Luxembourg was one of six countries to abstain from a decision to halt the EIB from funding fossil fuel projects which gained enough votes to pass anyway forcing the bank to cease financing fossil fuel energy projects from December.
Responding to a parliamentary question, health minister Paulette Lenert revealed yesterday that almost one in ten children in Luxembourg are overweight but did not comment whether this was due to poor nutrition or lack of physical activities. An improvement had been recorded regarding extreme obesity in children since 2012 but the number of overweight children rose to more than 9%. Minister Lenert noted that a rise in the number of overweight children usually occurs in the 4th cycle of primary school and again in the last years of secondary school with 10.84% being overweight and 7.8% obese. Ms Lenert downplayed any concerns saying the increase was slight thanks to recent action plans and awareness campaigns.
The minister for Mobility and Public Works, François Bausch, announced that 3,100 electric vehicles had been sold by September this year. In his response to a parliamentary question, Minister Bausch said that this was an increase of 900 on the amount of electric vehicles sold in 2020. Regarding government subsidies, Mr Bausch explained that not all purchasers apply for one from the government and therefore just 1,500 applications were made between May 2021 and March this year, with approximately 10.1 million Euros paid out.
A recent Politmonitor survey has shown that 54% of respondents believe a referendum should be held regarding the impending constitutional reform, despite a substantial majority claiming they were not well informed on the topic. Just 29% of those polled claimed to be well informed on the complex issues involved, while 3% said they were very well informed. 66% of Luxembourgers are strongly opposed to a government measure allowing foreigners to stand in local elections without having lived in the country for at least five years. 95% of those polled want further promotion around the production and consumption of regional produce, 86% want free educational support and 81% support free meals for primary school children from poorer families.
WEDNESDAY 17 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 129 new resident cases, derived from 2,535 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 859. 54 individuals are in hospital, with 12 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.02. To date, 441,337 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 421,879 have been fully vaccinated.
The Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party has voted to share its party presidency between two people in future elections. The LSAP passed the reform almost unanimously during its extraordinary general meeting earlier this week. From next year, the party will be led by two presidents: a man and a woman. LSAP will vote for its new leaders during its next annual general meeting in early 2022. One of the candidates will be allowed to be in government.
Luxembourg climbed six places in this year’s eGovernment Benchmark, commissioned by the European Commission. The country now ranks 5th with a score of 84% in the general ranking for eGovernment. This improved position is largely attributed to the continued development of online public services available on the MyGuichet.lu and Guichet.lu platforms, which grew by 34% compared to the last reference period.
According to the latest Politmonitor by TNS Ilres, housing continues to be the greatest concern among Luxembourg’s voters. 82% of those surveyed said affordable housing was their greatest worry, followed by traffic congestion and dwindling opportunities for future generations (both at 61%). The coronavirus pandemic and vaccination were also central topics, with 91% of respondents saying they were vaccinated. Among the unvaccinated, 36% felt the government was doing a bad job, whilst 81% of vaccinated respondents thought it was doing a good or very good job.
Luxembourg’s Left party has deemed COP26 a failure. In a press release issued on Tuesday, the Left maintained that not enough money is going towards the countries most in need of covering the costs of a green transition and the consequences of climate change. The opposition party argued that the summit was further proof that “climate action has to come from below” and called for “more participation, […] urgency and […] seriousness in national and international climate policy”.
TUESDAY 16 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health has reported 490 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 6,078 tests. There were 4 new deaths over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 859. 57 individuals are in hospital, with 12 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.02. To date, 440,833 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 421,036 have been fully vaccinated.
Luxembourg’s medical board is currently investigating two GPs who allegedly advised their patients not to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Patients reported the GPs in question for contradicting public health policy, particularly questioning the effectiveness of the vaccine and the wearing of masks. The investigations follow the suspension of another GP back in July; Benoît Ochs was suspended for one year over accusations that he treated patients with medications which had been proven to be ineffective against the virus, as well as questioning the vaccine and the safety of masks.
The Luxembourg consumers’ union has called for the temporary suspension of the CO2 tax on petrol and diesel amid rising fuel prices. The price of petroleum products has gone up by 31% since the start of the year, a situation which the ULC described as “unsustainable”. The union also lamented the government’s plans to increase the CO2 tax from 1st January 2022, requesting that it instead freezes the tax temporarily. The Automobile Club of Luxembourg took a similar stance recently, calling for a lower CO2 tax in light of surging fuel prices.
Correction from yesterday: The deadline to receive a government bonus for hybrid vehicles has been extended until the end of 2022, NOT the end of this year. Anyone having ordered a plug-in hybrid electric car or van before 30th September 2021 now has an additional year to apply for the bonus.
According to a recent Eurostat study, Luxembourg is one of the EU countries with the fewest daily smokers. The study revealed that 10.5% of the Grand Duchy’s population were smokers in 2019, well under the EU average of 18.4%. 11.7% of men are smokers and 9.3 % are women. Only Sweden and Finland had a lower percentage of smokers, with 6.4% and 9.9% respectively.
MONDAY 15 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 179 new resident cases derived from 3,141 tests over the last 48 hours. There has been 1 new death, bringing the death toll to 855. 40 individuals are in hospital, with 13 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.03. To date, 439,791 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 419,875 people have been fully vaccinated.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has described the COVID-19 situation in Luxembourg as “of high concern” amid rising case numbers. Luxembourg joined 9 other EU member states in this category in the ECDC’s latest risk assessment. Another ten countries are deemed “of very high concern”.
The police reported a fatal traffic accident on Sunday morning. Two died and another two suffered serious injuries after two cars crashed on the N31 between Käerjeng and Pétange. The victims were a 22-year-old woman from France and a 40-year-old resident of Dudelange.
Luxembourg has climbed three places in the Climate Change Performance Index. Thanks to the national climate law, adopted this year, the country now ranks 18th out of 64. The group behind the ranking warned this is still not good enough, with Luxembourg scoring poorly in the areas of energy consumption, emissions and renewable energy.
Similarly, Luxembourg moved up 2 spots in this year’s European Digital Economy and Society Index. The country placed 8th out of 27 with a score of 59/100. The European Commission-led ranking examines the progress of EU countries in the areas of human capital, connectivity, digital technology integration and digital public services.
The deadline to receive a government bonus for hybrid vehicles has been extended until the end of the year. The Environment Ministry announced the extension of the deadline for first registration under the “Clever Fueren” financial aid scheme, attributing the decision to the global shortage of conductors which led to longer delivery times for new vehicles. The extension applies to plug-in hybrid electric cars and vans ordered before 30 September 2021.
FRIDAY 12 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health has reported 243 new resident cases, derived from 3,218 tests. There have been 2 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 854. 38 individuals are in hospital, with 15 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.42. To date, 439,281 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 419,486 have been fully vaccinated.
Health Minister Paulette Lenert confirmed that Luxembourg is suspending the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine among people under the age of 30. The authorities are recommending that vaccination centres and GPs no longer administer said vaccine to under-30s, at least until further data becomes available. This advice reflects that of the German and French authorities and comes after studies found a lower number of heart inflammations in younger people vaccinated with BioNTech / Pfizer than those having received Moderna.
Luxembourg’s Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg joined ministers from Germany, Austria, Portugal and Denmark at COP26 in presenting a declaration for a nuclear-free EU taxonomy. In a joint statement, the five member states urged that an EU taxonomy to label sustainable business activities should be nuclear-free. The move follows efforts by other countries, such as France and Finland, to have nuclear power labelled as green.
In its most recent quarterly update, the European Commission upgraded Luxembourg’s economic outlook from its summer estimate. The Commission had previously forecast that Luxembourg’s GDP would grow by 4.8% this year and 3.3% next year. It now expects growth of 5.8% for 2021 and 3.7% for 2022, before slowing down to 2.7% in 2023. Inflation is expected to slow from 3.2% this year to 2.2% in 2022 and 1.8% in 2023.
The Mayor of Luxembourg City Lydie Polfer confirmed that this year’s “Winterlights” festivities and Christmas markets in the capital will take place according to CovidCheck rules. Luxembourg City is launching its festive celebrations next week, with the Winterlights programme scheduled to run from 19th November until 2nd January. The city is set to be transformed into a winter wonderland, with decorations and lights, as well as various stalls and shops popping up. Ice sculptures are not permitted this year, in light of the tragic accident that occurred at the Christmas market in 2019.
THURSDAY 11 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health has reported 347 new resident cases, derived from 3,825 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 852. 41 individuals are in hospital, with 15 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.25. To date, 438,820 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 419,166 have been fully vaccinated.
Health Minister Paulette Lenert presented an overview of Luxembourg’s COVID-19 booster jab campaign. She confirmed that around 40% of those who received an invite have received an additional vaccine dose. Whilst the booster shot is currently offered only to people aged 65 and over and healthcare workers, the government is set to debate the possibility of extending this offer to the rest of the population. A decision is expected by the end of next week.
Luxembourg signed a new strategic partnership framework with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The partnership agreement will see the Grand Duchy contribute €32 million to the UNHCR over a four-year period, from 2022-2025. Luxembourg’s Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, Franz Fayot, also announced additional immediate funding to support the UN agency’s efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and South Sudan.
According to STATEC, 142 companies were declared bankrupt and 161 were liquidated in September and October this year. In September, courts declared 64 businesses bankrupt, down from 90 the previous year. In October, there were 78 bankruptcies, down from 153 in 2020. This marks a 4-year low.
Liquidations were higher in September, going from 23 in 2020 to 82 in 2021. There were 79 liquidations in October, down from 142 the year before. Holdings and retail businesses were most affected by both bankruptcies and liquidations.
The University of Luxembourg inaugurated a high-performance computer at its Belval campus on Wednesday. The AION supercomputer will enable research and innovation based on intensive computing and large-scale data analysis. Its launch ties in with the recently announced new European Master in High Performance Computing, which will start in September 2022.
WEDNESDAY 10 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 185 new resident cases, derived from 2,640 tests. There has been 1 new death, bringing the death toll to 852. 43 individuals are in hospital, with 14 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.09. To date, 438,098 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 418,624 have been fully vaccinated.
Luxembourg is now offering booster shots to people aged 65 and over, as well as healthcare professionals and medical and dental assistants. The move follows the recommendations of the Superior Council for Infectious Diseases and aims to maintain a high level of vaccine protection against infection, serious illness or death resulting from coronavirus. Only mRNA vaccines will be used for these booster doses, which will be administered at least 6 months after a complete primary vaccination.
The United States has added Luxembourg to its list of “very high risk” travel destinations amid a surge in coronavirus cases in Europe. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended avoiding travel to the Grand Duchy unless necessary and those wishing to travel should be fully vaccinated. The news came shortly after Luxembourg reopened its borders to vaccinated visitors from the US.
Luxembourg City emerged as the country’s most expensive municipality in 2021. According to the National Housing Observatory, the average price per square metre for existing flats reached over €10,700 at the end of June, whilst that of flats under construction exceeded €12,000. Bertrange overtook the capital as the most expensive municipality last year – a title Luxembourg City has now reclaimed.
Two Luxembourgish co-productions have been nominated for the European Film Awards 2021. Where is Anne Frank and Wolfwalkers feature among this year’s nominations in the “European Animated Feature Film” category. Members of the European Film Academy will now vote for the winners, who will be presented at an award ceremony in Berlin next month.
TUESDAY 9 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health has reported 41 new resident cases, derived from 624 tests. There have been 2 new deaths, with the death toll standing at 851. 49 individuals are in hospital, with 12 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.11. To date, 437,591 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 418,437 have been fully vaccinated.
Yesterday saw the start of the mandatory national census, which collects financial and housing data from residents of Luxembourg to allow authorities to set future funding for schools, hospitals and retirement homes, and also sets the number of representatives per council. Every household must submit a form – which is available in Luxembourgish, German, French, English and Portuguese – either electronically between 8 and 28 November or in paper form from 22 November until 5 December. All answers will be treated confidentially said STATEC, who are in charge of conducting the census, and refusing to complete it or knowingly providing false information will result in a fine of up to €2,500.
The prison administration said yesterday that 100 prisoners at the Shrassig prison had been quarantined as a precaution after eight inmates recently tested positive for coronavirus. The administration further stated that it would increase sanitary measures at the penitentiary as well as further restricting internal movement. In addition, it was announced that all activities involving external personnel have been suspended. A maximum of two visitors will still be permitted per inmate but visits will have to be conducted with a plexiglass barrier between inmates and their guests.
An external investigation by the police inspectorate has recommended that a police officer be suspended for assaulting and seriously injuring a young man in a fight during the national day celebrations in June. Police had been called to a disturbance caused by a group of men behind the grand ducal palace in the early hours but videos posted to social media showed the officer attacking a man with a baton, causing him to be hospitalised with serious facial injuries. The inspectorate recommended that Internal Security Minister Henri Kox suspend the officer, but Kox has not yet done so. A separate investigation is also underway against the group of men for rebellion.
Non-profit association Centre for Urban Justice yesterday declared that one third of the 1,787 pedestrian crossings in Luxembourg city are non-compliant with Luxembourg’s highway code. This follows a crowd-sourced project, called “Safe Crossing”, carried out by the association between June and August in which 20 volunteers using a custom-made application on their phone were asked to assess whether there were parking spots within 5 metres of pedestrian crossings – a violation of the highway code. The association concedes that no assurances can be made about the data as it has been crowd-sourced but said the results are highly indicative of a general lack of safety for vulnerable road users in Luxembourg-City and in specific pedestrians.
MONDAY 8 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: On Friday, the Ministry of Health reported 219 new resident cases derived from 3,133 tests. No new deaths were reported, with the death toll standing at 849. 41 individuals were in hospital, with 13 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate was 1.06. As of Friday, 436,367 people had received their first vaccine dose, while 417,584 people were fully vaccinated.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that as of Sunday, travellers with a covid vaccination certificate issued by the USA may re-enter Luxembourg. In addition to the USA, the Ministry said more countries will also be recognised in the future.
A group of demonstrators assembled outside the British embassy on Saturday to demand the release of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, from a London prison where he has spent the last two years awaiting extradition to the US. The group claimed that conditions in Belmarsh prison are poor, and that Assange has lost a lot of weight, while officials say his state of health is unstable amid accusations of psychological torture. US authorities want Assange for espionage, relating to him distributing military footage from US operations in Iraq where American soldiers used deadly force on unarmed civilians. The protestors described Assange as an investigative journalist and said the case had serious implications on journalism in general.
A large spillage from the local biogas plant was reported yesterday morning in Hovelange. In the early hours, the biomass spill flowed downhill entering the Hovelange creek before flowing into the Attert river. Firefighters, Water Management Administration members and the police were called to the scene. An investigation has been launched into the matter to determine the cause of the spillage.
A controversial plan to ban property sharing in Esch-sur-Alzette has been overturned following opposition from Interior Minister Taina Bofferding and activists. Esch mayor, Georges Mischo, had previously explained that the plan, banning house or flat sharing unless residents were from the same family or in a relationship, would prevent property owners from renting out individual rooms to make more money, and stop ordinary families being priced out of the market. Mischo said last week that the plan had been struck after the interior ministry intervened claiming that the city’s general development plan should not be a tool to regulate co-living.
Following accusations of plagiarism last month against Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, the University of Nancy has said it could take until the end of this year or early next year for results of the investigation which won’t start until mid-November. The university has appointed three experts to investigate the matter and establish the academic worth of Mr Bettel’s 1999 postgraduate degree, 96% of which is claimed to have been copied without proper referencing. Last week Professor David Howarth of the University of Luxembourg said that the prime minister should resign over the scandal, saying Bettel wanted the academic credibility but was not willing to undertake the necessary work to merit it.
FRIDAY 5 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health has reported 432 new resident cases, derived from 4,569 tests. There has been 1 new death, with the death toll standing at 849. 43 individuals are in hospital, with 13 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.68. To date, 435,658 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 417,325 have been fully vaccinated.
This week’s Health Directorate covid review shows that 76.5% of the Luxembourg population above the age of twelve are now fully vaccinated. Of the 24 people that were hospitalised with Covid-19 last week, 18 were not vaccinated, and the average age of patients has increased to 59. The review pointed out that although hospitalisations are increasing, the rate is much lower than during the same period last year.
The Ministry of Health said yesterday that people getting a booster jab for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would receive a new certificate but that the CovidCheck regime would continue to recognise certificates issued to people who have just a single dose. The booster jab remains an additional option to help improve the effectiveness of the vaccination and will be valid abroad after a two-week period.
Yesterday marked Unesco’s “International day against violence and bullying at school” and saw the launch of a social media campaign inviting users to replace their profile pictures with the campaign motto “Bullying affects us all”. A study from the Health Behaviour in School-age Children organisation found that 8.5% of Luxembourg pupils had been victims of online cyberbullying, while 16.6% of pupils had suffered bullying in person. Minister of Education Claude Meisch warned that the digital age has intensified and aided bullying in multiple forms and added that it was important for schools to deploy multiple resources to address the issue, to evaluate perpetrators and offer a safe space for victims to come forward.
A survey conducted by the Central Bank of Luxembourg in October shows that residents believe the country’s economic situation has generally improved while at an individual level, participants viewed their personal situations negatively, and thought any change in the coming year was doubtful. According to the survey, Luxembourg consumers voiced concern about making large purchases in such economically uncertain times and pointed to the continuing problem of the Luxembourg housing market where recent price increases have made access to housing even more unlikely.
Researchers from the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research are asking cyclists to assist in measuring air pollution levels in the country, by attaching sensors to their bikes for seven days, which will analyse air quality. Luxembourg has one of the highest car ownership rates in the EU and approximately two-thirds of the country’s greenhouse emissions are from transport. The new project by the institute needs cyclists who are available to take part in the study in November and they may be invited for virtual interviews.
THURSDAY 4 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health has reported 97 new resident cases, derived from 2,255 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 848. 38 individuals are in hospital, with 13 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.85. 434,930 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 417,075 have been fully vaccinated.
The Kirchberg hospital yesterday confirmed it was involved in a labour law procedure with a member of staff, following a report by RTL that a healthcare worker was sacked for refusing to comply with the CovidCheck system, which has been in place at the hospital since June. A spokesman for the Hôpitaux Robert Schuman group said that in a process of protecting their patients, employees, and doctors they could not allow someone who doesn’t do the Check to enter the hospital. Luxembourg’s latest Covid rules allow employers to check if staff are protected against the virus and can withhold salaries, turn staff away or dismiss them if they refuse to comply but many companies say they are hesitant to enforce the checks, claiming they are unsure of the legal ramifications.
Following last week’s criticism by the Luxembourg Refugee Council, which claimed that 61% of asylum seekers from Afghanistan were refused, and alleged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ decision-making process for international protection had been “completely suspended”, Minister Jean Asselborn yesterday rejected the accusations. In a published statement, the Ministry explained that in the interest of the applicants who are at risk of being rejected, reliable information regarding the situation on the ground was being sought, adding that this policy was approved by Luxembourg’s judicial authorities.
A recent Eurostat report claims that Luxembourg is one of the top five waste generating countries, producing more than 3 times as much as any other EU country, while other sources state only a quarter of Luxembourg’s waste is sent to landfills and that the country is performing below average on affordable, clean energy and climate action. The Mouvement Ecologique and Oekozenter Pafendall this week launched a project, called “Reuse-Repair-Share”, which promotes sustainable consumption to protect resources and aims to create new business models that drastically reduce energy and resources consumption. The organisations demanded the country’s waste management laws be updated with stricter rules and higher targets, and the introduction of school programmes to provide information on the repair-reuse possibilities. They also called for public authorities to legislate for the repairability of objects, banning digital obsolescence and providing reduced VAT for repair services.
Replying to a parliamentary question from the Alternative Democratic Reform Party, Minister of Agriculture Romain Schneider confirmed that Luxembourg had requested support for the country’s pig farmers from the European Commission. However, apart from the support provided due to the coronavirus crisis, Schneider said no other aid was envisaged for the time being, but that from 2023 support would be offered to local businesses to assist the move to a more sustainable and animal-friendly production.
WEDNESDAY 3 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health has reported 409 new resident cases, derived from 7,326 tests since Friday’s update. There have been 5 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 848. 39 individuals are in hospital, with 12 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.05. 433,961 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 422,990 have been fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel addressed fellow world leaders at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow on Tuesday. He praised United States President Joe Biden’s decision to rejoin the Paris Agreement, and urged decision-makers to match their citizens’ ambitions when implementing collective climate action. Mr Bettel presented some of Luxembourg’s measures in this area, including the decision to increase its greenhouse gas reduction target to 55% in order to reach climate neutrality by 2050. He addressed free public transport and renewable energy production, as well as reiterating Luxembourg’s reluctance towards nuclear power. He added that the country plans to increase its contribution to international development aid by 50% next year.
On the sidelines of the climate summit, the Prime Minister confirmed the foreseen launch of a citizens’ climate council next year. The news had been first announced during Mr Bettel’s state of the nation speech last month. The initiative will bring together 100 “ordinary” Luxembourg residents to share their ideas about climate action. A concept is in the works on how to choose these 100 individuals, with the council set to launch at the start of 2022.
Luxembourg City’s municipal council will not be extending its contract with a private security company – at least for the time being. Last year, the council signed a contract with G4S to provide security services in the Gare and Bonnevoie districts. The move attracted criticism, particularly in September when a security guard’s dog attacked and injured one individual. This contract is set to end on 15th November. The opposition parties welcomed the decision not to renew said contract. A meeting with residents is being scheduled to discuss how to proceed.
Luxembourg’s first telecoms price comparison website launched on Tuesday. Founded by Oleksandr Petrykov, LetzCompare.lu is designed as a tool to help consumers make informed choices by presenting unbiased information about telecoms prices and service offerings.
TUESDAY 2 NOVEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Due to the holiday, the Ministry of Health did not publish figures yesterday. On Friday, the ministry reported 182 new resident cases, derived from 4,013 tests. There were no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 843. 33 individuals were in hospital, with eleven in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate was 1.06. As of Friday, 432,539 people had received their first vaccine dose, while 420,403 had been fully vaccinated.
The new COVID law came into force on Monday. Thousands of people gathered in Luxembourg City on Friday evening to protest the new rules, which permit companies to implement the CovidCheck system at work. According to this system, employees would need to prove that they are vaccinated, have recently tested negative or have recovered from coronavirus. Over 3,500 people dressed in white walked in silence from the Philharmonie to city hall in this fourth so-called “white march”.
Daniel Frères has resigned as leader of the Pirate Party after being handed a suspended prison sentence and a €2,000 fine. The Remich councilman was prosecuted for acts allegedly committed in his role as president of the animal welfare organisation “Give Us A Voice”. Mr Frères reportedly pressured a woman to give her injured dog to the organisation through false pretenses. He is also said to have lied to an investigating police officer. Despite his intention to appeal the verdict, Mr Frères offered to resign from the Pirate Party’s leadership at the weekend, and the party accepted his resignation.
Luxembourg has finally re-opened its borders to fully vaccinated arrivals from the United Kingdom. Travellers from the UK had not been allowed to visit the Grand Duchy for non-essential reasons since the Brexit withdrawal agreement came into effect on 1st January 2021. The move to drop this travel ban follows the European Commission’s decision to recognise the UK’s vaccine pass as equivalent to those used in EU countries. Plans to approve vaccine certificates issued by the United States are also in the works.
FRIDAY 29 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 138 new resident cases, derived from 3,291 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 843. 36 individuals are in hospital, with 10 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.08. To date, 431,739 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 415,745 people have been fully vaccinated.
Following allegations of plagiarism against Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, the University of Lorraine issued a statement yesterday claiming they would investigate the alleged “lack of scientific integrity” and that any potential sanctions would depend on their findings.
Luxembourgish politicians meanwhile mostly agreed that a presumption of innocence should be assumed until the University of Lorraine has declared the outcome of it’s investigation. Some said that Bettel’s thesis had little connection to his current appointment and made no impact upon his current mandate, making it difficult to judge, and would remain behind him even if the degree was annulled. The Pirate Party however claimed that the Prime Minister’s dishonesty is a slap in the face for anyone who graduated with their own work, adding that Bettel’s lack of interest for details reflected his current work methods. MPs from the Democratic Party refrained from commenting on the allegations against their colleague.
Following a parliamentary enquiry from the Left party, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said that Luxembourg’s homeland intelligence agency, the SREL, does have the option to utilise surveillance tools, but only under strict conditions and in accordance with the law. The question was prompted by comments made by Mr Bettel in an interview which suggested the Luxembourg government had purchased the controversial espionage software Pegasus. In his reply, Mr Bettel said his remarks had been made generally regarding such software and did not confirm a purchase, adding that the SREL should be equipped with the tools required to accomplish its missions.
A Eurostat study on children at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU, published yesterday, revealed that Luxembourg ranked 19th out of 24, with one fifth of its overall population at risk. Data showed that the risk increased to 24.2% both for the country and Europe when children under 18 were included, and that Luxembourg children were more than three times more likely to experience poverty than people over the age of 65. Eurostat’s findings indicate that one in four children in Luxembourg do not have access to new clothes or shoes, the internet, or have regular leisure activities. The report also found that women in Luxembourg had a greater risk of poverty than men.
A scheme to provide access to basic health care for “particularly vulnerable” people was presented this week by Minister for Social Security Romain Schneider and Minister for Health Paulette Lenert. Minister Schneider explained that the scheme was for the 1,000 people or so who have no source of income and who are not eligible for any social welfare office, adding that support would be granted after three months to avoid abuse of health insurance benefits. Minister Lenert said there should be no stigmatisation of vulnerable people and that the scheme, which will start in 2022, will be entirely financed by the state, with a budget of €2.7m. Voluntary membership to the scheme will be paid for by the State, costing €120 per month per family. Associations that have an agreement with the Ministry of Health will also receive extra financial and human resources.
THURSDAY 28 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 239 new resident cases, derived from 3,745 tests. There has been 1 new death, with the death toll standing at 843. 37 individuals are in hospital, with 9 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.15. To date, 430,968 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 415,448 people have been fully vaccinated.
At a press briefing yesterday, Minister of Health Paulette Lenert and Head of the Health Directorate Dr. Jean-Claude Schmit warned that Luxembourg is experiencing a fourth covid pandemic wave, following a seasonal rise in infections. Minister Lenert stated that the seven-day incidence rate for the unvaccinated population was 2.5 times higher than those vaccinated at 241 per 100,000, and that 83% of hospitalised patients are not vaccinated. Even though vaccination rates are increasing and 75% of people over the age of 12 have received at least one shot, Ms Lenert said she anticipated 10% of the population never being convinced to get vaccinated.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has been accused of plagiarism over the content of his postgraduate degree in public law and political science at the University of Nancy in 1999. Luxembourg media outlet, Reporter.lu, claims that as much as 96% of Mr. Bettel’s work contains “copy & pasted” paragraphs without citing any sources and further asserts that the document has been studied in depth by independent researchers, who confirm “an acute suspicion of plagiarism”. A professor who supervised the work, while not ruling out the possibility of plagiarism, stressed that ethical standards and methods of detection were different then. Prime Minister Bettel said yesterday that he had written the work with a clear conscience but that from today’s point of view he perhaps should have done it differently.
According to a Eurostat report published this week, Luxembourg’s fuel prices have increased more than any other European country in the last year. In September, Luxembourg saw a 31% rise in prices over the last 12 months, beating Romania and Slovenia at 29% over the same period. Eurostat pointed to unstable fuel prices in Europe over the last 20 years as inflation rates have fluctuated between -20% and +20% – a trend that has become more prominent in the last 12 months.
Luxembourg’s first floating solar farm was inaugurated yesterday on a former cooling basin for an old steel site in Differdange. The 6,700 solar panels take up 25,000 square meters of the basin and are expected to produce enough power to cover the energy needs of approximately 800 households of four people per year. The solar farm, created by ArcelorMittal, in partnership with Enovos, aims to further Luxembourg’s self-sufficiency and was started in 2019 following a request for such projects by the government.
WEDNESDAY 27 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 161 new resident cases, derived from 2,690 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 842. 30 individuals are in hospital, with 9 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.08. To date, 430,124 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 414,992 people have been fully vaccinated.
Luxembourg signed two space-related agreements yesterday, one with Italy and another with France. The agreements took place within the framework of an economic mission to Dubai, led by Economy Minister Franz Fayot. The Luxembourg Space Agency signed memoranda of understanding with its Italian and French counterparts aimed at strengthening bilateral cooperation in the field of space.
Also during this Dubai visit, the Luxembourg-based European Space Resources Innovation Centre launched the world’s first startup support programme dedicated to space resources. The ESRIC Startup Support Programme is aimed at supporting the needs of early-stage ventures or startups before, during and after incubation. A first call for applications is expected next month, and startups from across the world can apply.
Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn issued a statement in which he condemned Israel’s settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territories. Mr Asselborn called on the Israeli government to abandon plans to build more residences for Jewish settlers in the Occupied West Bank, reiterating the European Union’s stance that such settlements are illegal under international law. The remarks came after Israel announced plans to build more than 1,300 new settlement homes in the occupied territories.
A local hero helped rescue a motorist who fell in the Moselle on Monday. Alain Biver is a former firefighter who currently works on the Sankta Maria II ferry on the Luxembourg-German border. Earlier this week, Mr Biver saw a vehicle fall into the river after failing to get onto the Oberbillig ferry. The electric car reportedly broke through a barrier before ending up in the Moselle. After 5 minutes, Mr Biver and the rest of the rescue team managed to get the uninjured motorist back on board.
TUESDAY 26 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 359 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 5,895 tests. There were no new deaths over the weekend, with the death toll standing at 842. 27 individuals are in hospital, with 8 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.18. To date, 429,345 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 375,940 have received their second.
Economy Minister Franz Fayot announced plans for a campus for the space sector in Luxembourg. The minister made the announcement as part of an economic mission to the Expo 2020 Dubai. The objective of the new campus is to establish a site that brings together all important actors from the national space sector. The Luxembourg Space Agency and the European Space Resources Innovation Centre will be set up at the new site. The location has not yet been disclosed.
Education Minister Claude Meisch kicked off this year’s Student Fair on Monday. 217 stands are taking part in this hybrid event, which is aimed at secondary school students as well as interested members of the public. The 2021 edition is taking place online via the digital platform www.studentefoire.lu from 25th to 29th October, followed by a face-to-face “meeting day” at the University of Luxembourg in Belval on 30th October.
The 2020 film “Io Sto Bene” has been selected to represent Luxembourg at next year’s Oscars. The comedy-drama, directed by Luxembourgish filmmaker Donato Rotunno, tells the story of an older Italian man who has spent his life away from his home country, and who crosses paths with a young Italian artist trying to make it abroad. The national Oscars selection committee praised the film for its artistic quality and its treatment of the important subject of immigration. Nominations for Best International Feature Film will be announced in February.
Deutsche Bahn announced plans to develop the railway connection between Trier and Luxembourg. The German railway company is set to invest around €60 million in the railway line west of Trier. Two lines will be operated on the new and improved tracks: the existing RB83 connecting Wittlich to Luxembourg via Trier, and the new RB84 connecting Trier to Konz.]
Luxembourg City has been shortlisted for the EU Access City Award 2022. Luxembourg will compete with five other European cities for this award, which recognises a city’s efforts to become more accessible to people with disabilities. The winners will be announced on 3rd December, with a special focus this year on cities’ efforts to improve accessibility at train stations, as part of the European Year of Rail.
MONDAY 25 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 141 new resident cases derived from 2,752 tests over the last 48 hours. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 842. 17 individuals are in hospital, with 5 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.06. To date, 427,924 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 414,121 people have been fully vaccinated.
Construction works are starting today on the tram line connecting the Kirchberg district and Findel airport. Luxtram managing director André von der Marck told RTL that the team aimed to reach findel by the start of 2024. The clearing works along the A1 around Kirchberg commence today. These include the removal of trees from a 3.2 hectare area along the motorway. To compensate for this loss of nature, new trees will be planted in the Junglinster, Lorentzweiler and Niederanven communes.
Luxembourgish satellite company SES sent its largest and most advanced satellite ever into space on Sunday. The SES-17 blasted off from its launch pad in French Guiana aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. Take off followed a last-minute one-day delay due to extra ground checks. The satellite now has several months to find its permanent slot hovering 36,000 km above the American continents providing fast Wi-Fi connections for planes while in flight..
The government confirmed plans to legalise the domestic production and consumption of cannabis in Luxembourg. Consumption will remain prohibited in public spaces, although fines for the possession of up to 3 grams in public will be reduced to a maximum of €500. Cannabis seeds will be available to purchase in shops and online. The Chamber of Deputies still needs to vote on the legislation.
FRIDAY 22 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 131 new resident cases, derived from 2,600 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 842. 21 individuals are in hospital, with 5 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.17. To date, 427,328 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 413,637 people have been fully vaccinated.
The Ministries of Health and Social Security launched the new CNS mobile application. The app launch forms part of the process of digitising health insurance and medical bills in Luxembourg. The CNS app will be available to download in the coming days.
The next steps of this process are set for 2022, when the deployment of digitalisation among doctors is planned, and 2023, with the long-awaited launch of the immediate direct payment system for medical bills.
The CumEx tax fraud scheme cost Luxembourg €2.2 billion over the past 20 years, according to a group of investigative journalists. The group behind the investigation said taxpayers from 12 countries had lost €150 billion through the share deals – three times the amount first estimated in 2018. Original estimates put Luxembourg’s tax losses at around €10 million.
A large-scale demonstration is taking place in Kirchberg today. Around 2,000 people are expected to gather outside the European Court of Justice this morning to protest against the forced closure of the Turów coal mine on the Czech-Poland border. Protesters will then move on to the Czech Embassy. The police announced that several roads would be closed to traffic to allow for the demonstration. Officers will be present to ensure public order throughout the event.
The University of Luxembourg is preparing a full return to in-person teaching from 8th November. The health authorities approved the university’s special protocol allowing the resumption of on-campus teaching. The CovidCheck system will not apply. Masks remain mandatory, except for fully vaccinated professors, and both students and staff are advised to use self-tests twice per week. Test kits will be distributed at the university’s reception desks.
THURSDAY 21 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 246 new resident cases, derived from 3,286 tests. There have been 2 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 842. 23 individuals are in hospital, with 7 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.06. To date, 426,349 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 413,233 people have been fully vaccinated.
The Health Ministry and the Foreign Ministry confirmed that restrictions on air travel to Luxembourg will remain in place until 18th December. Such measures were set to apply until 18th October but have now been extended by 2 months. This means that travellers arriving in Luxembourg by plane are still required to present either a complete COVID-19 vaccination certificate, a recovery certificate or a negative test result carried out less than 72 hours before their flight. Certified rapid tests performed less than 48 hours before the flight are also valid.
Unemployment dropped to near pre-pandemic levels in September. According to the ADEM employment agency and STATEC, Luxembourg’s unemployment rate now stands at 5.5%. More than 15,500 people registered with Adem last month, a decrease of almost 13% compared to September 2020.
Job vacancies reported to the employment agency were up 38% over one year.
Nevertheless, over half of job seekers have been looking for work for over a year, which indicates unprecedented levels of long-term unemployment.
The Automobile Club of Luxembourg said it had recorded 33% more calls for assistance over the summer compared to the same period the year before. The July floods particularly contributed to this increase in interventions. The ACL operations centre in Bertrange almost reached maximum capacity, with close to 46,000 calls registered between July and September. During this period, the club sent out its breakdown lorries around 12,000 times in Luxembourg, up 12% over one year.
Police reported that a pedestrian was fatally injured in a road accident on Wednesday. The 59-year-old woman from Bertrange was hit by a lorry while crossing the road. The victim passed away at the scene. An investigation has been launched into the circumstances surrounding the accident.
A grenade from World War II was found during construction work in Bettel in north-eastern Luxembourg yesterday. The army’s bomb squad was sent in to carry out a controlled explosion of the shell in a field. Police reminded the public not to touch any ammunition found in this way. Instead, they should call the emergency number 113 immediately and, if possible, stay at the scene until the police or military experts arrive.
WEDNESDAY 20 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 103 new resident cases, derived from 2,195 tests. There has been 1 new death, bringing the death toll to 840. 22 individuals are in hospital, with 7 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.10. To date, 425,627 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 412,695 people have been fully vaccinated.
A retirement home in Belvaux is currently experiencing a cluster of people infected with COVID-19. According to the ministry of family, the ministry of health and CIPA, which runs “Résidence op der Waassertrap”, 18 individuals, including 14 residents and 4 staff, are currently positive for coronavirus. 13 residents are fully vaccinated, the majority of whom have no symptoms, whilst one resident is currently hospitalised. Three of the four staff who tested positive are not vaccinated. The retirement home has implemented all measures recommended by the health inspectorate.
The European Commission “rang the bell” at Luxembourg’s Stock Exchange on Tuesday to mark the listing of the first NextGenerationEU green bond. The €12 billion bond is the largest green bond issued to date; it was eleven times oversubscribed, with books exceeding €135 billion. The 15-year bond is governed by Luxembourg law and is displayed on the Luxembourg Green Exchange.
Germany’s Frankfurt Hahn Airport has filed for bankruptcy. Despite posting growth in its freight business recently, passenger numbers continued to decline at the regional airport, which was once popular with passengers from Luxembourg and the Greater Region for its budget flights.
TUESDAY 19 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 262 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 5,770 tests. There were no new deaths over the weekend, with the death toll standing at 839. 18 individuals are in hospital, with 7 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.12. To date, 424,692 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 412,411 people have been fully vaccinated.
Luxembourg lawmakers passed the new COVID-19 law yesterday. The governing coalition parties, DP, LSAP and the Greens, voted in favour, with the opposition parties voting against. The controversial bill provides for the introduction of the CovidCheck system in the workplace. CovidCheck will not apply to schools. The law entered into force at midnight and remains in place until 18th December.
In addition, self-administered rapid tests will be replaced by PCR or certified rapid tests for entry to hospitality and event venues from 1st November.
During Monday’s session, several people gathered in front of the Chamber of Deputies to protest the new rules.
The Health Ministry announced that people who have received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine against COVID-19 will be invited for a booster jab. The move follows a recommendation made by the Superior Council for Infectious Diseases. Individuals who received their J&J jab at least 4 weeks ago will receive their invitations for a second shot starting from the end of this week.
Luxembourg held onto its tier 1 ranking in the latest Trafficking in Persons Report. The annual assessment by the United States Department of State indicated that, despite the pandemic, the Grand Duchy managed to strengthen the effectiveness of its procedures and measures aimed at combating human trafficking. This top ranking shows that the government made efforts to meet the minimum standards. However, the number of convictions dropped last year and, according to the report, courts continued to issue lenient sentences, creating potential safety issues for victims.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday. As well as discussing European and international current affairs, Mr Bettel thanked Ms Merkel for her role in European integration and in German-Luxembourg relations over the past 16 years. He also presented the German Chancellor with the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
MONDAY 18 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 91 new resident cases derived from 2,552 tests over the last 48 hours. There has been one new death, bringing the death toll to 839. 19 individuals are in hospital, with 3 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.01. To date, 423,343 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 411,402 people have been fully vaccinated.
Negotiations between trade unions and the government over the introduction of the CovidCheck system in the workplace hit a stalemate. The last-minute meeting saw representatives of the OGBL, LCGB and CGFP unions walk out after they and government representatives failed to reach an agreement over the proposed measures. The Prime Minister was not present, despite the unions’ request for an emergency meeting with him. Today, the unions will discuss the next steps to be taken, whilst the Chamber of Deputies is set to vote the controversial bill into law. The new COVID-19 law will remain in force until 18th December.
Trade unions were not the only ones to voice their concerns over the new measures: more than 3,000 people gathered in front of the Philharmonie on Friday evening to protest against the stricter coronavirus policies. This third so-called “white march” saw participation more than double since the previous such protest. Most participants were maskless, despite masks being compulsory at demonstrations of more than 300 people.
Speaking to RTL about the protest, Deputy Prime Minister François Bausch said: “I understand their concerns, but I don’t agree with them”.
A man has been arrested after taking his wife and children hostage and threatening police officers. The incident took place at the man’s home in the Gare district of Luxembourg City. The man reportedly kicked officers and threatened to kill them. He was subsequently arrested and is set to be presented to an investigating judge.
Amazon has appealed a record €746 million fine for violating EU data protection rules imposed by national privacy watchdog CNPD in July. The appeal was filed at the Luxembourg administrative tribunal last week and concerns Amazon’s collection and use of individuals’ personal data, which allegedly breached the GDPR introduced by the European Union in 2018.
FRIDAY 15 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 165 new resident cases, derived from 2,827 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 838. 20 individuals are in hospital, with 4 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.01. To date, 422,856 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 410,931 people have been fully vaccinated.
Luxembourg has been elected to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council for the 2022-24 term. Last December, the Grand Duchy formally launched its bid to fill one of the three available seats for Western Europe. Its campaign focused on 4 priorities: gender inequality, rule of law, climate change, and the protection and promotion of children’s rights. The country received 180 votes out of 193 ballot papers, thus surpassing the 97 votes needed to secure a seat on the Council.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told the Chamber of Deputies yesterday that he had received death threats after announcing the new COVID law. Mr Bettel announced last week that Luxembourg would introduce the CovidCheck system across the hospitality sector. He has now revealed that he had to strengthen his private protection after receiving death threats related to the new rules. He noted on Thursday: “I am for freedom, but you must watch your tone”.
The government announced the introduction of free PCR testing for residents who received their first vaccine dose, but not yet received their second, before the new COVID law enters into force next Monday. Following the recommendations of the Council of State regarding CovidCheck, the government decision is intended to allow individuals who are partially vaccinated a chance to get tested free of charge during the transition phase. Those concerned will receive 5 free test vouchers from 1st November.
According to STATEC’s Work and Social Cohesion Report, the COVID-19 pandemic did not worsen income inequality in Luxembourg last year. Based on survey data, the average household’s disposable income actually increased by 2.1% in 2020 compared to the year before. However, statistics also indicated that 5.6% of households were at risk of income, consumption and financial wealth poverty.
THURSDAY 14 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 163 new resident cases, derived from 3,073 tests. There has been 1 new death, bringing the death toll to 838. 21 individuals are in hospital, with 2 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.01. To date, 422,408 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 410,457 people have been fully vaccinated.
Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna presented the 2022 state budget on Wednesday. Budget priorities reflect those outlined in the Prime Minister’s State of the Nation Address earlier in the week, namely investment in climate action, affordable housing and digitalisation. The 2022 budget provides for a record public investment of around €3.2 billion, or 4.4% of GDP.
47% of expenditure will be dedicated to social benefits and subsidies, such as increasing the national solidarity fund budget to reach €367 million, particularly in response to the €200 increase in the cost-of-living allowance. A budget of €765 million is set aside for climate investment, with this expected to reach €975 million by 2024. In 2022, €228 million will go towards the creation of affordable housing – up 77% from 2021’s budget allocation. Furthermore, Mr Gramegna also announced the establishment of an embassy in Dublin.
The Luxembourg Police have launched the next phase of their recruitment campaign. Interior Security Minister Henri Kox announced the launch on Wednesday, noting that around 200 positions remain unfilled after the first hiring round at the end of 2020. The recruitment drive is expected to result in 130 additional officers finishing their police training by early 2023.
The Directorate of Immigration confirmed that Luxembourg received 135 applications for international protection last month. 78 applicants were granted refugee status, up from 12 the previous month. The largest number of asylum seekers in September came from Syria, followed by Eritrea and Afghanistan. Luxembourg has received a total of 850 applications for international protection so far this year.
As reported by RTL, Luxembourg City’s Christmas Market is set to return this winter. After being cancelled last year due to the pandemic, the markets will take place from 19th November to 2nd January in Place Guillaume, Place de Paris and Place de la Constitution. An ice rink is also planned at Kinnekswiss park.
WEDNESDAY 13 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 104 new resident cases, derived from 2,248 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 837. 22 individuals are in hospital, with 3 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.11. To date, 421,706 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 409,624 people have been fully vaccinated.
In yesterday’s state of the nation speech, Prime minister Xavier Bettel announced climate initiatives for Luxembourg, a property tax reform proposal and free daycare for children. Regarding the climate, Mr. Bettel announced a citizens’ climate council – with a representative group of 100 citizens who will discuss specific climate issues with the support of experts. More subsidies were promised for electric vehicles and environment-friendly home renovation projects and further support offered for the green transition of companies and industry. Concerning housing, a draft law that would reform property tax to combat speculation in the real estate market and tackle the taxation of unoccupied properties was promised within the year. Mr. Bettel said “Housing is the main factor of exclusion in Luxembourg” due to high housing prices and claimed the government would do everything it could to stop the spiral of housing prices. Plans were also announced to offer free hot school lunches to low-income families, and from the start of the next school year, daycare centres would be free of charge during school terms. Regarding the coronavirus pandemic, it was announced that a study had been commissioned on the country’s response to the crisis to better plan for future pandemics.
Unions have expressed their concern this week about the draft law allowing the introduction of the CovidCheck system within the workplace. The draft law would allow companies to begin disciplinary measures for staff unwilling to get vaccinated or tested, but little detail is included on how to implement the system. The public sector union – CGFP – called the proposal “shocking” and said it would threaten the livelihoods of employees, preferring to keep rapid antigen tests as an option. The financial sector union – Aleba – warned of data protection and medical secrecy violations, and claimed its lawyers were evaluating the proposal. The labour union – LCGB – accused the government of passing this hot button issue to employers without a clear framework.
The Union of Luxembourg Companies warned this week that the recent wage indexation, which saw wages automatically raised by 2.5% in line with inflation, would have a negative impact on the competitiveness of businesses. The union claimed that the increase in overall annual staff costs of €800 million would hit sectors which are labour-intensive the hardest, and that competing firms in neighbouring countries which were “not subject to the same constraints” would benefit. The union also worried that the indexation system would accelerate social inequalities as higher wage earners will benefit from larger salary increases. They proposed limiting the indexation to a certain level of income to “protect the poorest” while keeping company costs down.
The Minister of Equality between Women and Men, Taina Bofferding, this week presented a new digital tool against domestic violence called “relation2test”. The online confidential questionnaire was developed in collaboration with the Fondation Maison de la Porte Ouverte and is designed to help people living as a couple, regardless of age, sex, or sexual orientation. find out whether they are in an abusive relationship. If the outcome indicates emotional or physical abuse, the online tool will provide additional information and offer useful addresses in Luxembourg to find help. Further information can be found at: www.relation2test.lu
TUESDAY 12 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 178 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 4,805 tests. There was one new death over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 837. 19 individuals are in hospital, with 3 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.99. To date, 421,682 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 409,576 people have been fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel is set to deliver his traditional State of the Nation speech today at 2.30pm. He is expected to address various topics that the government dealt with this year, as well as looking forward to future challenges and opportunities. The Chamber of Deputies is holding two debates on this speech: one at 2pm today and another at 9am tomorrow.
Luxembourg’s first national horticultural exhibition has been postponed until 2025. Initially planned for 2023, the “Luga” garden show is being pushed back two years due to material and other supply shortages. The project is also facing budgetary issues, with the initial €10 million budget having been more than doubled since the project’s launch in 2019.
Luxair is introducing new ticket categories and fares. The “Light” category has been added and the “Smart” option now replaces the “Classic” category to better meet customer demand, according to the airline. Luxair also pledged its support for the International Air Transport Association’s new climate action plan, committing itself to ensure sustainable flights by 2050. Alongside the IATA, the Luxembourg airline urged governments to implement simplified regimes to manage COVID-19 risks as borders reopen to international travel.
The 20th anniversary edition of “Nuit des Musées”, or “Museum Night”, recorded around 16,700 visits across all participating museums in Luxembourg City. Saturday’s programme included special guided tours, shows and performances, DJ sets, readings and children’s workshops. Next year’s date is already set for 8th October.
MONDAY 11 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 77 new resident cases derived from 3,715 tests over the last 48 hours. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 836. 21 individuals are in hospital, with 5 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.21. To date, 420,696 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 408,338 people have been fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert confirmed details of the new COVID law at a press conference. From 1st November, on-site rapid antigen tests will no longer be enough for entry to hospitality and event venues. Only certified rapid and PCR tests will be permitted. The changes come as the vaccination rate stagnates.
Rapid tests will still be valid for entry to schools and nursing homes. Children under 12, who cannot get vaccinated, are also exempt, and people who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons will get vouchers for free PCR tests. Employers will also be able to implement the CovidCheck system in their companies, although it is up to them to set the rules.
Sunday marked National Day of Commemoration, during which Luxembourg remembered the victims of Nazi occupation in the Grand Duchy between 1940 and 1945. Commemorative ceremonies took place across the capital, attended by Grand Duke Henri, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Luxembourg City Mayor Lydie Polfer, among others.
According to the Housing Observatory, house prices in Luxembourg have more than doubled over the past decade. Prices rose by 111% between 2010 and June 2021, thus soaring at the second-fastest rate in the European Union, after Estonia. Eurostat data showed that house prices have been rising at a much faster rate than rents across the EU since 2015.
The sun was shining yesterday as over 200 people (and quite a few dogs) ran or walked laps around Echternach Lake, in support of breast cancer research. Various teams and individuals donned pink outfits and accessories, and took part in this year’s Race for the Cure charity event, organised by Think Pink Lux. Over €9,000 has been raised so far in Luxembourg, and over €480,000 across Europe.
FRIDAY 8 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 160 new resident cases, derived from 2,753 tests. There has been 1 new death, with the death toll standing at 836. 19 individuals are in hospital, with 6 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.11. To date, 420,448 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 407,889 people have been fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert will hold a press conference this afternoon to deliver details of the new Covid law, which will come into effect on Monday 18 October. Representatives of the Horesca sector said it was likely that on-site free rapid tests would be stopped, and that only certified rapid and PCR tests would be permitted as part of a more generalised CovidCheck system. Local media reported yesterday that the CovidCheck system could be extended to cover other venues such as museums and gyms, and that self antigen tests would no longer be accepted.
32 people at a Clervaux primary school have tested positive for coronavirus, affecting 14 of the 22 classes. A representative from the contact tracing service, said the common denominator was a number of siblings and a teacher who had attended several different classes. 17,000 rapid tests were distributed within the school and the Ministries of Education and Health said they would increase their presence in the area, offering support and advice to the affected community.
The Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party held a press conference ahead of the new parliament session, at which they surmised that socialist values had not been damaged by the covid pandemic and hoped to reproduce the results of German SPD, which saw a 5% gain in the recent elections. The LSAP said a key issue is education and that, while they supported recent reforms, the party had their own vision for the public school system. They added they were unhappy about the possibility of raising the school-leaving age to 18. Regarding tax reforms, the LSAP still wanted the introduction of a corona tax, despite the unpopularity of the idea from the majority.
The Alternative Democratic Reform Party also held a press conference yesterday at which they claimed the Government was “tired and divided”, the majority parties were drifting apart and warned not to expect anything substantial from the next state of the nation speech. The ADR said their priority would be constitutional reform and that they would request a referendum on the constitution in the Chamber of Deputies at the earliest opportunity. The party announced it will hold an information event this evening at Bettembourg Castle regarding their new Do Not Look Away campaign, which seeks to spread awareness of their commitment to offer a referendum on the constitution and its reform.
The Chamber of Deputies meanwhile announced this week that it is organising a public briefing on the revision of Luxembourg’s Constitution in the Tramsschapp cultural centre in Limpertsberg this evening at 19:00. Members of the public can learn about the work of revising the Constitution and pose questions to representatives from the seven parties present in the Chamber of Deputies. The briefing will be subject to compliance with the CovidCheck scheme and will be in Luxembourgish, with French translation provided.
THURSDAY 7 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 161 new resident cases, derived from 2,454 tests. There has been 1 new death, with the death toll standing at 836. 20 individuals are in hospital, with 7 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.09. To date, 420,226 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 407,465 people have been fully vaccinated.
Labour Minister Dan Kersch yesterday rejected giving women two days of paid leave every month following a petition demanding females get time off when menstruating. Carole Hartmann of the Democratic Party doubted the practicalities of such a scheme, asking whether women would require a medical certificate to get paid leave. Simone Asselborn-Bintz, of the Socialist Workers’ Party, warned that if a medical certificate were not required, there was a possibility of the scheme being abused. Petitioners argued that abuses exist everywhere, and that honest people should not be punished, and pointed to Indonesia and South Korea which have had similar rules since 1948 and 2001 respectively. The Left and the Pirate Party appealed for greater sensitivity regarding menstruation and suggested awareness campaigns in schools and work places, to stem discrimination.
The Director General of Police, Philippe Schrantz this week complained about private citizens taking pictures and shooting video of police officers in public. Speaking at the “Saint Michel” patron’s party, Schrantz said police had to contend with being filmed “anywhere, by anyone, doing anything”, and claimed footage was often edited before being published on social media, leading to unjustified public outrage. The Director General reported that 700 candidates had responded to the latest recruitment drive, while Minister for Internal Security Henri Kox, added the drive would be extended past 2023 to increase police numbers by 3,000 people. Minister Kox further stated that the police budget would increase by 10% in 2022 and further investment into basic and further training would be provided
Yesterday, Digitalisation minister Marc Hansen presented details of a national action plan for digital inclusion aimed at closing the digital divide in Luxembourg society and assisting those with fewer opportunities for digital access. The action plan contains three main components: increasing motivation and building digital confidence; facilitating access to digital technology; and developing digital skills.
Luxembourg’s Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development has announced Luxembourg’s first national fair dedicated to climate action to take place this weekend at LuxExpo The Box. KlimaExpo hopes to increase the visibility of climate action at the national level and bring together non-profit organisations and businesses, as well as showcasing state and municipal initiatives in this area. Alongside workshops and conferences, there will be a mobile exhibition highlighting the collective global efforts made against global warming and Luxembourg’s part in this fight. The three-day event, which takes place from Saturday 9 to Monday 11 October, will take place under the CovidCheck regime. Further information can be found at www.klimaexpo.lu.
WEDNESDAY 6 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 99 new resident cases, derived from 1,817 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 835. 23 individuals are in hospital, with 7 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.02. To date, 419,810 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 406,557 people have been fully vaccinated.
Luxembourg is set to sell less fuel to non-residents in the future in an effort to cut down greenhouse gas emissions. Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg and Energy Minister Claude Turmes presented an overview of the national climate policy to date. One of the issues raised was “fuel tourism”, which accounts for over 70% of emissions in the transport industry. As such, less petrol and diesel is to be sold to non-residents in future. In the construction industry, the installation of diesel heaters will be banned from 2023.
According to STATEC, the national statistical institute, more than 70% of Luxembourg residents said in a 2021 survey that they trusted official statistics. This rate has been stable since 2015, and even increased slightly compared to the last survey carried out in 2018. Those with a higher level of education tended to have more confidence in official statistics[: 76% of survey respondents with at least a master’s degree trusted such statistics, compared to 62% of those who did not complete secondary education]. Moreover, 87% of residents said that they trusted STATEC as an institution in 2021.
Winemakers and Agriculture Minister Romain Schneider expressed satisfaction over a very good 2021 vintage. During the minister’s visit to Luxembourg’s vineyards on Tuesday, the sector reflected on a successful grape harvest, made possible in part thanks to the warm, dry weather in late summer.
Local non-profit natur&ëmwelt noted that the national population of fruit-bearing trees is on the decline. Estimates put the current number of fruit trees in Luxembourg around 200,000, with 700 different varieties. The non-profit warned that some may disappear if more young trees are not planted.
TUESDAY 5 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 195 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 4,995 tests. There were no new deaths over the weekend, with the death toll standing at 835. 25 individuals are in hospital, with 8 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.06. To date, 419,777 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 406,521 people have been fully vaccinated.
Responding to a parliamentary enquiry from CSV MP Martine Hansen, Health Minister Paulette Lenert confirmed that 1,850 children had to quarantine during the first week of the new school year. During the first week back, 185 children aged 3 to 12 tested positive for coronavirus. Contact tracing led to the quarantine of 1,843 children, as a preventative measure. The minister recalled that if at least three pupils in a single class test positive, every pupil in that class is forced to quarantine, even if they are vaccinated.
According to Statec, salaried employment in the 2nd quarter of 2021 increased by 0.8% over one quarter and by 3.7% over one year. The national statistical institution attributed this increase to the exceptional loss of jobs during lockdown in the 2nd quarter of 2020. Administration and other public services showed the strongest quarterly growth, up 1.6%. Over one year, these sectors recorded an increase of 5.5%. Contrary to the usual trends, the number of resident employees increased slightly more than that of cross-border workers in the 2nd quarter.
Economy Minister Franz Fayot presented the future tasks of the High Committee for Industry. The committee’s task is to monitor the transition to a carbon-neutral industry. The minister stressed the importance of working together with, rather than against, those in the sector. Potential challenges include competitiveness and carbon leaks. Different task forces have been set up to tackle individual issues. These groups are expected to present their final reports by the start of 2023.
LuxUtsav, a local association for Indian culture enthusiasts, is organising a Durga Puja festival at Sall am Duerf in Itzig from 11 to 15 October 2021. Since 2019, the association has been hosting an annual week-long event to celebrate this Indian Hindu festival, which dates back to the 15th century. This year’s festivities will be held in hybrid mode and include Vedic traditions, modern rituals, performing arts, music and games for all ages. The in-person part will take place as a CovidCheck event. Further information is available at www.luxutsav.lu.
MONDAY 4 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 107 new resident cases derived from 2,305 tests over the last 48 hours. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 835. 26 individuals are in hospital, with 9 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.88. To date, 419,016 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 405,343 people have been fully vaccinated.
Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna confirmed that government revenue had increased by over 20% at the end of August compared to the previous year. According to the European accounting system ESA 2010, the central government collected a total revenue of €14.4 billion in August 2021. Total government expenditure amounted to almost €14.5 billion, down 2.3% over one year – this is explained by the reduced use of subsidies as part of the economic recovery. Compared to 2019, public spending was up 15%.
Luxembourg inaugurated its first solar carport, in the presence of Energy Minister Claude Turmes. The project was led jointly by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and energy provider Enovos. The carport stretches over 4,000 m2 and encompasses 1,500 photovoltaic modules. The Colmar-Berg site produces as much energy as that used by 170 households on average per year.
Police reported that a 91-year-old woman passed away at the weekend after being hit by a van at a zebra crossing in Mondercange. The woman was severely injured in the accident and taken to hospital, but succumbed to her injuries on Saturday afternoon. The van driver was subjected to a drug test, which came back positive.
Diesel prices hit record highs over the weekend, reaching €1.328 per litre. According to figures released by the Luxembourgish petrol group, the price of diesel in the Grand Duchy has never been as expensive as it is now.
FRIDAY 1 OCTOBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 89 new resident cases, derived from 2,541 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 835. 26 individuals are in hospital, with 8 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.00. To date, 418,728 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 404,898 people have been fully vaccinated.
Luxembourg Police raided the office of psychiatrist Marcel Lang who signed a medical certificate last September exempting a Covid-denying, anti-mask activist patient from having to wear a face mask. The patient, Dan Schmitz, subsequently boasted online about not having to wear masks and repeatedly urged his followers to follow his example, not to believe official health instructions, and went on to spread conspiracy theories about national politics. The Luxemburger Wort reported yesterday that Lang denies he issued the certificate falsely and insisted doctors should be able to work according to their conscience and medical evidence without reprisal.
A parliamentary spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that the Chamber of Deputies will reconvene at its official home next to the royal palace on October 12 for Prime Minister Xavier Bettel’s state of the nation address. In April 2020, the Deputies were forced to relocate for only the third time since 1860 because the Chamber was too small to allow the required two-metre distance between individuals. The parliament will leave the Cercle Cité conference centre as members will now be subject to the Covidcheck regime.
The European Commission yesterday announced it would begin infringement proceedings against nineteen EU Member States, including Luxembourg, to enforce EU rules on open data and the reuse of public sector information. The Commission said it would send a letter of formal notice to the Member States concerned because they had failed to provide complete information on how the revised EU rules were being transposed in their national laws. The directive was adopted on 20 June 2019 and Member States were required to adopt it into national law and notify the Commission by 17 July this year. The Member States, including Luxembourg, have two months to respond and take the necessary measures.
A new campaign, launched yesterday by the Ministry of Equality and the Red Cross, aims to protect potential victims of domestic violence by using posters and videos on social media to target the perpetrators and persuade them to contact the Luxembourg Red Cross and it’s “Riicht eraus” service. The campaign is designed to promote awareness and responsibility, allowing potential perpetrators to recognise the problem and to seek help. The service, which was founded in 2004, offers consultations and teaches people techniques to handle conflict and to control violent reactions to protect victims and reduce violence. In a statement, Minister Taina Bofferding said yesterday that prevention was as important as supporting victims and urged people who are witness to domestic violence to come forward, claiming that doing nothing is not an option. Further details can be found here: https://www.croix-rouge.lu/en/service/riicht-eraus-for-perpetrators-of-domestic-violence/
THURSDAY 30 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 132 new resident cases, derived from 3,021 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 835. 25 individuals are in hospital, with 9 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.02. To date, 418,454 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 404,449 people have been fully vaccinated.
At a press conference yesterday, FEDIL – the multisectoral business federation – outlined nine proposals to tackle climate change in answer to targets set by the government. The proposals, aimed at softening the blow to businesses, included establishing a voluntary agreement system for CO2 reductions, making electricity more attractive to industry by reducing electricity prices, and the introduction of super tax deductions for companies that invest in low carbon plant and machinery equipment. Luxembourg’s climate law aims to achieve the objective of a 55% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 compared with 2005 levels.
The Christian Social People’s Party this week said they welcomed the fact that, starting this week, retirement and nursing home residents aged 75 and above are now receiving a third “booster” dose of the coronavirus vaccine. The CSV declared their support in advance for lowering the age limit to 65 for third vaccine shots, if Luxembourg decided to follow the measures already taken by other countries.
Following discussions at this week’s Parliamentary Commission for Judicial Affairs, Minister of Justice Sam Tanson proposed that, following unmonitored visits, prisoners should be tested every other day, which the CSV party declared “a reasonable solution”. The previous plan demanded that prisoners receiving visitors who they had physical contact with must quarantine afterwards but this had been criticised by the CSV Party. The Commission’s president stated that the situation had been increasingly tense in the prison following the introduction of covid measures and pointed to Monday’s incident where an inmate started a fire in his cell as an example.
The Council of the EU this week approved the public country-by-country reporting (CBCR) directive that forces companies with revenues in excess of €750m in the previous two years to divulge the income tax they pay, despite Luxembourg abstaining from the vote. Those companies will be required to submit tax information to every member country where they operate, regardless of where they are based. This decision was the result of negotiations between EU member states, the European commission and the European parliament. Cyprus and Sweden voted against the directive while Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Malta and Ireland all abstained. The directive will be officially voted in by the European parliament in November and then EU member states will have 18 months to introduce it into national law.
Luxembourg has dropped further down in the bi-annual rankings of the Global Financial Centres Index which rates the world’s leading financial centres, with the integration of financial technology quoted as a specific weakness. The GFCI uses data from organisations across the world to examine five important areas, including business environment, financial sector development, infrastructure factors, human capital and reputation. Luxembourg is now fourth in the European Union behind Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam and 23rd worldwide. New York and London grabbed the top spots again but Paris saw the biggest gain jumping 15 places to finish 10th worldwide, and first in the bloc.
WEDNESDAY 29 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 68 new resident cases, derived from 1,753 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 835. 22 individuals are in hospital, with 9 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.04. To date, 417,992 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 403,502 people have been fully vaccinated.
The Ministry of Health and the Luxembourg Society of Cardiology are launching an awareness campaign today, on the occasion of World Heart Day. Celebrated every year on 29th September, World Heart Day aims to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease and the importance of paying attention to this vital organ. In 2019, cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death for women and the second leading cause for men in Luxembourg. The national campaign is placing particular emphasis on prevention, with posters being put up in bus stations and shelters. Tips include not smoking, limiting alcohol intake, eating healthily and doing regular physical activity.
The OGBL trade union criticised the government over its perceived lack of action on issues such as housing and tax reform. At yesterday’s press conference, OGBL President Nora Back emphasised the need to avoid austerity measures after the COVID-19 pandemic. The union has launched a campaign focused on six points: purchasing power and wages; job security and protection for the unemployed; housing shortages; tax policy; work-life balance; and social security.
According to Radio 100,7, the government has changed its stance regarding the planned legalisation of cannabis in Luxembourg. The radio station reported that the sale of recreational cannabis would remain illegal, with only the cultivation of cannabis plants for private use set to be legalised. Health Minister Paulette Lenert confirmed there were several “legal obstacles” at the European level concerning legalisation.
State compensation for the increase in the minimum wage for businesses is set to expire tomorrow. This aid was introduced at the start of the year as a one-off tax-exempt bonus for a single month. The state has paid out €1.5 million under the aid scheme to date. The form to request such aid is available on Guichet.lu.
TUESDAY 28 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 168 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 4,949 tests. There were no new deaths over the weekend, with the death toll standing at 835. 20 individuals are in hospital, with 8 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.05. To date, 417,905 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 403,462 people have been fully vaccinated.
The Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) and Baltic (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) countries have officially launched a new treaty on the automatic mutual recognition of higher education diplomas. The treaty provides that anyone who obtains such a diploma in one of the six countries is guaranteed that their qualification will be automatically recognised in the other signatory countries. The Benelux countries and Baltic states now form the only region in the European Higher Education Area where this is the case.
Minister for Internal Security Henri Kox announced plans to increase the presence of police in various districts of Luxembourg City. The minister said recently more residents of the capital had demanded an increased police presence. Police departments are currently looking at how to reorganise themselves to ensure enough officers can be deployed in the field. Further details are expected at a later date.
Energy Minister Claude Turmes outlined the national hydrogen strategy, which aims to reduce the amount of carbon emissions from Luxembourg’s economy and energy system The focus will be on efficiency and direct electrification, with the main priority being targeted decarbonisation through renewable hydrogen. Luxembourg currently consumes around 450 tonnes of fossil hydrogen annually.
The Left criticised the government coalition during their 18th party congress. The party proposed radical changes to combat COVID-19, climate change and housing issues, arguing that the majority parties had ignored society’s most vulnerable. The Left’s 2023 election strategy is set to be announced in April next year.
The Greens announced that Carlo Back is stepping down after 16 years on Luxembourg City’s municipal council. He will be replaced by Eduard de Macedo. Upon his resignation as an MP in 2022, Mr Back will be replaced in the Chamber of Deputies by Jessie Thill.
MONDAY 27 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 74 new resident cases derived from 2,103 tests over the last 48 hours. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 835. 24 individuals are in hospital, with 8 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.07. To date, 416,970 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 402,286 people have been fully vaccinated.
As of today, residents unable to get vaccinated against COVID-19 are entitled to free PCR testing. Five vouchers for free tests will be issued automatically to children aged 6-11. Vaccinated resident students who need a negative test to attend university abroad can request vouchers through the ACEL student association. Those over 11 who are unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons can request their vouchers from the Health Directorate via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. A medical certificate must be provided with the request. The vouchers can be used in every certified medical analysis laboratory in Luxembourg until the end of the year.
Strike for Climate saw 3,000 young people take to the streets on Friday in protest at the lack of action of Luxembourg and world politicians to deal with the climate crisis. While Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg explained in the local media that Luxembourg was “part of the solution to the climate crisis”, the majority of people at the strike were not convinced that enough is being done. Students legally boycotted classes to impress on politicians that they are “fed up” with their inaction. In a recent interview with Radio ARA, Zohra Barthelemy from Youth For Climate Luxembourg stated that the message, “we are up to our necks in water”, is indicative of their sense that time is running out to avert a catastrophe, and that young people are impatient with businesses and their inability to change. She said the movement believes that political changes have to be made to enforce change from top down – this will be the only way to get the action needed to make a difference.
Friday also marked the start of the new academic year for around 8,000 language learners at the INL. This autumn semester, the institute is offering more than 520 language courses for adults across its three sites, in Glacis, Belval and Mersch. The languages taught are German, English, Chinese, Spanish, French, Italian, Luxembourgish, Dutch and Portuguese. There are still places available, with registration and appointment bookings to be made via myinl.inll.lu.
The new national football and rugby stadium officially opened its doors on Saturday evening. The long-awaited inauguration of the Stade de Luxembourg in the capital took place in the presence of the Grand Duke and around 2,000 spectators, including 250 members of the general public. Football and rugby demos, dance, music and a laser show were on the programme. An open day on Sunday gave visitors the opportunity to go on a guided tour of the stadium.
FRIDAY 24 SEPTEMBER – I’m SIMON CLARIDGE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 136 new resident cases, derived from 2,298 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 835. 24 individuals are in hospital, with 8 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.03. To date, 416,629 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 401,887 people have been fully vaccinated.
Minister for Family Affairs and Integration Corinne Cahen and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert this week presented new covid prevention guidelines for care homes and assisted living facilities, but stopped short of imposing any mandatory measures. From 27 September, senior and care home residents aged 75 and upwards will receive a third Covid-19 vaccination to be carried out by the mobile vaccination team. Unvaccinated residents already living in a home or assisted living facility will have to take two rapid tests per week, whereas all new residents must be vaccinated before being allowed to move in. It was announced that the CovidCheck system for all visitors will remain in place. The ministers said they hoped to increase the vaccination rate of care workers, which is currently at around 65%, by reminding them of the ethical requirement to be vaccinated and using new awareness campaigns.
The European Commission announced yesterday that it would refer Luxembourg to the European Court of Justice and seek financial penalties for failing to implement EU rules on the acquisition and possession of firearms. The Firearms Directive aims to control the purchase, possession and commercial exchange of civilian firearms and combat their use by organised crime. The Commission started their actions against Luxembourg in November 2018 with a letter of formal notice but, the commission claims, Luxembourg has still not fully adopted the Directive into its national law. The Ministry of Justice said yesterday that it had taken note of the European Commission’s decision.
At a press conference yesterday, the Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Trade Unions warned that the government had entered a social security gridlock and that many problems needed to be addressed and resolved. The union advocated for an additional body at the CNS that could respond directly to patient questions and reduce the many lengthy and complicated procedures. The LCGB called the 78-week cap on sickness certificates “inhumane” and recommended that it be ended, claiming it could lead to the chronically sick losing vital support. The union also warned that the CNS was not as financially stable as the government thought and urged that alternative income sources must be found.
Data released by Eurostat this week revealed that Luxembourg has the highest number of cars within the EU with 681 passenger cars for every thousand residents. Italy was second with 663 cars per thousand inhabitants, and Cyprus third with 645. Romania, Latvia and Hungary were at the bottom of the list with an average of just 376 cars per thousand inhabitants. 23.7% of Luxembourg’s cars were younger than two years old, with only Ireland having a higher percentage.
THURSDAY 23 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 141 new resident cases, derived from 2,089 tests. There has been 1 new death, with the death toll standing at 835. 27 individuals are in hospital, with 8 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.94. To date, 416,295 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 401,415 people have been fully vaccinated.
Despite concerns raised by trade union representatives earlier this week, Minister of Labour Dan Kersch said yesterday that he is open to the idea of introducing the CovidCheck system within the workplace. Speaking at a press conference, Kersch said the measure could form part of the next Covid-19 law but stressed the priority should continue to be getting the vaccination rate to at least 85%.
A study released this week by the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research has revealed that the covid pandemic is affecting people on the lowest incomes much harder. Based on data from March 2020 to July 2021, the study showed that people in lower-income brackets such as those in trade, hospitality, transport and teaching, are nearly twice as likely to end up in hospital as those who earn top salaries. The study also pointed to poor housing which provided less options for covid patients to isolate from other family members.
The Green Party held a press conference yesterday at which they demanded the government pass a property tax reform but refused to reveal any specifics on the nature of any such reform. The Greens said they recognised a tax reform by 2023 was unlikely due to the ongoing pandemic, but wanted instead to focus on individual issues such as single parents, who are at a higher risk of falling into poverty. Regarding the climate crisis, the Party proposed a climate pact to assist companies in their transition, and a grant for private electric vehicles beyond March 2022.
Finance minister Pierre Gramegna confirmed yesterday that the agreement allowing Belgian cross-border workers to continue teleworking without incurring double taxation, which was due to expire on 30 September, has been extended until 31 December 2021.
Protest group “Youth for climate” has reached an agreement with the Ministry of Education to allow students to attend tomorrow’s climate strike protest. Minors wishing to participate will need to fill in a form, which is then to be signed by parents or a legal guardian, while adult students can sign the form themselves. Students in Luxembourg City can leave school after second class, giving them time to arrive for the strike’s start at 10 am. Students from outside of the capital will be permitted to leave after their first class.
The 20th anniversary edition of Museum Night will take place in Luxembourg city on Saturday 9 October, from 17:00 to 01:00. Launched in 2001,Museum Night will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a special programme featuring guided tours, music, performances and workshops. This year’s Museum Night will be a CovidCheck event, and a combined ticket for the seven museums is available, as well as free shuttle buses. Further information is available at www.nuit-des-musees.lu.
WEDNESDAY 22 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 71 new resident cases, derived from 1,692 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 834. 30 individuals are in hospital, with 8 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.97. To date, 415,750 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 400,531 people have been fully vaccinated.
The Foreign Ministry announced the extension of the temporary ban on non-essential travel from third countries until the end of the year. These restrictions do not apply to residents of certain third countries such as the United States, Australia and Canada. Travel from non-authorised third countries is permitted only if it is considered essential OR, starting today, if third-country nationals are fully vaccinated against coronavirus and their certificate is deemed equivalent in the European Union. Currently this does not apply to the United Kingdom.
Luxair and the Luxembourg State signed an agreement safeguarding 69 jobs at the national aviation company. After Luxair indicated that it would not be able to guarantee employment for some of its employees beyond the current job retention plan, the government stepped in and both parties agreed that 69 Luxair employees would be temporarily assigned to the services of the State for a limited but renewable 5-year period. The costs of these temporary labour loans will be borne by the Employment Fund.
This year’s Best Workplaces in Europe ranking includes five Luxembourgish companies. Reazn, GSK Stockmann, CTG IT Solutions, System Solutions Luxembourg and the Adecco group made the European ranking of the 150 best companies to work for. Last year, just one Luxembourg company made the list, which is compiled annually by the Great Place to Work institute.
The Chamber of Skilled Trades & Crafts warned that businesses in the sector are facing a higher risk of bankruptcy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 72 companies declared bankruptcy during the first semester of 2021. This figure is 47% higher than the same period in 2020 and 27% higher than in 2019. The Chamber called for more lenient bankruptcy laws, demanding in particular that a distinction be made between companies acting in a fraudulent manner and those simply suffering from an unfavourable economic situation.
The University of Luxembourg announced that its current rector is not seeking a second mandate. Professor Dr Stéphane Pallage cited family matters linked to the pandemic as the reason for his decision. The university’s Board of Governors has now taken the first steps to recruit a new rector, who will take up office on 1st January 2023.
Luxembourg’s very own La Distillerie was crowned “Best Vegetable Restaurant in the World” at this year’s We’re Smart Awards. Over the past year, plant-based culinary reference We’re Smart World visited 100s of establishments to find the world’s best plant-based restaurants. For the 2nd year in a row, the top spot went to Chef René Mathieu’s La Distillerie at Bourglinster Castle.
TUESDAY 21 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 151 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 3,335 tests. There were no new deaths over the weekend, with the death toll standing at 834. 26 individuals are in hospital, with 9 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.98. To date, 414,553 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 399,589 people have been fully vaccinated.
Luxembourg’s public prosecutor confirmed that the death of an elderly woman in April was most likely linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. The 74-year-old woman passed away a fortnight after receiving her first jab. A causal link is now deemed highly likely. The public prosecutor has closed the case without criminal proceedings since no criminal offence was found.
August saw a slight increase in unemployment figures compared to the previous month. By the end of August 2021, the ADEM employment agency had observed over 16,000 job seekers. Despite this number being higher than in July, this represents a drop of more than 2,400 people over one year. The unemployment rate currently stands at 5.5%.
Deputy Prime Minister and Labour Minister Dan Kersch told RTL that he would not be running as the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party top candidate in the 2023 elections. Mr Kersch said he did not intend to hold a ministerial position during the next term. He added that he had already informed his party of his decision recently.
A study by the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research revealed that public transport represents just 10% of mobility in the Greater Region. On average, 4.7 million movements are recorded daily between Luxembourg, Belgium and France. 66% of this mobility is done by car, with one-fifth on foot and every tenth trip done by public transport.
The 15th Luxembourg Open Days saw 23 companies open their doors to more than 17,000 visitors over the weekend. The annual event offers members of the public a behind-the-scenes look at various companies and organisations in Luxembourg. Since 2006, the event has welcomed over 295,000 visitors. The next edition will take place on 17-18th September 2022.
Lou Sanders is performing in Luxembourg this weekend. The British stand-up comedian is putting on two performances of her new show “Work in Progress” at Rocas bar on Saturday evening. She will be joined on stage by fellow Brit Stuart Laws. The shows are being held according to the CovidCheck system, with tickets available via Eventbrite.
MONDAY 20 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 91 new resident cases derived from 4,295 tests over the last 48 hours. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 834. 25 individuals are in hospital, with 9 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.02. To date, 414,505 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 399,522 people have been fully vaccinated.
A petition against mandatory vaccination has reached the minimum number of signatures required to be debated in parliament. Whilst Luxembourg has so far ruled out compulsory vaccinations, although people still need a valid vaccine certificate – or proof of a negative test – to access certain venues and events, this recently launched petition aims to block this possibility as well as calling on the government not to discriminate between vaccinated and non-vaccinated people. The petition reached the necessary 4,500 signatures in 48 hours. Statistics from Oxford University show that just 65.7% of the Luxembourg population have received at least one vaccine dose, slightly below the EU average of 66.2%.
According to Eurostat, housing prices in Luxembourg increased by 17% in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same period last year. On average, house and apartment prices in the eurozone rose 6.2% over one year. This represents the highest increase since mid-2007, as reported by the European Central Bank. The coronavirus pandemic appears to have contributed to this issue, with lockdowns having halted construction paired with supply difficulties and delays.
STATEC observed that the number of non-nationals residing in Luxembourg more than doubled between 1991 and 2021. The national statistics office noted in its latest “Luxembourg in figures” publication that this number has increased from 113,000 to 229,000 over the past two decades. At the start of 2021, non-Luxembourg nationals represented 47.2% of the population; in 1991, this figure stood at just 29.4%.
The Vel’Oh bicycle network has been expanded to include three more towns: Leudelange, Mamer and Niederanven. First launched 13 years ago, the network now boasts more than 100 stations, 88 of which are in the capital. The number of subscriptions notably increased after the introduction of electric bikes, and again after the pandemic broke out. By the end of August this year, almost 19,000 people were subscribed to the network.
FRIDAY 17 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 102 new resident cases, derived from 6,400 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 834. 27 individuals are in hospital, with 9 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.94. To date, 414,086 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 398,970 people have been fully vaccinated.
Luxembourg-based laboratory BioneXt Lab announced yesterday that it had sued the government after losing out to Laboratoires Réunis on all three phases of the covid large-scale-testing regime. BioneXt Lab CEO Dr Jean-Luc Dourson claimed the government had given Laboratoires Réunis an unfair advantage when asking for tenders for second phase testing by requiring the use of one specific chemical during samples analysis, which only Laboratoires Réunis had. Dourson called this a “pseudo public offer” and added the government had given the operator of the scheme an unfair and lasting market advantage by shutting out its competitors, breaking Luxembourg’s market legislation. BioneXt Lab has petitioned the court to retrospectively rescind the government’s contracts and has filed for damages. BioneXt also intends to request the EU Commission look into the case, claiming that the contracts amount to illegal state aid.
The Christian Social People’s Party yesterday unveiled a plan to place more police officers on the streets of Luxembourg and called for video surveillance in the worst areas of the city and provide the police with body cams and tasers. In addition the party wants to give police the power to move people on from certain locations. Addressing the political row around the hiring, by city mayor Lydie Polfer, of private security firm G4S to patrol the capital’s Gare area, the party said they were seeking talks with interior security minister Henri Kox about improving police work to reduce the need for private security firms. The CSV have also proposed a draft bill to change youth protection legislation so that minors under the age of 16 can be prosecuted for more severe offences. The president of the national police union said yesterday that they lacked the resources to do their jobs and that minister Kox did not have any ideas of how to improve the situation.
Responding to criticism earlier this week, the director of the Water Management Administration said yesterday that he believed enough is being done by authorities in terms of flood prevention. Speaking RTL, Jean-Paul Lickes, admitted that improvements were needed for the flood warning systems, but warned that alerts should only be issued in real emergencies to prevent people from ignoring them. Lickes added that the country should expect more heavy rains due to climate change and urged people to understand how to best react during floods and check if their homes were in risk areas, via geoportail.lu.
Non-profit organisation Women in Digital Empowerment (WIDE) announced yesterday that it will launch the second edition of its free “Get Into Tech” bootcamp on Monday 20 September. The bootcamp, held in English, will be conducted entirely online for a period of six week and participants can gain the basics of programming from comprehensive training by professional coaches. Modules entrepreneurship, project management and employability are also available. Places are limited and priority will be given to women, young people aged 18 to 35 and the unemployed. Further information can be found at https://wide.lu/get-into-tech/
THURSDAY 16 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 102 new resident cases, derived from 7,357 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 834. 32 individuals are in hospital, with 8 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.90. To date, 413,626 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 398,431 people have been fully vaccinated.
During Tuesday’s parliamentary debate on the new Covid-19 law, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel condemned a “minority” of Luxembourg’s residents who have refused to get vaccinated forcing the majority to continue to live with restrictions. The Prime Minister claimed it was “not normal” that the government must continue to enforce restrictions on the 85% who are vaccinated and denying the majority “a return to normal life”. The law, seeking to extend the majority of measures until 18 October, passed with 54 yes votes, 4 no and 2 abstentions.
Replying to a parliamentary question from the Alternative Democratic Reform Party, Minister for Family Affairs Corinne Cahen and Minister for Home Affairs Taina Bofferding stated that 211 applications had been received from people in need of financial support following the floods in mid-July. 56 of the applications had been processed and 38 households had received aid totalling €180,000, meaning that over 150 applications were still under review by the Ministry of Family Affairs. The ministers confirmed that people forced to relocate have now returned to their homes or found permanent alternative solutions, adding that the municipalities assisted families as much as possible. Applications for financial aid can still be submitted until the end of the year.
A spokesman for Luxembourg’s prosecution said yesterday that a new European and international arrest warrant had been issued for convicted killer Jean-Marc Sirichai Kiesch. In 2000, Kiesch was sentenced to a 20-year jail sentence for the manslaughter of a 69-year-old woman in Eppeldorf but he fled while on detention leave in 2004. Keisch was detained in Spain last year but was then released on Friday after a court ruled to not enforce the remainder of his sentence as he had been a minor at the time of the crime. Minors aged 16 and over can be prosecuted and convicted under Luxembourg’s adult criminal law.
Answering a parliamentary question, Minister for Finance, Pierre Gramegna, stated yesterday that the government gained an estimated 300 million Euros last year from taxing the 13th month, up from 243 millions Euros in 2019. The minister explained that the figure was reached by”calculating the difference between the average tax revenue from the first 11 months of the year, and the amounts paid in December. He added that some private sector employers pay for the 13th month in regular payments throughout the year, and that these amounts were not shown in the calculation. A petition to abolish taxation of the 13th month passed 4,500 signatures last month and is waiting for a date to be debated in the Chamber.
WEDNESDAY 15 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 96 new resident cases, derived from 7,605 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 834. 37 individuals are in hospital, with 9 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.0. To date, 412,821 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 397,560 people have been fully vaccinated.
Luxembourg is sending 56,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 to Cape Verde, as well as the medical equipment needed to administer them. This equipment was delivered via a flight by the French Armed Forces from Orléans earlier this week. The Grand Duchy has also sent six refrigerators for vaccines from local manufacturer B Medical Systems to Sudan.
Luxembourg has pledged an additional €500,000 in emergency aid for Afghanistan. Humanitarian Affairs Minister Franz Fayot announced the extra funds in response to the United Nations’ flash appeal for donations from the international community. This brings Luxembourg’s total financial contribution to Afghanistan this year to €3 million.
The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology announced that it is launching, together with Luxembourg’s Media Department, an awareness-raising platform to showcase and explain the technologies behind 5G. The main objective of the so-called 5G-PLANET project is to create a copy of Luxembourg’s existing 5G infrastructure in order to demonstrate its use, capabilities and limits to a wide audience. Further information is available on the LIST website.
The 2-day ICT Spring tech summit kicked off in Luxembourg on Tuesday. The event’s Space Forum was the occasion for the launch of a new European space syndicate: Young European Entreprises Syndicate Space, or YEESS. Founded by 6 young space companies, the association aims to facilitate and accelerate the new space dynamic in Europe by working together with national and European institutional partners.
TUESDAY 14 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 166 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 10,680 tests. There were no new deaths over the weekend, with the death toll standing at 834. 37 individuals are in hospital, with 9 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.99. To date, 412,758 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 397,532 people have been fully vaccinated.
German police found two bodies, including that of a 30-year-old woman from Luxembourg, in a car in a forest near Wallendorf at the weekend. The discovery was made during a large-scale search near the Luxembourg-German border, initiated after a 52-year-old man told an acquaintance that he had shot his girlfriend and was about to kill himself. The prosecutor’s office has ordered an autopsy of both bodies, with the case being treated as a suspected homicide.
Education Minister Claude Meisch announced yesterday that a new state-run international school with English, French and German sections will open in Luxembourg City from September next year. The school will be located in Limpertsberg and will follow the European School curriculum. The new primary section of the city school will initially open in Cessange and the secondary school in Hollerich, near the Athénée and International School of Luxembourg. The press release stated that there are also plans to set up a European-accredited school in Dudelange. These are in addition to four other international schools across the country financed by the government. There is one in the city, one in Junglinster, one in Mondorf-les-Bains and one in Clervaux. One further announcement was that In the Luxembourgish system, school will now be mandatory for all pupils until they are 18 years old.
Luxembourg received 114 applications for international protection last month. The Directorate of Immigration confirmed yesterday that 12 applicants had been granted refugee status in August, down from 22 the previous month. The largest number of applications came from Syrians, Afghans and Eritreans.
Agriculture Minister Romain Schneider called for more grain to be farmed locally after the summer’s heavy rainfall negatively impacted harvests. Common wheat losses amount to around 10%, with the legume harvest “close to a total failure”. Damage caused by the July floods amounts to an estimated €1.6 million.
According to the latest Eurobarometer survey, 64% of respondents in Luxembourg are optimistic about the future of the EU. This represents an 11% increase from the previous survey. 89% of Luxembourgers considered the national economic situation to be good, compared to just 40% of Europeans in general. Whilst trust in the EU has dropped 7% in Luxembourg, trust in the bloc’s management of the coronavirus pandemic has gone up 11% since April.
MONDAY 13 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 92 new resident cases derived from 5,015 tests over the last 48 hours. There has been one new death, bringing the death toll to 834. 40 individuals are in hospital, with 10 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.00. To date, 411,462 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 396,430 people have been fully vaccinated.
Furthermore, The Health Directorate has issued a reminder that the vaccination centre at Hall Victor Hugo will no longer operate on Mondays. Opening hours are now from Tuesday to Friday between seven o’clock in the morning and seven in the evening, and Saturday between seven in the morning and one in the afternoon.
The US Embassy hosted a commemorative event on Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Chargé d’Affaires Casey Mace noted: “We remain grateful to Luxembourg for standing with us at our most difficult moment 20 years ago, and in all the years since”. Deputy Prime Minister François Bausch and Chamber of Deputies President Fernand Etgen also spoke, ahead of the laying of a wreath, and a moment of silence.
The footbridge connecting the Gare and Bonnevoie districts in Luxembourg City is set to reopen this Wednesday. Modernisation works began on 14th May and were supposed to end today. However, the opening was postponed due to unfavourable weather conditions.
Luxembourg Paralympian Tom Habscheid announced the end of his international career over the weekend. The 35-year-old narrowly missed out on a medal in the men’s shot put final at the Tokyo Paralympics earlier this month. He has now confirmed that this was his last international appearance.
The “Belairians” were named the winners of this year’s Discover Luxembourg event. This 13th edition saw 35 teams complete a 6.25 km route around Limpertsberg. Along the way, participants had to answer various questions and try their hand at six different challenges in order to collect the most points – and discover more about Luxembourg! This year’s chosen charity is the Ilula Orphan Program, which supports children and their families in rural Tanzania.
FRIDAY 10 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 85 new resident cases derived from 3,607 tests over the last 24 hours. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 833. 37 individuals are in hospital, with 10 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.99. To date, 410,887 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 395,887 people have been fully vaccinated.
In answer to a parliamentary question from the CSV party, Justice Minister Sam Tanson said yesterday that the government had not yet responded to a World Bank survey concerning stolen funds hidden in the country. The Minister blamed the Covid-19 pandemic for the almost 18-month delay in replying to The Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative – a partnership between the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime looking to recover money stolen by corrupt officials, or which originates from the drug trade. Ms Tanson claimed that the questionnaire required considerable manual research to provide detailed information about confiscated assets over a period of 10 years, and that given the context of the sanitary crisis, the questionnaire was unable to be completed in due time.
Luxembourg is struggling to discard its reputation for a lack of transparency following numerous reports that the country is a haven for individuals wishing to hide money. In June, the European Commission said that it was taking Luxembourg to court over its failure to fully transfer new EU rules to stop money laundering into national law. Luxembourg has also failed to ratify the Council of Europe treaty regarding money laundering and the seizure of assets, which it signed 16 years ago. And, in February, the OpenLux joint investigation reported that Russian, Venezuelan and Italian crime organisations were hiding their money in Luxembourg.
The Grand Ducal Police announced yesterday that a road safety campaign will launch on 15 September for the new school year. Patrols will be organised across the country to ensure safe journeys for children on their way to school, with emphasis on the safety of streets surrounding school buildings The statement said that officers will check speed infringements and proper parking in the vicinity of school buildings, as well as monitor the wearing of seatbelts and the use of phones while driving. The campaign will also distribute more than 7,000 yellow safety vests to pupils in the first year of primary school over the coming weeks.
The CEO of LuxAirport said yesterday that all non-automated announcements would continue to be made in Luxembourgish.Recent reports that LuxAirport’s new automated system would make announcements only in French and English due to costs was strongly criticised by Aktioun Lëtzebuergesch, the association for the protection of the language, who claimed earlier this week that the decision end a decades-old tradition. Speaking to RTL, René Steinhaus said passengers would continue to be greeted by Luxembourgish-speaking staff and underlined that the only change would be for automated announcements
The Roads and Bridges Administration announced yesterday that the speed camera in the Markusberg tunnel will enter its testing phase on Monday 20 September. The camera measures the average speed of vehicles along the entire length of the 1,575 metres tunnel and incorporates a tolerance of 3 km/h, which it will deduct from the speed calculated by the radar. The Administration stated that motorists who were flashed while the speed camera is in its test phase, will not receive a fine and that they would announce the date of the speed camera’s full operation “in due course”.
THURSDAY 9 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 97 new resident cases derived from 4,310 tests over the last 24 hours. There has been 1 new death, with the death toll standing at 833. 38 individuals are in hospital, with 10 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.09. To date, 410,438 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 395,384 people have been fully vaccinated.
Parliament’s health committee has had to amend the new Covid draft law after the State Council objected to the government’s proposal to give the head of the health directorate the power to recognise non-EU countries’ health certificates, which they deemed unconstitutional. The State Council also ordered that should anyone test positive for covid in a school, the others must wear masks for seven days from the day the infected person was last in school, including those who shared a lecture hall with the infected person. The health committee has agreed to both changes, and lawmakers will now vote on it before the current rules expire on 15 September.
In response to last week’s announcement that unvaccinated people will have to pay for PCR tests from 15 September, the Consultative Commission on Human Rights warned yesterday of a divided society and discrimination against people based on their health, their financial situation or based on their beliefs. The Commission proposed that tests remain free for people who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons and added that refusing the vaccine for non-medical reasons did not show solidarity towards society.
Following the Ministry of Agriculture’s statement on Monday that bird flu had been detected in an amateur breeding facility from chickens imported from Belgium, the director of the Veterinary Inspection revealed that this strain was “highly contagious”. Felix Wildschutz explained that several measures had been put in place for one month to prevent the virus from spreading to other breeding facilities and that breeders and farmers should keep their chickens, ducks, and other poultry inside and feed them there. Wildschutz stressed that every live animal transported across the border must have a sanitary certificate issued by the responsible authorities. The director said that eggs and meat are still safe for consumption.
In response to a parliamentary question from the Pirate Party, Transport Minister François Bausch said this week that although up to 95% of all train stations should be equipped with Wi-Fi by the end of this year, it could take up to four years before passengers can connect to Wi-Fi on board trains. The minister said that installation of free Wi-Fi on trains will be put into operation progressively between 2023 and 2025.
STATEC, the government statistics service of Luxembourg, published a report this week examining how consumer habits have changed as a result of Covid-19 over the past 18 months. As restaurants and bars were forced to close during lockdown periods, food and drink expenses for home consumption rose by 23.1%, while the average sum spent on eating out dropped by 34%. The average spend on restaurant meals dropped by 39.8%, and bars and cafés saw a reduction of 62.2%, while takeaway and delivery services saw a 24.4% increase in the average spend. Fuel expenses dropped by 18.6% in 2020 as Luxembourg residents worked from home and home-schooled their children. Concerts, museums, and other cultural activities suffered as the average spend for the year dropped by almost €200. However, the average spend on bicycles and related items rose to €634, compared to just €129 in 2019.
WEDNESDAY 8 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 113 new resident cases, derived from 6,021 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 832. 40 individuals are in hospital, with 10 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.01. To date, 409,782 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 394,777 people have been fully vaccinated.
Luxembourg sent 8 ventilators to Nepal this week to assist in the fight against COVID-19. The equipment, which will be used to treat patients with respiratory problems, was delivered in response to Nepal’s request for support through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
Luxembourg City Mayor Lydie Polfer said she would not step down over the recent security dog attack in the Gare district. Ms Polfer stated at a press conference: “I will not resign because of drug dealers”. She referred to an increase in drug crime in the area and defended the decision to use security dogs, although the dog behind the bite will not be allowed out on the street until the investigation ends. The Left political party had called for both Ms Polfer and councilman Laurent Mosar’s resignation following the incident.
The LuxLeaks case continues, with the European Court of Human Rights having approved Raphaël Halet’s request for a new hearing. Mr Halet, a French national who worked for PwC Luxembourg, disclosed internal company documents to a journalist, leading to his being fined €1,000 in 2014. His appeal over freedom of expression was rejected by the ECHR in March this year. In June, he requested that his case be referred to the Grand Chamber – a request which has now been accepted.
Luxembourg published its first report on its pioneering sovereign sustainability bond. The government issued $1.5bn worth of such bonds in September 2020. The Finance Ministry said on Monday that the bonds had already offset 290,000 tonnes of CO2 over the past year.
The Ministry of Culture unveiled the programme for this year’s European Heritage Days. Over 50 inclusive and accessible events are taking place in Luxembourg from 24th September to 3rd October. Various guided tours, workshops, conferences and exhibitions are on the agenda, with the full programme available at www.europeanheritagedays.com.
The CinEast Film Festival is returning in hybrid mode next month. From 8th to 24th October, the festival is offering a mix of in-cinema and online screenings of 55 feature films and 35 short films, as well as a photo exhibition and concerts, representing 20+ former Eastern bloc countries. The full lineup will be presented later this month.
TUESDAY 7 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 143 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 9,310 tests. There were 2 new deaths over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 832. 39 individuals are in hospital, with 10 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.03. To date, 409,351 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 394,240 people have been fully vaccinated.
Germany and Luxembourg extended their teleworking agreement for cross-border workers until the end of 2021. The agreement, which was first introduced in April 2020, ensures that German residents working in Luxembourg may continue to work from home in the context of the pandemic without this affecting their tax base.
The City of Luxembourg council held a press conference clarifying the circumstances around a recent dog attack in the Gare district. On Saturday evening, a man was bitten by a dog owned by a private security firm. Inter-Actions guards were patrolling the area when a fight broke out between them and three men. According to Mayor Lydie Polfer, the man who was bit had been carrying a knife. He suffered a thigh injury and was taken to hospital where he caused disruption and ended up in a detention cell.
Seven new stores are set to open in Belval Plaza in the near future. Real estate investment company Firce Capital signed 8 new partnerships, including one with Saturn for a long-term lease of 25 years. The other 7 brands will arrive at the shopping centre for the first time, namely a Sidestep fashion footwear store, children’s clothes store Dida Kids, a Slumberland BD World comic book store, a Claire’s accessories store, professional hair product store La Boutique du Coiffeur, a Medi-Market pharmacy and a daycare facility. Most of the stores will open before the end of the year.
The Lëtzebuerger Filmpräis (Luxembourg film awards) are set to take place at the Grand Théâtre in Luxembourg City on 26th November. New categories this year include best music, best interpretation and best augmented reality. A list of nominees can be found at filmprais.lu. The 2020 edition of the award event was cancelled due to the pandemic.
MONDAY 6 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 121 new resident cases derived from 4,707 tests over the last 48 hours. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 830. 24 individuals are in hospital, with 9 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.98. To date, 408,174 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 393,031 people have been fully vaccinated.
Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn stated in an interview with RTL he was deeply disappointed with how other countries reacted to the refugee issue during the council of EU foreign ministers. The different responses that were provided by EU foreign ministers during the council shocked Asselborn and he has come to the conclusion that some EU member states no longer share the same European values as they once did. Several countries were in disagreement with Hungary and Austria being the top opposers, however Mr Asselborn said he found that the Austrian response was the most outrageous.
Multiple trees were cut down in an act of vandalism in Weiswampach on Saturday evening. The incident occurred the same night of the annual “Summernights” event which was organised by the local youth association. Police confirmed that 8 young trees were destroyed along Weilwerdangerstroos which was located next to the parking space of the event. In addition, parts of the crash barrier located on the same street were damaged the night before.
The Grand-Ducal Police reported a mugging and an attempted break-in occurred on Saturday. The victim of the mugging alerted police Saturday afternoon after they were assaulted by the unknown perpetrator. Officers caught the assailant soon after on Rue de Thionville after tracking and identifying him. The man faced an examining magistrate on Sunday morning. Saturday night, an attempted break-in took place in Bonnevoie at around 1 o’clock in the morning. When police arrived at the scene they found a broken window and saw two people fleeing the scene. They were caught and were also brought in front of an examining magistrate on Sunday morning.
A person had their bank card stolen from an atm by three assailants on Saturday morning. The incident occurred at around 10 am when the victim was withdrawing money from an atm in Käerjeng. One man spoke to the victim in Luxembourgish as a form of distraction while the two others took the card. The victim later noticed the card had been used to withdraw money several times and contacted the police. The perpetrators have not been caught.
FRIDAY 3 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 77 new resident cases derived from 4,648 tests over the last 24 hours. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 830. 27 individuals are in hospital, with 8 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.12. To date, 407,669 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 391,721 people have been fully vaccinated.
At yesterday’s press briefing, Minister of Education Claude Meisch and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert spoke about Covid measures for the new school term. Teachers and pupils in primary and secondary schools will not have to wear masks in the classroom, but they are required when moving around inside school buildings and on school transport. Primary school pupils must take two rapid tests per week at school, while secondary school students will have to take one at school and one at home. Vaccinated students, and those who have recovered from coronavirus, no longer need to quarantine. Minister Meisch said the CovidCheck system would not be implemented for schools, as it was deemed unsuitable for an obligatory activity which takes place daily. Maison Relais facilities require children to wear masks in groups of more than ten people. Minister Lenert said that 90% of teaching staff should be fully vaccinated by 15 September, as should 50% of the over-12s.
Ministers Sam Tanson, Taina Bofferding and Corinne Cahen yesterday announced plans to abandon the five-year residency requirement for foreigners living in Luxembourg to participate in municipal elections. Around 48% of Luxembourg’s population of 626,000 are foreigners, with the figure in Luxembourg City at around two thirds. Only a third of foreign nationals were able to vote in the 2017 communal elections but Minister Cahen said people would now be able to vote as soon as they arrived in their commune. The delay to register will be lengthened from 87 to 55 days before the ballot giving non-nationals an extra month to register to vote. The next municipal elections are scheduled for 11 June 2023.
In answer to a parliamentary question, public works and transport minister François Bausch said yesterday that, following the flooding in mid-July, around a third of the 217 bridges in Luxembourg had to be cleaned or repaired. The minister said that several bridges were closed as a precaution while damage was assessed, and stated that six bridges required repairs, while 24 bridges needed maintenance works and 47 had to be cleared of mud and debris. Bausch confirmed that all Luxembourg bridges met the recognised technical standards and safety requirements and were checked at regular intervals.
The General Directorate for Tourism revealed yesterday that the €50 hotel vouchers issued by the ministry in July last year had generated €6.6 million for hotels, B&Bs and campsites in Luxembourg. But, they added, of the 730,000 vouchers issued to Luxembourg residents and cross-border workers, only 18% – had been used and that the scheme would finish on 15 September. A survey carried out by the ministry showed that 62% of hotels and 86% of campsites in Luxembourg received more Luxembourg residents last year.
THURSDAY 2 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 144 new resident cases derived from 4,957 tests over the last 24 hours. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 830. 29 individuals are in hospital, with 8 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.06. To date, 407,226 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 391,721 people have been fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert held a press briefing yesterday regarding Luxembourg’s coronavirus situation. The ministers said that as all eligible residents had now had the chance to get the vaccine, free PCR tests for people attending CovidCheck events, or going away on holiday, would cease from 15 September. Prime Minister Bettel declared the current Covid measures would be extended until 18 October, with a few minor amendments to be announced. He warned case numbers were likely to grow as people returned from their holidays and the new school term, due to start soon. Minister Lenert said Luxembourg could expect a new wave of infections driven by people not yet vaccinated, posing a risk for the vulnerable, and those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. She said the Ministry would continue to look at why individuals are refusing the jab, and combat the circulation of false information regarding vaccines.
Following talks at an extraordinary summit in Brussels on Tuesday, Jean Asselborn called for the EU to take in refugees in addition to providing financial aid to help Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries.EU ministers had pledged to increase financial support for international organisations helping with the humanitarian crisis but stopped short of any agreement to take in refugees. Asselborn had proposed that the EU take in between 40,000 and 50,000 Afghans and reiterated in his speech in Brussels that the EU had a moral obligation to help and not abandon the refugees. EU ministers did however agree to Asselborn’s proposal to schedule a Resettlement Forum in September and finance the resettlement efforts of Afghans who are most vulnerable with a budget of €300 million for 2021-2022
Responding to a parliamentary question from the Left Party, Minister for Home Affairs Taina Bofferding and Minister for Housing Henri Kox said that only 15 municipalities had signed an agreement with the Ministry of Home Affairs to provide housing to beneficiaries of international protection or persons eligible for housing benefits.The ministers revealed that since 2015, just 30 homes had been made available in the 15 municipalities concerned, and that the Ministry of the Interior had paid €320,000 in subsidies in that time.
The national meteorological service released its analysis for the period of 1 June to 31 August yesterday, which showed that this summer was the second wettest since records began in 1854, with an average of 336mm of rain.Luxembourg’s wettest summer was in 1931. The torrential rain in mid-July contributed to the record rainfall, with some weather stations measuring an all-time high rainfall this summer. It was also 0.5 degrees celsius colder than previous summers, the agriculture ministry said, which has led to delays in the harvest.
WEDNESDAY 1 SEPTEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 88 new resident cases, derived from 5,435 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 830. 25 individuals are in hospital, with 7 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.07. To date, 406,565 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 390,909 people have been fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert are holding a press conference at 2pm today. They are set to discuss the preceding government council meeting. Further details are not yet known.
According to reports in other local media, primary schools are set to drop their mask obligation. Education Minister Claude Meisch presented the proposal to trade unions this week. The plan is to continue testing primary pupils twice a week, with masks only needing to be worn if a positive case is detected. Union representatives expressed concern over the proposal, which still requires approval at today’s government council meeting.
Luxembourg and Belgium signed several bilateral agreements during a summit in Kirchberg yesterday. These included the extension of teleworking for cross-border workers living in Belgium from 24 to 34 days, taxable in Luxembourg, from 2022, as well as an agreement on cross-border cooperation in crisis management, civil security and urgent medical aid matters.
The two governments also signed a treaty regulating the operation of the A400M aircraft within the new binational air transport unit, before adopting a declaration of intent on the creation of a common reconnaissance battalion.
The European Union’s statistics bureau said on Tuesday that prices in Luxembourg are expected to have risen by 3.5% this month, compared to the same month in 2020.
According to a Eurostat inflation estimate, prices in the 19-country Eurozone are set to increase by an average of 3% in August. The price rises are mainly driven by an annual increase in energy prices of 15.4% as well as a 2.7% increase in industrial goods and a 2% rise in food, alcohol and tobacco prices.
Auchan and SOS Villages d’Enfants Monde are relaunching their back-to-school charity initiative to support vulnerable children in Ethiopia. From now until 18th September, the Auchan hypermarkets are inviting customers to donate to an emergency aid programme dedicated to child protection and nutrition.
TUESDAY 31 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 155 new resident cases for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, derived from 9,692 tests. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 830. 25 individuals are in hospital, with 6 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.11. To date, 406,102 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 390,177 people have been fully vaccinated.
Summer School 2021 opened its doors in public schools across the country on Monday. Set up last year to support young people’s education during the pandemic, this initiative offers free revision classes to public primary and secondary school students ahead of the new school year. Over 7,200 students are enrolled this year – compared to around 5,900 in 2020. Face-to-face lessons are taking place until 10th September.
The Luxembourg and Belgian governments are meeting in the Grand Duchy later today. The meeting will be held under the joint presidency of Prime Ministers Xavier Bettel and Alexander de Croo. Its main focus will be bilateral issues, particularly in the areas of public health, energy, agriculture and crisis management, among others, as well as European policy and international relations. Government officials will also sign several bilateral agreements on this occasion.
The René Konen tunnel is set to be closed overnight this Thursday to Friday for safety tests. The tunnel will be closed to all traffic from 9pm on Thursday until 5am on Friday. Appropriate signs and detour routes will be put in place.
Luxexpo The Box is hosting a new end-of-summer lifestyle event next week. From 10th to 12th September, Long Live The Summer is offering various activities and over 100 exclusive shops. Visitors can discover and purchase sports equipment, plants and organic produce, clothing and second-hand books, among other items. The event will take place partly indoors, partly outdoors. Tickets are free but should be booked online at www.ltts.lu.
MONDAY 30 AUGUST
First a CoronaVirus Update: Recent predictions have been made that suggest we will soon see coronavirus infections jump to over 100 cases a day. Until mid-August, new Covid-19 infections in Luxembourg were on the decrease, however the last two weeks have painted a different picture with cases returning back to the same levels as in late July. The researchers of the Covid-19 task force stated in their latest report that despite the many vaccinations, the health system should be prevented from getting overwhelmed and this can be achieved through careful social interaction, sanitary measures, contact tracing and large scale testing. These factors are all important in keeping the spread of the virus under control.
A demonstration concerning recent developments in Afghanistan took place in Kirchberg at 5pm on Friday. The protest was to demonstrate against the recognition of the Taliban government and the organisers urged that people whose lives are in danger should be given a humanitarian visa. They also called for Afghans who currently reside in Luxembourg to be granted refugee status. Farid Azizi, member of Afghan-Lux Community Outreach does not agree with Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn’s argument that a European solution should be found for those who have been refused international protection. Azizi believes that Luxembourg does not need to wait on other nations to act on the situation as they are an independent country. According to official statistics, around 700 Afghans reside in Luxembourg, however Afghan-Lux Community Outreach believes the number is closer to 1,500 to 1,800
On the 18th of August, non-profit organisation Eran, eraus… an elo? expressed their concern regarding the visiting rights in the prison during the pandemic, and stated that they could have serious mental health implications for prisoners. Lawyer Frédéric Mioli expresses the same concerns in the open letter stating that the prisoner he represents has been separated from his daughter for over 15 months due to these harsh restrictions. Mioli argues in the letter that the father should be able to establish a paternal bond with his daughter who is currently 31 months old. So far Mr Mioli has not received any answers yet to his client’s complaints.
The Luxembourgish emergency services reported two accidents and two fires which took place on Saturday night. The first car collision occurred between Rambrouch and Grevels. The driver lost control of his car and crashed his vehicle into a tree leaving one person injured. The second accident took place at the Esplanade in Diekirch where two cars collided shortly before 9 pm. Two people were left injured from the collision. A fire broke out in Insenborn shortly after 5:20 pm and flames were also reported in Steinheim and fortunately, no one was injured in either incident.
Minister of Education Claude Meisch has stated that around 87% of all teaching staff have been vaccinated and he also added that every second adolescent over 12 years old has received their first jab. Meisch announced that consultation meetings between representatives of the Ministry of health and all schools will take place to ensure a sanitary concept can be finalised across all schools to get a smooth start to the academic year.
The economic crisis from the last years, topped by the COVID-19 crisis, has put additional strain and closure of many small businesses in areas which were once the commercial centre of the town. This has not only affected the commerce and retail sector, but also the hospitality and cultural businesses. The project Letz Retail, with the support of the European Commission aims to provide an answer to those challenges. Its learning programme is tailored for owners, managers and self-employed persons of small retail, commerce, hospitality, and cultural/creative businesses in commercial areas in decay. Free online course that the partnership Letz Retail (Erasmus+) has prepared can be found at www.letzretail.eu.
FRIDAY 27 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 130 new resident cases derived from 3,954 tests over the last 24 hours. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 830. 26 individuals are in hospital, with 5 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.11. To date, 404,559 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 388,013 people have been fully vaccinated.
Health Minister Paulette Lenert said yesterday that Luxembourg’s vaccination campaign will remain voluntary and the government would not force healthcare workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 even if hospitals make getting the jab a condition of employment. Last month, the president of The Federation of Luxembourg Hospitals urged the government to make vaccines compulsory for healthcare workers after a mandatory testing requirement for care homes and hospitals was dropped from legislation last month. Ms Lenert said the existing compliance efforts should convince health workers that the vaccines are the best protection for themselves and for the vulnerable people they care for.
In a press release, the Luxembourg Consumer Association yesterday expressed disappointment that there are insufficient rooms available in Luxembourg’s retirement and nursing homes.The Association claims to regularly receive messages complaining about the waiting times in Luxembourg’s retirement and nursing homes – a situation they deem unacceptable and therefore call on the government to act The Association’s President, Nico Hoffmann, highlighted cases where people are forced to wait months or more than a year before a room becomes available, and said the problem is that there are not enough rooms available for which he blamed the government for failing to account for increased life expectancy nowadays. The Association demanded the construction of additional retirement and nursing homes, which should have the required sanitary installations, and further called for increased transparency to allow people to better compare the different homes against each other.
In response to a parliamentary question from the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party, Minister of Justice Sam Tanson wrote yesterday that the number of people sentenced to community service by the courts fell from 182 in 2019 to 148 in 2020.Ms Tanson said this number has been progressively increasing since 2016, when 118 community service sentences were issued, except for last year – a change caused by the coronavirus forcing many institutions to reduce outsiders’ access to their premises. Community service sentences are issued by a court for offences that carry a prison sentence of less than six months. The unpaid work is carried out in public bodies, institutions, associations, or hospitals.
According to a White House statement released this week, Thomas Barrett has been named as the “Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg”. Barrett has been Mayor of Milwaukee since 2004, and is the longest-serving big city mayor in the US. He has also served five terms as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives and was a State Senator and State Representative in Wisconsin. The statement adds that Barrett has also served as chair of the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Cities Initiative, and spearheaded multiple initiatives to clean up rivers, parks, and brownfields. If appointed, he will succeed Randy Evans who stood down as Ambassador at the handover of power to the Biden administration.
The Luxembourg City Business Federation has announced the traditional street market – the Braderie – will start from Monday with 230 merchantsin the Ville-Haute and Gare neighbourhoods “in its traditional form” including the return of twenty food stalls. The municipality of Luxembourg City yesterday confirmed many activities such as table football, ping pong, pony cycling, and yoga, while the Federation announced the return of stands managed by associations active in Luxembourg and elsewhere. The only covid restriction in place is that a mask must be worn if the 2-metre interpersonal distance is not possible
THURSDAY 26 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 96 new resident cases derived from 4,121 over the last 24 hours. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 830. 22 individuals are in hospital, with 5 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.08. To date, 404,063 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 387,266 people have been fully vaccinated.
At yesterday’s press conference, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, Minister of Defense François Bausch and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Jean Asselborn, spoke about recent developments regarding Afghanistan, July’s flooding and the coronavirus situation in Luxembourg.
Regarding Afghanistan, Minister Asselborn said that 7 out of the 9 people on Luxembourg’s list extracted from Afghanistan had now landed in Belgium, while 2 others had landed elsewhere in Europe. He added that Luxembourg authorities were helping to extract two families, and a Doctors Without Borders medical practitioner. Mr Asselborn added that anyone who has not yet left Kabul will have a very difficult time as the security situation is worsening every hour. Ministers Bausch and Asselborn both expressed satisfaction with European cooperation in the military operation in Afghanistan. However, both ministers were critical of the lack of solidarity within Europe relating to offering refuge to people from Afghanistan. Mr Asselborn said it was pathetic that the British and the Canadians want to take in 20,000 Afghans each, while the EU states cannot bring themselves to a common commitment. The EU is discussing whether to provide humanitarian support to Afghanistan’s neighbors so that they can take care of refugees fleeing the Taliban. Mr Asselborn however stressed the need for humanitarian aid to reach those within Afghanistan, where it is most urgently needed. The EU finances a total of more than 20 non-governmental organizations in Afghanistan and 75 percent of hospitals and schools depend on international aid.
Concerning the floods, Prime Minister Bettel said reports on the management of this crisis were completed and that relevant authorities would be looking at how to stop similar floods in the future. He claimed the flood damage has cost an estimated €49 million, adding that government aid will be increased to €100 million if necessary. Mr. Bettel said the Gouvalert app will be improved and that other options to warn residents were being looked at.
With regards to coronavirus, Prime Minister Bettel said the situation continues to be stable, although a spike in infections is expected after holidaymakers return and schools begin. Mr. Bettel said that the Delta variant still accounts for over 93% of infections, and claimed there is a possibility that the current Covid measures will be extended again.
The Labour and Mines Inspectorate confirmed yesterday that they had detected 34 infractions from 185 checks carried out on building companies between the end of July and 23 August – the period when the construction sector takes its collective annual leave. Six companies were forced to stop working because they had not been given special authorisation to continue working and 10 construction sites were shut for non-compliance with health and safety regulations. Two companies were made to pay fines of €7,500 and €2,500 for employing non-EU workers without a residence permit.
The Water Management Authority announced yesterday that it had analysed samples of water taken from the Remerschen Lakes and determined that the level of blue algae was high enough that humans and animals should not swallow it. Therefore, swimming in the Remerschen Lakes was banned but all other beaches and swimming spots remain accessible.
In the last month, over 1,000 drivers have been caught out by the new traffic light radar at Place de l’Etoile according to Luxemburger Wort. 580 ignored the red light while 480 were speeding. Another 36 combined both offences by speeding through the red light. Further radars are to be installed near the church in Hollerich and at Schlammestee between Frisange and Alzingen.
WEDNESDAY 25 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 86 new resident cases derived from 5,115 tests in the last 24 hours. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 830. 18 individuals are in hospital, with 5 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.13. To date, 403,417 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 386,473 people have been fully vaccinated.
According to Luxembourg’s foreign ministry eight people from Luxembourg managed to reach Kabul airport safely. A family with three children and three men were able to enter the airport in the early hours of 24th of August and this means that every Luxembourgish national and resident are accounted for and ready for evacuation. Luxembourg sent the army’s A400m aircraft from Belgium to Islamabad on the 18th of August to rescue EU citizens stuck in Afghanistan. The aircraft brought back 93 EU citizens in its first rescue mission in which the Luxembourgers were not on board. A press conference with the Prime Minister, Transport Minister & Foreign Minister is expected today at noon to address the situation in Afghanistan.
A fire broke out in the underground walkway of Luxembourg gare which triggered the fire alarm. At around 5.30 pm the alarm was set off due to large amounts of smoke and firefighters rushed to the scene. The incident disrupted railway traffic, but CFL stated that operations would gradually resume, however the delays were expected to continue into the evening.
Luxembourg’s ministry of finance has confirmed that they want to enforce sustainable change in the financial sector. Participants from Germany, Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland and Lichtenstein met up at this year’s meeting of the German-speaking finance ministers in Lichtenstein and the 23rd and 24th of August to discuss the future of the financial sector. Luxembourg’s Minister of Finance, Pierre Gramegna, represented the Grand Duchy during the meeting in Vaduz. In the area of sustainable finance, Minister Gramegna called for the financial actors to be further involved in the process of change and for the problem of “stranded assets” to be tackled proactively.
Ministers Bettel and Bofferding announced that the national warning systems for natural disasters are being revised. In case of natural disasters, the government wants to be able to reach the maximum number of people by sending warnings through more communication channels. A task force is currently revising the current warning system app that is in place and claims it needs to be complemented by other mechanisms. The Ministry of Home Affairs is working closely with the State Information Technology Center to provide a solid project to allow for a number of respective reforms to be carried out by mid 2022. The system would be compatible with other European warning systems.
The Grand Ducal Police have announced that the driver responsible for the serious accident which occurred on Monday morning in Kirchberg had a positive drug test. According to preliminary information, the driver hit two vehicles before crashing into a tree, causing the car to be airborne and flipping onto its roof. The driver of the vehicle was injured and according to emergency services, two other people were also injured in the collision.
TUESDAY 24 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 145 new resident cases derived from 9,950 tests for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 830. 20 individuals are in hospital, with 5 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.16. To date, 403,156 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 383,824 people have been fully vaccinated.
In Afghanistan, the fate of Nine Luxembourg residents, including a family with three children, remains unclear. A Defence Ministry spokesperson said yesterday that they did not have any information about Luxembourgers being on any flights out of Kabul airport. Foreign minister Jean Asselborn said “Everything is being done to get them out.”
Lawyers specialising in international protection came together last week to discuss the dramatic situation in Afghanistan and how it relates to those already seeking protection in Luxembourg. Franck Greff, lawyer and president of the immigration and international protection commission of the Luxembourg Bar said a document will be issued by the bar with maximum relevant information to facilitate the work of lawyers who defend the cases of Afghan applicants for international protection. Lawyers and organisations specialising in international protection and immigration are asking the ministry to re-evaluate all files in the light of the current situation in Afghanistan. Over the past few years the ministry in charge of asylum had started to view Afghanistan as a safe place and fewer applicants from Afghanistan were granted asylum. In 2020, for example, 61% of international protection decisions were refusals, compared to 7% in 2019 and 0% in 2018.
The Luxembourgish branch of Greenpeace yesterday issued a statement demanding that the government’s pension fund no longer invest into fossil fuels. The organisation pointed to the recently published IPCC report and urged Minister of Social Security Romain Schneider to bring the pension fund’s investment strategy in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. They further demanded a complete halt on investments into fossil fuels, saying “The government’s credibility is on the line.” The statement also criticised the frequency at which the fund is to be checked for its CO2 intensity. Myrna Koster – Climate Justice and Liability Campaigner at Greenpeace Luxembourg said there was an increase of investments into dirty coal in 2020 despite 47% of Luxembourgish residents opposing the move.
A report published by the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research claims the recession experienced by Luxembourg in the second quarter of last year was unique in that the negative effect on women was greater than on men. The report says that women were more likely to be in less protected part-time jobs, and that many reduced their working hours because of childcare needs caused by school and nursery closures. Another factor is that a large number of women were employed in low and medium waged jobs, rather than managerial roles – which were easier to transfer to remote working – increasing the likelihood of women being laid off, furloughed or having their formal working hours reduced. Women were also over-represented in jobs that were hardest hit by lock-downs and social-distancing measures including the hospitality and tourism sectors.
Despite being one of the richest countries in the world, Luxembourg will receive €460,000 from the European Commission to help provide basic needs such as food, clothes and toiletries to the poorest households across the EU. More than 71,600 people in the Grand Duchy have relied on the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived programme to receive their most basic needs over the past seven years and, since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, more people have requested help. Lobby groups point to Luxembourg’s housing market, where the average household spends 35% of its income on housing, as a particular risk for single-parent families and couples with more than three children falling into poverty. A survey carried out in June showed that only 19% of participants thought the government was doing a good job of reducing poverty in Luxembourg.
MONDAY 23 AUGUST I’m Petur Eggertsson
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 63 new resident cases derived from 3,702 tests on Friday. There has been 1 new death, with the death toll standing at 830. 21 individuals are in hospital, with 3 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.08. To date, 401,988 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 383,824 people have been fully vaccinated.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean Asselborn has reiterated that everything is being done to repatriate the Luxembourg nationals and residents trapped in Afghanistan. However, it is understood that the evacuees have so far been unable to reach the airport due to the chaos on the ground in Kabul, as Taliban forces and droves of evacuees block the airport of the Afghan capital. The rescue mission is being overseen by the Belgian air force. Sophie Wilmes of the Belgian Foreign ministry tweeted on Saturday, that a C130 plane ferried 80 people out of Kabul and a second flight brought over 170 people to Pakistan. Most of the people are understood to be Belgian or Dutch. The evacuation process is being hampered because a number of access points to the airport have been closed due to bomb threats. Furthermore, two or three access points are understood to now be under the control of the Taliban. The turnaround time of the planes between landing and takeoff is currently estimated at 15 minutes, this alone makes the processing of evacuees extremely difficult. Mr Asselborn said on Saturday, that French, German and Belgian counterparts have been alerted and are willing to help with the evacuation process once the group reaches the airport.
Meanwhile, Afghans in Luxembourg are deeply concerned for their loved ones, worrying that them leaving the country has increased the danger for their families. There are many Afghans In Luxembourg who are awaiting papers, or who have been refused refugee status, who do not know what the future will hold for them. Amnesty International issued a statement on Thursday highlighting the danger that ethnic and minorities are exposed to under Taliban rule. The organisation stated that media attention on Kabul is detracting from what is happening in the rest of the country.
A woman alerted the police on Friday afternoon that her ex-partner was threatening her life. The man made threats by phone and therefore his location was quickly determined and officers were able to find and detain him soon after. Police searched the man’s apartment confiscating knives and electronic equipment. The man appeared on Saturday in front of an examining magistrate.
The Schueberfouer which now holds the name fun um Glacis got underway on Saturday. The fair was officially inaugurated at 11am. 15 attractions are on the Glacis this year with security checks taking place to see how many people are on site at any one time. There are five small entrances to the funfair area and masks must be worn as this is not subject to CovidCheck regulations. The second, smaller location, located by the Gelle Fra is where people can buy food and drinks. Fun um Glacis will take place until 12 September. Attractions and food stands are open every day between 11am and 11pm.
FRIDAY 20 AUGUST – I’m SIMON CLARIDGE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 63 new resident cases derived from 3,702 tests over the last 24 hours. There has been 1 new death, with the death toll standing at 830. 25 individuals are in hospital, with 5 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.07. To date, 401,351 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 382,305 people have been fully vaccinated.
The Directorate for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Action of Luxembourg’s Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs confirmed this week that it will continue to support cooperation efforts in Afghanistan despite recent events in which the Taliban has taken control. In 2021, Luxembourg has funded €2.35 million worth of projects in the field of humanitarian aid. Luxembourg Cooperation projects are being reassessed by its on-site partners in order to determine their feasibility but it hopes to keep its commitments and remain alongside the Afghan population, especially women and girls. They hope that support will be maintained and reach the poorest populations while excluding any link with the Taliban.
In response to a parliamentary enquiry from the CVS party, Minister of Education Claude Meisch reported that three nurseries lost their licenses in mid July. The “Butzestuff” in Gasperich and in Belair, as well as “Babillou” in Luxembourg City are operated by the same company, which is still in charge of four others. The nursery operator did not explain the reason for the closures,and the case is being brought to court, which means no other details can be disclosed. A member of the Ministry of Education, explained that the Ministry had been in contact with the nurseries for more than two years regarding national standards in terms of space per children, as well as hygiene.
Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg said yesterday that around 40,000 people have applied for government subsidies to help them buy an electric bike since June last year, with purchases more than doubling most months.The aid covers both electric and non-electric bikes, and provides half of the cost of the bike up to a maximum of €600, and aims to encourage more people to cycle and support local bike shops. Since the introduction of the scheme, the number of people buying electric bikes has risen from just under 1,000 each month to just under 6,000 people in March this year. The high number of people applying for the subsidies means that over 10,000 people are currently waiting for their demands to be processed.
The Kinepolis group which owns cinemas in Luxembourg yesterday reported a net loss of €46 million in the first half of 2021 as only a quarter of its pre-pandemic visitors returned to the movies.In June, only half as many people went to the cinema as in the same month in 2019, a record year for the company, while last month the cinemas hosted 62% of their July 2019 figures.
According to the UK price comparison website Comparethemarket.com, Luxembourgish residents enjoy the fourth longest retirement period among the world’s wealthier countries. Workers in the grand duchy spend an average of 23.66 years in retirement – behind France (24.8 years), Spain (24.15) and Greece (24.1). Among the other countries in the report, Germany ranked 14th, the UK 17th, Ireland 18th and the US 27th.
THURSDAY 19 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 76 new resident cases derived from 4,278 tests over the last 24 hours. There has been 1 new death, with the death toll standing at 829. 27 individuals are in hospital, with 5 of those in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.06. To date, 400,727 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 382,305 people have been fully vaccinated.
Yesterday, Minister for Home Affairs Taina Bofferding and Minister of the Economy Franz Fayot announced that one volunteer firefighter will be “deployed” to help the Haitian population, currently suffering the consequences of last Saturday’s earthquake. The ministers said they were responding “to an official request for international assistance from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs”. The firefighter will join an expert group to collect, analyse, and distribute information. The Luxembourg Red Cross has announced that it will send five rescue workers on Friday.
A NATO spokesperson yesterday again requested that the Luxembourg government “rectify” information in a government press release that mentioned a rescue mission of NATO personnel from Afghanistan, which the military alliance claimed was classified. The NATO spokesperson also asked for the information to be removed by media outlets from their stories. The Luxembourg Times declined NATO’s request and the information was also still visible on the websites of radio 100.7 and TV broadcaster RTL yesterday afternoon. Luxembourg’s foreign ministry did not correct the original emailed press release because, they said, “the information was already out there,” but the ministry did take out the sensitive passage when it posted the statement on its website.
The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs said yesterday that Minister Jean Asselborn had participated in an extraordinary meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Tuesday devoted to the situation in Afghanistan. The meeting addressed the subject of evacuations of European nationals as well as local Afghan employees in embassies and international missions, and Minister Asselborn insisted that the Union had a moral obligation to assist those who have helped us steadfastly on the ground. Minister Asselborn restated his position that the European Union had to clearly demand that the next legitimate Afghan government be inclusive and representative, and that it was imperative that the rights of women, girls, children and minorities were guaranteed and respected in Afghanistan.
Responding to a parliamentary question from the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party, Minister of Education Claude Meisch said yesterday that secondary school years would continue to be organised in semesters – a pattern introduced during the pandemic to reduce stress. Luxembourg’s primary schools will continue to be divided into trimesters, while schools in the preparational stream will get to choose how they want to divide the school year. Minister Meisch added no final decision on how to organise future school years had been reached, and that his Ministry would carry out surveys on the subject over the upcoming year.
In a press release, the Environment Agency yesterday confirmed that occasionally people bring explosives to the country’s recycling centres because they don’t know how to dispose of them properly. The Agency stated that only last week, some Second World War ammunition exploded at one of their sites prompting them to remind residents of the steps to take when explosives, mines, or ammunition are found in Luxembourg. If ammunition is discovered, people should not touch it and contact SEDAL, the bomb squad of Luxembourg’s army, by calling 26 33 22-27. The police are also available seven days a week and will intervene as soon as possible to remove or destroy the discovered ammunition.
WEDNESDAY 18 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 89 new resident cases derived from 5,864 tests over the last 24 hours. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 828. 21 individuals are in hospital, with 6 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.88. To date, 400,132 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 381,296 people have been fully vaccinated.
Luxembourg’s defense ministry stated yesterday that they are working alongside Belgium in preparing evacuation flights from Kabul. Since the Taliban seized control of the capital, International communities have worked hard to evacuate diplomats, aid workers, staff and other residents. Luxembourg and the Belgian military are sending their transport aircraft to evacuate 4 Luxembourgish nationals and 2 residents who are currently stuck in the city. Airbus delivered the aircraft to the Luxembourgish army back in October 2020 but it is kept in Belgium and forms a bi-national unit together with the Belgian air force.
The health directorate is changing their COVID-19 testing strategy and will be utilising antibody tests to see the amount of protection an individual has against the virus. Each week the directorate will invite 4,000 people to undertake antibody tests to get a better understanding of the level of immunity that the Luxembourgish public has. Dr Jean-Claude Schmit stated that the positive antibody tests will not be considered as a valid alternative to the CovidCheck system which is currently in place. Dr Schmit also emphasised that people who contracted the virus in the last six months can opt for getting a second shot of the vaccine. At this time he does not believe that a third jab will be necessary, especially for children.
The Pétange district has been experiencing recurring floods due to insufficient drainage systems. The retention basin, which was built to protect citizens in the district, has not been able to hold back floods since 2016. Pétange inhabitants claim that cellar and garage flooding are a common occurrence and that on three occasions, huge masses of water have poured in causing a lot of damage to their property. The ditches which are located around the retention basin have not been cleared of vegetation to allow for water to flow into the main basin forcing the locals to take the matters into their own hands. Alderman of Pétange, Jean-Marie Halsdorf states he has known about this issue for a long time and that municipal authorities want to help to solve the issue.
Luxembourg Red Cross yesterday announced they are sending a team of five emergency workers to Haiti to help with rescue efforts after the earthquake. In Haiti, rescue work following the earthquake which struck on Saturday has been hampered by heavy rains from a Tropical Storm. At least 1,419 people are known to have died in the 7.2-magnitude quake. More than 6,900 were injured, and an unknown number are still missing. Treatment of the survivors has been difficult because many of the hospitals could collapse. A number of the Luxembourg team have been on mission in Haiti before.
Those who are able to help the victims of the earthquake are asked to donate via The Luxembourg Red Cross and make the donation to Haiti 2021. Account Details can be found on ara.lu or aracityradio.com or directly at www.croix-rouge.lu
TUESDAY 17 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 95 new resident cases derived from 10,460 tests for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There have been no new deaths, with the death toll standing at 828. 25 individuals are in hospital, with 6 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.81. To date, 399,791 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 379,995 people have been fully vaccinated.
Youth for Climate Luxembourg announced yesterday that it will hold a nationwide climate strike on Friday 24 September 2021. The organisation’s press release pointed to the recent floods experienced in Luxembourg and other affected areas, saying they were only a small part of the worldwide destruction and chaos that the climate crisis is causing. The press release stated that Youth for Climate Luxembourg were organising the strike because they had had enough of the government’s half-hearted, ineffective political action. The statement concluded that the strike day was to demand that the government undertake their responsibility to avoid further catastrophes and to leave our a liveable future behind.
Responding to a parliamentary enquiry yesterday, Minister for Family Affairs and Integration Corinne Cahen provided statistics that show nearly 6,000 rooms and 6,400 beds are being offered across more than 50 retirement homes. But 271 of the rooms, spread across seven different homes, have no individual toilet, while 495 rooms across ten different homes lack a personal shower. Care homes in Niederkorn, Rumelange, Differdange, and Vianden are most affected. There has been a requirement for care homes to install rooms with personal bathrooms of at least five square metres and equipped with a shower, toilet, and sink for eleven years, Minister Cahen further conveyed.
Speaking to RTL yesterday, MP Claude Wiseler of the Christian Social People’s Party expressed satisfaction over the current coronavirus situation but expressed doubt that it would remain this way in September. Wiseler suggested four coronavirus related proposals that he wanted implemented. The MP wanted a study looking into the distribution, and control of coronavirus incidents in senior and care homes, and to start planning the implementation of the CovidCheck system in schools. The MP also wanted to ensure that hospitals continue to operate without postponing non-urgent treatment, and to discuss new pandemic laws. Wiseler also said that the idea of taxing the businesses seen as “winners” of the pandemic would be difficult to implement and noted that doing so would make Luxembourg less attractive to successful businesses.
Speaking to the Luxemburger Wort this week, the assistant director of Luxembourg’s water management authority said that although monitoring pollution spills was absolutely necessary, the water management office did not have the resources to monitor every construction site. Luxembourg has experienced a large number of pollution spills into rivers over the past few past years. The latest incident happened in May at a construction site in Howald which saw concrete spill into a sewer pipe forcing sewage into the river Drosbach for six days before it was noticed.
According to a recent study carried out by Deloitte Luxembourg, the construction industry is continuing to grow despite facing several challenges. The first obstacle is the scarcity of raw materials and the subsequent rise in prices – a problem that the global health crisis has intensified – causing a risk of a mismatch between the order and the actual cost of projects. The second challenge is the lack of manpower, with Deloitte saying the arduousness of the job makes the sector less attractive and forcing companies to rely on foreign labour. Finally, the profitability of Luxembourg’s construction market has brought in companies from neighbouring countries and increasing competition for local companies.
MONDAY 16 AUGUST
First a CoronaVirus update for Luxembourg: On Friday 13 August 2021, Luxembourg’s Ministry of Health reported 50 new COVID-19 infections from a total of 6,138 tests carried out the day before. The positivity rate was 0.81%. A total of 21 people are in hospital with the virus, including six patients in intensive care. There was one additional death on Thursday.
According to LNS; the national laboratory for health, there are currently three variants of Sars-CoV-2 circulating in the grand duchy. During the last week of July, the laboratory tested 266 samples out of 439 tests that week. 81% were of the Delta variant, the laboratory also detected the Gamma variant at 18.1% and Alpha 0.9% .
Former Minister of the Economy and deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider’s consulting company reported profits of more than €200,000 after he left politics last year. Mr Schneider a member of the LSAP, the Luxembourg Socialist Workers Party, established the company after leaving politics in February 2020. Since then Mr Schneider has taken executive board positions at ArcelorMittal, Russian conglomerate Sistema, property developer Besix and engineering firm Jan De Nul. Under a government ethics code, former members cannot use insider information gained during their time in office in any private sector role for two years, however there are questions as to how this can possibly be enforced. A non-governmental ethics committee, The Group of States Against Corruption (Greco), an anti-corruption watchdog under the Council of Europe, criticised Luxembourg, saying ministers should be banned from holding any executive director positions for two years following office.
On Friday, the Grand Ducal Police reported that, at around 10:00AM a machine being used for forestry work caught fire after an explosion. The incident happened in a wooded area near Pütscheid. The fire had been triggered by a buried explosive device, which was war ammunition from the Second World War. None of the workers involved were injured. The workers immediately reported the incident and fire services arrived to to extinguish the fire.
Russian broadcaster, RT, has failed to secure a licence for its German-language channel in Luxembourg. The Luxembourg Times reported on Friday that government representatives responded that “Germany was in charge of the matter, not the Grand Duchy”. RT – formerly known as Russia Today –had sought a licence to broadcast its German language channel from Luxembourg to circumvent a German ban on broadcasts from foreign state-funded companies. RT’s English-language channel is already available on Luxembourg TV.
On Saturday, three people were injured after their hot air balloon caught fire in Consdorf The incident happened on Rue Kuelscheier. Emergency services from Larochette, Echternach and Consdorf were present at the scene of the accident.
Luxembourgish cyclist Ralph ‘Dizzy’ Diseviscourt has broken two world records in long-distance outdoor track cycling. Following last year’s race in Vianden, Dizzy beat his own 24-hour distance on a cycling track by twelve kilometres. The new record for now stands at 927 kilometres. A second record was also broken during the race, namely the fastest time to complete 500 miles: 20 hours, 41 minutes, and twelve seconds. The former record stood at 21 hours, one minute, and 44 seconds.
FRIDAY 13 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 47 new resident cases derived from 3,287 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 827. 19 individuals are in hospital, with 6 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.89. To date, 398,474 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 375,511 people have been fully vaccinated.
Minister of Health Paulette Lenert yesterday confirmed that a small number of people in Luxembourg have already received a third shot of the coronavirus vaccine. The Minister explained the doses were given based on the advice given by the Superior Council of Infectious Diseases. Ms Lenert said that only people with significant immune weaknesses would benefit from a third shot, adding that further analysis from the CSMI had been requested to see whether to extend the offer of booster shots to other people within the vulnerable category, such as the elderly. The government will discuss the matter after the analysis is concluded with a view to implementing any changes from September. The minister confirmed that the validity of vaccination certificates is not limited to a certain period of time, despite possible third doses in the future.
The British union, Unite, has alleged that Amazon made €16.2bn in sales in the United Kingdom in 2019, but attributed 60% of those profits – some €9.7bn – to its Luxembourg-based companies. Unite’s report also claims that Amazon reported €57bn of its total revenue in Luxembourg suggesting that profit-shifting is taking place. If the figures reported pertain only to sales made in Luxembourg, then the average resident would have had to spend €93,000 with Amazon in 2019. An Amazon spokesperson called the estimate wildly inaccurate. Unite is calling for an investigation into Amazon’s tax bill.
A petition calling for the abolition of taxation on bonuses and wages paid for the thirteenth month has gathered nearly 5,000 signatures passing the threshold to qualify for debate by MPs in the Chamber. Taxation of these sums is usually much higher than taxes applied to a regular salary causing large differences between gross remuneration and the net pay actually received by the employee. The petition argues that “a bonus granted to an employee for their merit and dedication to their work and company should not be taxed.” A date for the petition’s debate in the Chamber has not yet been set.
The head of the Me-Mo mediation service has said that quarrelling with neighbours over issues such as noise and untended gardens has become more common since the start of the pandemic. Astrid Glod, speaking to Luxemburger Wort, said that from 2019 to 2020 the mediation service, which administers to 24 councils and 130,000 residents, saw an increase of 40 to 45% more neighbourhood disputes than in previous years, and added that she expects another increase this year. Noise is a recurring issue, which increased during the pandemic as people spent more time working from home and homeschooling children Furthermore, many people took advantage of the pandemic to carry out renovation works in their homes. Glod also pointed to the mental strain that Covid-19 and restrictions have put on people, which meant their patience and tolerance wear thin more quickly. Most disputes are resolved, Glod said, with a simple conversation, before other measures become necessary…
THURSDAY 12 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 61 new resident cases derived from 5,052 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 827. 17 individuals are in hospital, with 6 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.95. To date, 397,995 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 373,671 people have been fully vaccinated.
In yesterday’s press briefing regarding the current Covid-19 situation, Minister of Health Paulette Lenert said that things have stabilised in Luxembourg. Hospital admissions have decreased this week, as has the number of unvaccinated people testing positive for the virus. Vaccine uptake is rising steadily with 72.4% of residents having received at least one dose, while 67.5% are now fully vaccinated. GP surgeries providing vaccination jabs have proved successful, with another 74 GPs offering the service this week and a further 100 from Monday. Vaccine centres will be phased out, starting from 17 August, while the Victor Hugo Hall will continue with walk-in appointments from 30 August. Consultations are still ongoing about whether to vaccinate children, or offer booster shots.
Luxembourg’s Prison administration reported that a fire broke out at Schrassig prison yesterday afternoon after an inmate set fire to his cell.One inmate was transferred to Kirchberg Hospital and nine prison officers also attended for medical check-ups following smoke inhalation.All relevant authorities attended the scene and the Judicial Police Service have been tasked with investigating the specific origin of the fire.
CHL director Romain Nati, speaking on Radio 100,7 yesterday morning said that the hospital will now only employ people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Nati claimed he had no other ethical choice than requiring a vaccine from new employees and that he expected the decision to be challenged in court. Health Minister Paulette Lenert said that although the government had no position on this, it did support the move.Speaking to Tagesspiegel this week, Luxembourg foreign minister Jean Asselborn said that he opposed the decision by six EU countries to continue deporting asylum seekers to Afghanistan as the Taliban continue to increase their hold on the country following the withdrawal of Nato troops. Writing to the European Commission, Germany, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Greece claimed stopping deportations might encourage more people from Afghanistan to seek asylum in the EU.Asselborn thinks that discussing the deportation of Afghan asylum seekers at this point in time is inappropriate, arguing that there was no guarantee that those affected wouldn’t fall into the hands of the Taliban.
WEDNESDAY 11 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 42 new resident cases derived from 4,306 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 825. 15 individuals are in hospital, with 6 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.98. To date, 397,601 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 371,611 people have been fully vaccinated. Health Minister Paulette Lenert is scheduled to host a press conference this morning, however no new restrictions are expected at this time.
Consumption of coal by EU member states has decreased by 35% in 2020 compared to 2018. Luxembourg however, saw an increase in coal consumption due to industrial demand and according to statistics burnt 2.6% more coal last year than in 2018. The European Union used a third less fuel compared to Luxembourg. Burning coal is the leading contributor to human induced climate change and according to a recent report published by Eurostat, statistics show that the steel industry in the Grand Duchy accounted for almost all the increase in hard coal usage between 2018 and 2020.
A person was assaulted near the Pont Grande-Duchesse Charlotte tram stop at around 1 o’clock early Tuesday morning. The victim had serious injuries from knife cuts and was then admitted to Kirchberg hospital. Police were notified of the incident and a special police unit was dispatched and were able to track down and arrest a suspect on Tuesday morning in Strassen. The man was to stand in front of a judge Tuesday afternoon.
Meteorologist for the Ministry of Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development Andrew Ferrone revealed in an interview with RTL that Luxembourg is likely to experience more heavy rains and flooding in the foreseeable future. The expert stated that by 2030, temperatures are set to increase by 1.5 degrees celsius and that with every degree, humidity increases by 7% causing heavy rainfalls and flooding to be much more frequent. Ferrone also claimed however that it is not too late for damage control and that it can be achieved through decreasing carbon dioxide emissions across the board of industrial sectors.
The Luxembourg Regulatory Institute (ILR) has reported an increase in the number of disputes between customers and suppliers. Last year, 134 mediation demand queries were made in total, compared to the 80 demands that have been made this year alone. The ILR has been offering this service since 2011, however has seen a major increase in recent years. They claim that most issues arose from the communications sector, but that complaints from the postal service are on the incline.
The annual meteor showers are expected to light up the sky between the 10th and 15th of August. Every year, pieces of the Swift-Tuttle comet cross the earth’s orbit and when it reacts with the molecules in the atmosphere, it produces light. It is speculated that the night of the 12th and 13th of August between 3 and 4 AM will be the prime time to spot the shooting stars. On average, around 110 shooting stars can be spotted per hour. Due to the health restrictions however the Association of Amateur Astronomers in Luxembourg are unable to host their annual star watching party.
TUESDAY 10 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 133 new resident cases derived from 13,602 tests for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There has been 1 additional death, with the death toll standing at 825. 21 individuals are in hospital, with 7 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.96. To date, 397,143 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 369,201 people have been fully vaccinated.
The Minister of Health, Paulette Lenert, will hold a press briefing at 09:30 tomorrow morning which will centre around the current Covid-19 situation in Luxembourg. Minister Lenert is expected to speak about the vaccination campaign and number of new infections. At present, it does not look like any major changes to covid restrictions will be announced.
Greenpeace said yesterday that Luxembourg must do more to fight climate change as the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report that said the human influence on the climate system is undisputed. Frank Thinnes, of Greenpeace Luxembourg said the recent floods, which caused an estimated €120m in damage, must be a wake-up call for society. Greenpeace also called for Luxembourg’s financial centre to align it’s activities with the Paris Agreement. Luxembourg’s climate targets aim to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030 and be climate neutral by mid-century. The Paris Equity Check recently concluded that under those targets, the Earth would warm by 3.8°C by the year 2100 – almost double the 2°C limit pledged in the Paris Agreement.
The Luxembourg Bankers Association issued a press release yesterday warning of a marked increase in phishing attacks in Luxembourg. These attacks are mainly by telephone, but also by email, whereby the attacker attempts to get online banking access or credit card details from the victim. The press release urges the public to remember the basics of cybersecurity, such as: Never give remote access to your device unless it is to someone you trust and know. Keep your antivirus and operating system software updated. And, be especially careful if an email requests sensitive information (like your password) from you as a bank will only communicate with you securely through your online bank account
Luxembourg’s financial watchdog, the CSSF, recently published its 2020 annual report in which it said that household debt continued to rise in Luxembourg due to soaring housing prices, and that on average around 39% of annual disposable income is dedicated to debt repayment. Recent studies have shown that Luxembourg’s housing crisis is caused by empty properties and vacant land. A study published last month by The Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research showed that property owners and developers are retaining land to manipulate the market.
A report published yesterday by Eurostat reveals that men with children are more likely to be employed than women with children, and also men without kids. The figures showed that 90% of men aged 25 to 54 with children were employed in 2020, while only 72.2% of women in the same age bracket with children had a job. For women without children the employment rate was slightly higher at 76.8%, while men without children were less likely to be employed at 80.9%. The Eurostat report does not indicate if the covid-19 pandemic can be linked to the gender disparity. But some have blamed the pandemic for taking women out of the workforce to focus on childcare and homeschooling duties during lockdowns.
MONDAY 9 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: On Friday, the Ministry of Health reported 50 new resident cases derived from 5,475 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 824. 17 individuals are in hospital, with 5 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.86. To date, 395,857 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 363,603 people are now fully vaccinated.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) released data indicating that 72% of Luxembourgers have been vaccinated with 60.3% fully vaccinated. According to the report 50% of 18 to 24-years-old are still unvaccinated. In the 25 to 49 age group and the 50-59 age group, 66% are fully vaccinated while 74.5% of 60 to 69-years-olds are fully vaccinated. For the over 70s – those fully vaccinated stands at 84%. Statistics are available at vaccinetracker.ecdc.europa.eu.
The Central bank of Luxembourg has announced a readjustment to interest rates on real estate loans for people seeking to finance housing within the Grand Duchy. According to data sets analysed by the Central bank, variable interest rates in June saw a decrease of about four points compared to May and now stands at 1.29%. However, fixed interest rates have experienced an increase in the same time period and now stands at 1.36%.
The Grand Ducal Fire and Rescue Corps were called out over 50 times as a result of heavy rainfall which affected several parts of Luxembourg on Saturday. Most of the operations were linked to flooded basements and garages. There was a collision between two vehicles in Bascharage, where one person was injured. Two fires were also reported during the night. A balcony was in flames in Esch-sur-Alzette and a car caught on fire in Senningen. In both cases no one was injured.
Christian Democrat lawmakers Laurent Mosar and Marc Spautz questioned the government over reports about increased anti-semitic behaviour in Luxembourg. According to information released by the charity Research and Information on Anti-Semitism in Luxembourg (RIAL), anti-Semitic incidents have increased by 28% to 64 cases between 2019 and 2020. According to ministers from several departments, the real number of offences and attacks on Jews in Luxembourg is unknown as anti-Semitic incidents are not reported by law enforcement authorities. In April, due to an increase in anti-Semitic attacks in neighbouring countries such as France and Germany, the Luxembourgish government was prompted to increase security outside a synagogue located in Esch-sur-Alzette.
FRIDAY 6 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 68 new resident cases derived from 5,396 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 824. 20 individuals are in hospital, with 5 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.85. To date, 395,352 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 360,883 people are now fully vaccinated.
The Chamber of Deputies confirmed in a statement yesterday that the names and places of residence of more than 24,000 public petition signatories were mistakenly published and visible between June and August 2021 on the Chamber’s main website without the user’s consent. The Secretary General of the Chamber of Deputies clarified that this was not a data leak nor a “malicious action” and added the data was not accessible on the new petitiounen.lu site – the main tool for public petitions. The error was corrected on 2 August, and a detailed analysis of the problem is currently underway.
The Christian Social People’s Party filed an urgent parliamentary question to the Minister of Police following the fatal shooting on Saturday of a knife-wielding car thief in Ettelbruck. The party was seeking information on the man who was shot, and what initial conclusions had been reached. Minister for Internal Security, Henri Kox, explained the legal framework that regulates the use of firearms, and outlined the training provided to officers. In an interview with RTL this week, the president of the police union said the basic training and the half-day training per year per police officer was not sufficient. When asked if he wished to respond to the negative comments on social networks about the police officer, Minister Kox declined, adding that the investigation was still ongoing.
An incentive grant – called Re-stART – has been set up to help the many artists and creatives affected by last month’s flooding which damaged not only workplaces, but destroyed many works that were intended for future exhibitions or sales. In order to encourage artists to resume their creative work the incentive offers them special assistance, up to 25,000 euros per request. Requests can relate to restoration and repair of works, replacement of damaged equipment, funds for the creation of new works, and other activities. Further details can be found at www.oeuvre.lu/re-start
Luxembourg athlete Charles Grethen has qualified for the men’s athletics 1,500m finals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. He finished in seventh place in the semi-finals yesterday with a time of 3 mins 32.86 seconds – 4 seconds better than the previous Luxembourg record. Grethen is one of twelve athletes representing Luxembourg at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and advances to the finals which take place tomorrow.
THURSDAY 5 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 101 new resident cases derived from 5,183 tests. There have been two additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 824. 26 individuals are in hospital, with 5 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.83. To date, 394,669 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 355,891 people are now fully vaccinated.
The Transport Ministry announced yesterday that landing at Luxembourg’s airport is still safe, after an audit carried out by the Directorate of Civil Aviation in March revealed that the navigation system that guides planes in adverse weather conditions has had technical problems since it was replaced in 2019. The audit report also showed that not enough checks had been carried out on the instrument landing system and downgraded the airport’s runway – authorising the system to guide planes to 60 metres above ground instead of guiding them to the runway. Minister for Mobility and Public Works, François Bausch said yesterday that the Air Navigation Administration had until 30 September to resolve the issues, which coincides with the end of ongoing runway repair works.
Deputy prime minister and labour minister Dan Kersch this week defended his proposed covid-19 tax, which would levy an extra 5–10% on companies that grew their profits in 2020, saying that it would prevent the financial burden of the pandemic from being passed to households. Kersch said that the proposed tax might look at the average profit of companies between 2015 to 2019 compared to that of 2020, and where profit growth exceeded 10%, an additional tax of 5–10% could be levied. Employers have strongly rejected the tax and it is also dividing the government coalition with the DP saying such a tax is simply not on the agenda and the Greens advocating taxing internet giants like Amazon more stringently as clear winners of the crisis.
Luxembourg’s official statistics bureau Statec said yesterday that prices overall fell by 0.4% in July compared to the previous month because of discounts offered by summer sales in shops. But, fuel prices increased for the third month in a row, according to Statec, and was the main cause of a small increase in inflation of 0.2% in Luxembourg prices in June. The increase in fuel prices could mean that inflation across the Grand Duchy rises to nearly 3% by the end of 2021, Statec warned in a separate press release yesterday
Luxembourg’s General Directorate for Tourism this week announced the official acquisition of the historic ship “MS Princesse Marie Astrid”, the boat on which the Schengen Agreement was signed on 14 June 1985, from a Bavarian shipping company. The ship, currently sailing under the name “MS Regensburg” as an excursion boat on the Danube, is expected to be given back its original name and will be refurbished. The boat will be docked in Schengen, near the European Museum but kept in seaworthy condition so that during special events, the ship will be able to travel across Europe.The completion of this project, the cost of which amounts to €5.81 million, is scheduled for 2025.
WEDNESDAY 4 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 52 new resident cases derived from 6,368 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 822. 25 individuals are in hospital, with 7 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.85. To date, 394,370 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 353,900 people are now fully vaccinated.
Luxembourg received its first payment of €12.1 million yesterday as part of the NextGenerationEU recovery plan. The Grand Duchy is eligible to receive a total of €93.4 million. These funds will be invested in the areas of social cohesion, digitalisation and the green transition, with 61% dedicated to climate action and 32% to digital investments.
The ACEL student association confirmed that the Luxembourg student loan and grant scheme has been extended to include a third “bonus” semester. University students were already eligible for financial aid for two bonus semesters. This has been extended further due to the pandemic.
Respect.lu announced a casting call for a web series on the subject of radicalisation. The non-profit is looking for people from all walks of life and speaking one of the many languages used in Luxembourgish society. Filming will take place in September under the direction of Lukas Grevis. The five resulting short films will identify the causes and consequences of extremism. To apply, send a video or picture and a description of yourself to email@example.com.
Luxembourgish athlete Charles Grethen qualified for the men’s athletics 1,500m semi-finals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The 29-year-old finished 6th in his heat on Tuesday, in just over 3 minutes 41 seconds. The semi-finals are scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.
TUESDAY 3 AUGUST
First the coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 120 new resident cases, derived from 17,714 tests over the weekend. There had been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 822. 18 individuals are in standard hospital care, with 7 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.81. 393,779 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 349,734 people are now fully vaccinated.
General practitioners in Luxembourg started administering Covid vaccines on Monday, as vaccination centres gradually close their doors. The four GP surgeries are located in Esch-sur-Alzette, Mersch, Redange and Strassen. The Health Ministry announced that more surgeries are expected to follow starting next week.
Aside from material damage, the recent floods also had repercussions on the soil in the most affected areas of the country. With the help of the overflowing water, toxic substances, like petrol, made their way to soil, potentially damaging soil. However, the Environmental Administration has now issued a press release stating that there is no reason for concern, as the pollutants were watered down to a significant degree. However they recommended not to consume any fresh produce from flooded gardens that were in direct contact with the flood water. Future harvests should remain unaffected by the natural disaster.
The government said on Friday that a strategy team within the economy ministry that launched in November last year, will absorb the so-called Rifkin plan into its activities. The Rifkin plan was presented in 2016 as part of Luxembourg’s third industrial revolution. At the time priorities for policymakers were identified, including promoting circular economy principles, boosting e-mobility, advancing sustainable finance and investing in high-performance computing. The ministry published a review on Friday with 48 action points foreseen under the Rifkin initiative.
STATEC reported that Luxembourg’s employment rate did not suffer during the pandemic and saw a 2% increase in 2020, contrary to the trends in most EU countries. However, the report outlined that the national job market was already more dynamic than most of its EU counterparts before the pandemic began. The government also put fewer restrictions in place, thereby leaving more room for economic activities to continue. Additionally, the high rates of positions allowing remote work have helped maintain operations.
MONDAY 2 AUGUST
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 54 new resident cases on Friday, derived from 9,128 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 822. 17 individuals were reported to be in standard hospital care, with 5 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate was 0.84. 392,467 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 342,346 people are now fully vaccinated.
The government announced that travellers from the UK will no longer have to undergo a 7 day quarantine on their arrival in Luxembourg. The quarantine mandate has been in place since the 15th of July. Travellers from the UK will still have to show evidence of vaccination, recovery, or a negative Covid test to be allowed entry into the Grand Duchy. The negative test must be no older than 72 hours in the case of a PCR test, or 48 hours if an antigen test is taken.
A man was shot by police officers on Saturday after attacking them with a knife. The incident took place at 7pm in Ettelbruck. Prosecutors released a statement in which it was indicated that the incident came about after a car theft in Hosingen. The attacker threatened a driver with a knife and used the vehicle to escape. Police quickly picked up the pursuit after being alerted, and officers were able to stop the car in Ettelbruck. The man then began attacking a police officer with a knife, prompting another officer to shoot at the attacker. The man was seriously injured and later died of his injuries in hospital. An official investigation has been launched.
Part of the outer wall of Beaufort castle collapsed on Friday, however the reason for the rock fall remains unknown. The damaged area is approximately 15 metres long and 12 metres high and collapsed while visitors were inside the castle. Experts are on the premises to determine if any structural reinforcement is required. The castle, which is a listed national monument, will remain closed until further notice.
A 15 year old girl named Diana Borisova Coltuc has been declared missing. She was last seen on the 15th of July at around 7 pm in Junglinster. The 15-year old is about 1.65 metres tall, of slim, athletic build and has long black hair. She was last seen wearing black trousers with holes and a blue jumper. She is thought to be in Luxembourg City, Ettelbruck or in Pétange. Any useful information should be reported to the Grevenmacher police via 244-701-000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FRIDAY 30 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 70 new resident cases derived from 7,191 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 822. 23 individuals are in hospital, with 3 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.85. To date, 391,807 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 339,058 people are now fully vaccinated.
The Ministry of Health announced yesterday that PCR tests administered at Howald centre will be done via saliva samples starting on 9 August. To prevent faulty test results, people are advised not to smoke, eat, drink, chew gum, or brush their teeth 30 minutes before coming to the centre.
The government’s weekly covid review shows that 81.4% of the 566 people that tested positive for Covid-19 last week had not been vaccinated, while the remaining 18.6% were fully vaccinated. Figures show that new, as well as active, infections decreased for a third week in a row in Luxembourg. Fewer people had to self-isolate or enter quarantine last week, with most infections occurring in family circles, followed by holidays abroad and recreational activities No infection origin could be determined for 36.6% of cases.
Responding to a parliamentary question, health minister Paulette Lenert wrote that following a European Open Accelerated Procedure in April, a single offer from a supplier of medical cannabis had been submitted and a budget subsequently drawn up. The minister continued that because there had been only one offer received, there would be no need to wait for the appeal period and orders could be placed immediately. Ms Lenert added that because cannabis is a narcotic, imports are subject to strict rules and can lead to longer delays, but that first deliveries are expected to reach the Grand Duchy by the end of September.
Responding to a parliamentary question, employment minister Dan Kersch revealed that the Luxembourgish language is required for approximately 35% of jobs advertised with ADEM. The minister added that other languages, especially French, were important to gain employment in the local labour market. Kersch said that ADEM had issued 7,000 language vouchers for Luxembourgish courses over the past three years. However, a recent study by the University of Luxembourg found that French was the most-used language in the workplace and was required in 76% of public job postings, while Luxembourgish was required for around 68% of postings
A petition opposing the reform of teacher training has gathered enough signatures for a public debate in the chamber set to take place in Autumn. The petition, which gathered more than 4,150 signatures within a few hours of being posted online in June, opposes a draft reform of teacher training that would allow secondary school graduates with a diploma in social sciences to complete teacher training in only one year instead of three. Education Minister Claude Meisch reacted to the immediate success of the petition in June saying that Luxembourg’s growing need for educators meant they must dare to test the possibility of combining the training of the social sciences section with that of teachers.
THURSDAY 29 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 107 new resident cases derived from 6,149 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 822. 22 individuals are in hospital, with 3 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.87. To date, 391,133 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 336,173 people are now fully vaccinated.
In a letter sent to the President of the Chamber of Deputies yesterday, MPs from all opposition parties demanded an independent external inquiry following the country-wide flooding earlier this month. The MPs want the inquiry to investigate the flow of information, when the weather information reached the government, and how it was then forwarded to the municipalities, the media, the population, and the emergency services. In addition, the inquiry should present a timeline of the emergency services’ actions and provide clear information on the failure of the “Gouvalert” warning system.
The Ministry of Health this week advised the public not to consume vegetables from gardens that were flooded earlier this month. Many private gardens were flooded with rainwater, streams and sewage that might have come from oil cisterns or septic tanks, and is potentially full of microorganisms and chemicals. The Ministry admitted it was difficult to assess the level of contamination of vegetables that survived the floods, and was advising against consuming or composting vegetables as a precautionary measure.
Leudelange-based laboratory, BioneXt, announced yesterday that it had sent a letter to the Ministry of Health confirming it will contact the European Commission’s competition authority because of “unfair competition” surrounding Luxembourg’s Large-Scale Testing Campaign. BioneXt allege that the government exclusively cooperates with Laboratoires Réunis for the large-scale testing, and did not issue a new call for tender for the recent third phase of the Large-Scale Testing Campaign. Earlier this week, Minister of Health Paulette Lenert explained that the Ministry saw no need for a new call for tender as the second phase was essentially extended. BioneXt argues that the third phase represents a reorientation of the campaign and accuses the Ministry of specifically tailoring the calls for tender to Laboratoires Réunis’ profile.
The traditional three-week August holiday for the construction sector begins tomorrow but some of Luxembourg’s builders will have to work throughout the holiday period to repair damage caused by recent flooding, the government announced yesterday. Luxembourg’s labour inspectorate, the ITM, said yesterday that the vast majority of the 223 requests for exemptions were granted meaning some employees will remain at work. The ITM warned that their inspectors, along with police and customs officers, would be carrying out checks during the holiday, and would halt any work which had not been authorised in advance.
Parliament’s petitions committee yesterday rejected a petition asking that parents receive benefits if they opt to stay at home to look after their children, after finding that 428 names had been entered more than once, causing the total to drop below the minimum of 4,500 signatures required. Parliament is required to discuss any petition with 4,500 signatures within 42 days, and some have made it into law. It is not known why the names appear more than once.
WEDNESDAY 28 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 86 new resident cases derived from 6,060 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 822. 26 individuals are in hospital, with 3 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.87. To date, 392,073 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 332,304 people are now fully vaccinated.
According to STATEC, four in five residents are willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine. In May and June, the national statistical institute carried out a survey with the OECD on individuals’ trust in others and in national institutions. Almost 82% of respondents said they were willing to get vaccinated, with nearly three-quarters having expressed strong trust in science. STATEC argued that herd immunity could be within reach if these positive attitudes materialise.
The Ministries of Health and of Family Affairs launched a new vaccination drive for healthcare workers who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19. Hospital staff have until Friday to get vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson by mobile vaccination teams. The teams will pass by the country’s four hospitals and eight specialised hospitals. From today until 10th August, care home professionals can get vaccinated with Pfizer / BioNTech near their workplace. No prior registration is needed.
In its 2020 annual report, Fondation Cancer warned of the impact of the pandemic on cancer patients, whose treatment has been made more difficult. The non-profit provided a record 1,845 counselling sessions and almost €462,000 in financial aid last year. Over €2.7 million went towards cancer research.
Three new digital skills training courses for adults will begin in September. The courses were developed as part of an agreement signed between the Ministry for Digitalisation and the non-profit ErwuesseBildung in February. Classes include two internet driving licence courses and a “Train the Trainers” course, and will be taught in German, French, English and Portuguese.
TUESDAY 27 JULY
First the coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 139 new resident cases, derived from 16,652 tests over the weekend. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 822. 24 individuals are in standard hospital care, with 2 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.82. 391,172 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 326,694 people are now fully vaccinated.
The MeteoLux website was unavailable from last Friday until yesterday afternoon. According to a government statement, the problems were caused by server issues, which are run by an external company. Due to the issues, the warning system was not able to announce the thunderstorms over the weekend. MeteoLux therefore attempted to warn residents in emails that hail and wind gusts of up to 70 km/h were possible. There have been calls for the government to implement an improved phone notification system that would deliver up-to-date warnings to smartphones.
The Environment Ministry announced yesterday that Luxembourg will roll out €200 million over the next 4 years to finance projects around the world aimed at boosting climate action. Around €40 million will go towards initiatives such as the Green Climate Fund, while €25 million will go towards financing projects by NGO’s. 50% of the funding that NGO’s will receive will help projects in Africa, with 35% helping in Asia and 15% in Latin America. The projects that will be supported will focus on sustainable finance, biodiversity, climate migration and human rights.
The Confederation of Public Servants, or CGFP, issued a press release on Monday criticising the government for its treatment of the union. Officials stated that the three-party coalition government is actively trying to discredit the union. Government ministers have repeatedly explained that no sectorial improvements can be made until the end of 2022, given the current salary agreement. However, the CGFP argues that while no financial measures can be taken, this does not mean that no agreements can be made whatsoever and have proposed the introduction of bonuses. The union also stated that when it comes to tax policies, government officials keep making contradictory statements. The union has demanded a new tri-par-tite meeting to address all of their concerns.
Luxair has revealed that passenger numbers dropped by 81% in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2019, a period not affected by the pandemic. However, the airline also recorded 42% fewer passengers in the first 6 months of 2021 compared to 2020. Luxair Tours also took a hit with 45% fewer passenger numbers recorded in 2021 compared to 2019. Luxair has attributed this decline to low demand for business flights and connecting flights, as well as limited demand for leisure travel due to travel restrictions.
MONDAY 26 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 103 new resident cases on Friday, derived from 7,194 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 821. 15 individuals were reported to be in standard hospital care, with 5 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate was 0.92. 389,229 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 674,147 doses have been administered in total.
The National railway company, CFL, has announced that there will be no train connection between Luxembourg City and Thionville until at least Tuesday due to flooding in the Bettembourg area. CFL have organised replacement buses to connect the cities in both directions in the meantime. Substitute buses will also run between Hettange and Thionville as of today.
Authorities were alerted on Saturday after residents detected a rainbow shimmer on the water surface of the Alzette river, an indicator of pollution. The former Arcelor building was identified as the pollution source as a petrol tank in one of the basements was damaged during the floods a couple weeks ago and leaked into the water. The spill then made its way into the river via the sewage system. The Water Management Authority was informed and has already launched the necessary steps to resolve the issue. The police have issued a warning to people who have experienced similar damage in their basements to not clear polluted water into rivers. In case of pollution, residents should alert the Water Management Authority via telephone number 112.
According to Eurostat, the EU as a whole saw 12% fewer hours worked in 2020 compared to 2019, however in Luxembourg the trend was less dramatic. While Greece saw the biggest decrease with 19.7%, Luxembourg only saw a 4.1% decrease, placing itself second from the bottom alongside Denmark, also with 4.1%. The Netherlands saw the smallest reduction with 3.2%. The statistics agency found that the primary reason for the reductions was temporary lay-offs, which increased from 0.5 million in 2019 to 3.9 million in 2020. Eurostat also noted that the reduction can be explained by measures taken in response to Covid-19, with many workers being told to work fewer hours than usual.
The non-profit organisation, Ecological Movement (or Mouveco), announced their latest initiative on Friday, called veloskaart.lu. Anyone can use veloskaart.lu to report problematic or dangerous areas for cyclists on an interactive map until the 31st of October. People may also upload photos or videos and suggest potential solutions. After the 31st of October, the entries, including photos and videos, will be published anonymously in the form of a map. It will be forwarded to different municipalities and the Ministry of Mobility and will be available to the public from mid-November. The website is available in German, English and French.
FRIDAY 23 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 94 new resident cases derived from 6,247 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 821. 17 individuals are in hospital, with 6 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.94. To date, 388,566 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 313,511 people are now fully vaccinated.
CovidCheck.lu users can now use the app to check the validity of their EU Digital COVID Certificate abroad. Initially limited to Luxembourg, the app now also allows users to check if their certificate is valid in Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Spain, with more countries set to be added in future. Since its launch on 10th June, more than one million CovidCheck certificates have been issued by the Luxembourg authorities. These serve as proof of vaccination, a negative test result or recovery from COVID-19.
The National Roads Administration confirmed that it is still too early to determine the full extent of damage caused by the recent floods. A total of 180 road sections in Luxembourg were closed as a result of the flooding on 14th and 15th July. Most have since reopened to traffic. The administration is now in the process of checking the various bridges and embankments and repair work has begun, where possible.
Family Affairs Minister Corinne Cahen continues to face criticism from the Opposition over her handling of the pandemic in care homes. Pirate Party MPs Sven Clement and Marc Goergen have now publicly accused the minister of avoiding criticism by blocking certain politicians and journalists on social media.
Recent Eurostat figures show that more than half of men in Luxembourg and of all EU adults were considered overweight in 2019. 53% of adults living in the EU were considered to be overweight according to their BMI. Whilst Luxembourg had one of the lowest proportions of overweight adults overall, it also had the largest gap between men and women: 59% of men were considered overweight compared to 38% of women.
The Agriculture Ministry and Syvicol union are launching a new campaign to tackle food waste. The “Gielt Band” initiative will begin with the apple harvest in September and allows the public to pick fruit from trees marked with a yellow ribbon. The aim is to reduce the amount of fruit that goes to waste each year. A map of participating communes will be published on www.antigaspi.lu.
THURSDAY 22 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 141 new resident cases derived from 6,240 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 821. 11 individuals are in standard hospital care, with 6 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.92. To date, 387,932 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 309,600 people are now fully vaccinated.
The National Health Directorate announced yesterday that vaccination centres in Kirchberg, Mondorf, and Ettelbruck are scheduled to close on 14 August, with the centre at Luxembourg Airport closing one week later on 21 August. It is expected that GPs will start administering Covid-19 jabs from the week of 2 August.
The Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Jean Asselborn, issued a press statement regarding Israeli activity in Luxembourg yesterday, confirming that the NSO group, based in Tel Aviv,is present in Luxembourg in nine entities. The statement said that Minister Asselborn would be sending letters to the heads of each entity to reinforce that Luxembourg applies to the letter all export control obligations and would not tolerate the operations of those that contribute to human rights violations in third countries from Luxembourg. To date, none of the known entities linked to the NSO group has requested an export license for cyber-surveillance products.
Horesca’s secretary general, François Koepp said yesterday that around 100 businesses had been affected by last week’s flooding and called for pragmatic solutions and access to immediate financial aid. Koepp said that he thought it might be best to distribute financial aid in advance, as many companies had already exhausted their cash reserves. Koepp observed that the floods were the latest problem to afflict the industry, following the Covid-19 pandemic, a late start to the season and a lack of customers and said he worried for the future of many businesses.
The European Commission published its second EU-wide Report on the Rule of Law this week, including a chapter dedicated to Luxembourg. The report stated that Luxembourg’s justice system “continues to operate with a high level of perceived judicial independence”, with 77% of the population considering the level of independence of courts and judges to be “fairly or very good”. Regarding last year’s doubts about the media regulator (ALIA), the report said that Luxembourg had taken steps to alleviate concerns and increased its resources. But it noted that “concerns remain on shortcomings for access to official documents and for access to information for the press.” On the subject of corruption, the report pointed out that perception among experts and business executives is that the level of public sector corruption is low.
Responding to a parliamentary enquiry yesterday, Minister for Internal Security Henri Kox said that 4,600 drug offences were recorded in 2020 – almost 4 times as many as in 2012. Minister Kox denied that police officers had targeted prosecution of drug offences, saying it was an officer’s duty to investigate and report all criminal activities, regardless of the nature of the offence. The Minister added that the number of patrolling officers in the Gare and Bonnevoie districts has currently been increased, but stressed that this did not represent a universal solution to the security issues.
Kinepolis announced yesterday that the CovidCheck will come into force from Wednesday July 28 in the three Luxembourg Kinepolis cinemas meaning customers will no longer have to wear face masks or observe the two meter interpersonal distance. To access the cinema, each customer aged 6 years and older must present a COVID check certificate, a valid negative COVID-19 test certificate, a certified PCR test or o Certified antigen test Certificate. Customers will be able to carry out a free self-diagnostic test on site of which there are a limited number available while stocks last.
WEDNESDAY 21 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 89 new resident cases derived from 7,399 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 821. 13 individuals are in standard hospital care, with 6 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.92. To date, 387,004 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 304,924 people are now fully vaccinated.
The Ministry of the Economy announced yesterday that it will allow businesses affected by last week’s floods to apply for a special partial unemployment scheme until 31 July inclusive. Businesses concerned are those who can no longer operate because of destruction or damage to equipment, stock, means of production and premises. During the scheme’s duration, the state will reimburse affected businesses 80% of the wages normally received by the employees but the compensation allowance must correspond to the minimum social wage for unskilled employees, and is limited to 250% of the minimum social wage. Companies using the scheme must undertake not to dismiss employees for economic reasons.
Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said yesterday that Luxembourg must respond if links were established between the country and Israeli security company – NSO – whose “Pegasus” software has been used to spy on opposition politicians, journalists and public figures. Following the press reports, Amazon Web Services shut down infrastructure and accounts linked to NSO Group earlier this week, Amazon said in a statement. Asselborn claimed that NSO’s Luxembourg-based branches never applied for export licences and were only being used as “back offices”. He said that it is now up to Israel to launch a probe into the behaviour of the company. Amnesty International has also confirmed that the controversial software did not originate from the Grand Duchy.
According to figures released by Statec yesterday, the unemployment rate, adjusted for seasonal variations, now stands at 5.7%. The number of job seekers registered with ADEM was 16,402 as of 30 June 2021 – a drop of 938 people compared to the previous month. The number of job-seekers who claim full unemployment benefits fell by 18.2% over the last year to 8,368. Employers advertised for 3,961 vacant positions with ADEM during June 2021 – an increase of 31.6% compared to June 2020. At the end of June ADEM had 9,735 available positions in its files – a large increase of 47.8% since June 2020.
The Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Skilled Trades and Crafts issued a statement yesterday, proposing six measures to social security and labour law that would assist self-employed workers in coping with the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. The measures aim to improve the status of self-employed workers and remove the gap between self-employed workers and employees. Among the Chambers’ proposals are extending the “partial unemployment”, “weather-related unemployment” and “involuntary or temporary unemployment” benefits to the self-employed. They also want to make it easier for the self-employed to combine an early old-age pension with professional income, and introduce a scheme for accidents at work and occupational diseases in order to cover the loss of income and output.
TUESDAY 20 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: On Monday The Ministry of Health reported 224 new resident cases, derived from 18,272 tests over the weekend. There had been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 821. 8 individuals were reported to be in standard hospital care, with 5 in intensive care. 385,713 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 299,764 have received their second dose.
The board of administration of the CNS announced yesterday that the CNS suffered a €12 million deficit in 2020. Despite €386 million in support from the government, the CNS still had to cover additional expenses, such as PCR tests. However, despite the decrease, the reserves of €959 million are still significantly above the minimum required by law.
In answering questions about the preparedness of Luxembourg for the torrential rain that caused the flooding last week, environment minister Carole Dieschbourg said on Monday that locals received several warnings throughout the previous days. The minister conceded however, people would have had to check the national flooding website or follow media weather reports to find out about the torrential rain and the flood alert. Residents in flood prone areas are used to checking updates, but the minister conceded that water reached areas that had never seen floods before, therefore were less likely to check. She stated that little could have been done to stop damage, but that local councils were ultimately responsible for possible evacuations. However, on a visit to Echternach, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel was told by visibly upset locals that they had not been warned.While there has been damage to property and land, no one was injured or killed in Luxembourg. A new Water Management Response plan is under review.
Meanwhile, Luxembourg Water Management Administration’s groundwater division has said that last week’s heavy rainfall did little to alleviate Luxembourg’s water shortage. Brigitte Lambert told the Luxembourg Times that “Water reserves are only replenished when the vegetation no longer grows and stops absorbing, from about mid-October to the end of April. ” Frequent mild showers, spread over time, or melting snow are more suited to replenish the drinking water reserves.
Luxembourg’s first red light traffic camera will be fully operational on the Place de l’Etoile starting Friday the 23rd of July. After nine months of testing, the test phase will come to an end. Aside from traffic light violations, the camera will also flash drivers driving above the 50 km/h speed limit. Two more cameras are expected to be installed on Route d’Esch and Rue de Hollerich.
MONDAY 19 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 127 new resident cases on Friday, derived from 9,394 tests. There had been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 820. 6 individuals were reported to be in standard hospital care, with 5 in intensive care. The effective production rate was 0.89. 381,519 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 290,006 have received their second dose.
Germany’s most famous racing circuit, the Nürn-burg-ring, has been transformed into a temporary crisis centre for flood victims, with a Luxembourgish team on site. The circuit is now packed with aid and clothing for women, men and children. It is also being used as a base for lorries, ambulances, cranes, and vehicles that are transporting clean drinking water to affected areas. 10 ambulances and 22 volunteers from Luxembourg are there to help. At least 190 people have been killed by the devastating floods, with many more still missing.
A total of more than €140,000 was collected by the Luxembourg Red Cross and Caritas Luxembourg to help the Luxembourg victims of the floods. However, Following the announcement of €50 million in aid from the Luxembourg Government, the organisations have closed their appeals. All relevant information about claiming government aid can be found on Guichet.lu. People who need assistance completing the form may contact the social helpline of the Red Cross (tel: 2755) or Caritas (tel: 402131-1). Meanwhile, The German Red Cross still has an ongoing appeal for donations. Information can be found at www.drk-bitburg-pruem.de or on aracityradio.com
Luxembourg’s national statistical office – STATEC – issued a report concluding that there was a slight decrease in bankruptcies in June 2021 with 136 companies declaring bankruptcy compared to May 2021 with 161 companies. However, the number of companies declaring bankruptcy in June 2020 was substantially lower at 53. The companies that were the most affected by bankruptcies last month were holding companies and investment funds, as well as companies from the commerce, specialised, scientific and technical activities and construction sectors. The Luxembourg courts also stated that 98 firms were liquidated in the last month.
During a joint meeting of the Finance and Budget Committee and the Budget Execution Control Committee on Friday, it was reported that there is a €100 million (euro) surplus in State finances. Luxembourg’s Minister of Finance, Pierre Gramegna, noted that revenue collected by the State now stands at €11 billion – a 24.8% increase compared to the first half of 2020, a period heavily affected by the pandemic. A comparison with the same period in 2019, a period not affected by the pandemic, shows an increase of around 10% – or 5% on an annual basis, meaning Luxembourg has managed to resume the pace of pre-pandemic revenue growth. However, Gramegna emphasised that it is too early to draw conclusions for the year 2021 as a whole.
FRIDAY 16 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 123 new resident cases derived from 8,725 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 819. 11 individuals are in hospital, with 4 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.88. To date, 379,830 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 254,144 have received their second one.
Luxembourg suffered some of the worst and most widespread flooding in recent years after heavy rain caused rivers to burst their banks and ground water to swell. MeteoLux reported that 60 to 80 litres of rain per square metre had fallen on average throughout Wednesday and Thursday morning. Emergency services and police teams carried out more than 1,200 weather-related interventions across the country but no injuries related to the severe weather have been reported. The resulting material damage to property and infrastructure is significant.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has announced that the government had declared the flooding a natural disaster, thus unlocking financial aid of €50 million euros for private people, small businesses and the agricultural sector. Minister of the Interior Taina Bofferding announced that protecting citizens and preventing injuries and further damages would be priorities for the coming hours. Ms Bofferding confirmed that emergency services had received 6,300 phone calls, and conducted more than 1,200 operations. High commissioner for national protection Luc Feller said that the worst of the flooding should be over, and emphasised that some of the water levels reached a peak not seen in a century.
Residents and tourists have been displaced by flooding across the country.
A joint decision was taken by the mayor of Echternach, police and the CGDIS yesterday morning to evacuate several parts of the city affected by flooding, many of which are without electricity. The plan is to evacuate people to Trifolion, from where they will meet with family or go to one of the 100 hotel rooms reserved by the municipality. It is estimated that those in the flooded areas will be evacuated for up to two days or until the water recedes.
The municipal council of Vianden also announced that parts of the town would be evacuated following the severe flooding yesterday. The council advised affected residents to assemble at the Larei cultural centre, while authorities arranged emergency accommodation for those unable to return to their homes.
In a press release issued yesterday, the Luxembourg Insurance and Reinsurance Association said its “first provisional estimates” of the flood damage could reach an overall cost of €50m. The insurers body said that there is no fixed deadline for filing damage claims and recommended that insurance-holders take photos of the damage and contact their insurance company to verify the precise procedures to follow.
THURSDAY 15 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 118 new resident cases derived from 6,300 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 819. 10 individuals are in hospital, with 3 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.99. To date, 377,294 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 248,995 have received their second one.
Meteolux issued a red weather warning yesterday described as “extreme danger” for the entire country and heavy rain fell throughout the day causing widespread flooding, even in areas which usually don’t experience it. Shortly before 6 p.m, yesterday the CGDIS announced that its firefighters had been called out 100 times, In most cases, to homes where cellars were flooded. Several roads across the country have closed due to floods and fallen trees, and water levels in the Moselle river are expected to continue to rise until the weekend.
Following Tuesday’s rejected motion by CSV MP Michel Wolter calling for the resignation of Corinne Cahen the Family Minister and Health Minister hosted a joint press conference, where Ms Cahen insisted that all measures that had been taken were judicious and that the work was well done even if some things could have been done better. The minister said she found the opposition’s “purely political manoeuvring against her” regrettable.
STATEC reported yesterday that the cost of construction in Luxembourg increased by 4.3% – the fastest pace in almost three decades – between October 2020 and April 2021. The report showed that the price of wood had risen by 14% more in April than October, while roofing materials climbed 7%, and price increases for iron and various plastics all contributed to the sudden climb, Statec said. Transport Minister François Bausch and Economy Minister Franz Fayot claimed last month that a global supply shortage, due to high demand from the USA and China, was causing the cost of materials to soar.
The environmental organisation – Mouvement Ecologique – yesterday appealed the court’s ruling on the data centre planned at the Google site in Bissen. Judges had previously rejected complaints by the organisation about the lack of information regarding the data centre’s potential water consumption, ruling that the Google project was not yet complete and therefore potential issues could not yet be identified. The organisation claims the data centre’s water usage could represent 5-10% of Luxembourg’s total consumption – a claim that Google has not disputed. At a press conference, Mouvement Ecologique countered that once the project was complete, it would be too late and added that the judges had time to change the ruling.
The Luxembourg City municipal council confirmed yesterday that a “mini Schueberfouer” will take place at the Glacis car park as part of the “Fun um Glacis” project. Further to the numerous fairground stalls available around the city, 42 attractions will be installed at the car park in Limpertsberg including some of the world’s largest transportable roller coasters. The fair will open daily from 11am to 11pm starting on 21 August and running until 12 September 2021.
WEDNESDAY 14 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 134 new resident cases derived from 7,196 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 819. 13 individuals are in hospital, with 2 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.95. To date, 374,572 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 246,495 have received their second one.
Members of the Opposition have called on Family Affairs Minister Corinne Cahen to resign over her handling of the pandemic within care homes. CSV’s Michel Wolter proposed the motion demanding Ms Cahen’s resignation following yesterday’s presentation of the Waringo report into coronavirus clusters in care homes. Fellow CSV as well as ADR, the Left and Pirate Party MPs supported the motion, which argued that the Minister had failed to face her responsibilities.
The pass rate for final-year exams in public secondary schools has dropped from 83% to 76% over one year. A total of 3,344 students sat their leaving exams this year. With a pass rate of 85%, the results of students in classical secondary education remained stable compared to previous years. However, the pass rate among general secondary school students fell from 77% in 2020 to 69% in 2021. Education Minister Claude Meisch attributed this downward trend partly to the challenging health context.
Following a call for projects by the EU last year, Luxembourg’s Digitalisation Ministry, Infrachain, the SnT at the University of Luxembourg and LIST have partnered to develop the EBSILUX blockchain project. The project is co-funded by the EU and integrates Luxembourg into the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure, or EBSI. This is expected to improve the internal market’s functions and support the competitiveness of the European economy.
The General Directorate for Tourism has launched a new mobile app: VisitLuxembourg. The app is designed as a “personal travel companion” for tourists and locals alike wishing to explore Luxembourg. It features six categories: culture, nature, gastronomy & nightlife, sport & activities, guided tours, and “Made in Luxembourg”. The VisitLuxembourg app can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play Store and is currently available in German, French and English.
TUESDAY 13 JULY
First, the Coronavirus update for Luxembourg. The Ministry of Health reported 247 new resident cases yesterday, derived from 15,739 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 819. 12 individuals were reported to be in standard hospital care, with 2 in intensive care. The effective production rate is 0.93. 371,670 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 272,261 people have received their second dose.
The results of an investigation released on Monday revealed that Luxembourg knew retirement home residents ran a high risk of dying from Covid but left decisions about safeguards in the hands of staff running the homes. Parliament ordered a study in April after Covid swept through the residences, killing at least two dozen residents at an elderly care home in Niederkorn. It was found that recommendations from the Family Affairs Ministry on how to protect residents were unclear. The Luxembourg Times revealed in February that nearly half of all Covid deaths last year comprised of elderly residents in nursing and care homes. Government data shows most of the care home deaths occurred during the second wave of infections in November, well after officials claimed more precautions were in place.
A court case, which saw former Christian Democrat Party President – Frank Engel – charged with abuse of assets and fraud, has widened to further members of the largest opposition party. Members of Parliament for the party alerted the prosecutor’s office after finding out about an employment contract that paid Engel a salary for recruiting members for the CSV Frëndeskrees non-profit group. Spokesperson for the prosecution, Henri Eippers did not want to confirm names yet, however revealed that court hearings were planned between the 19th and 21st of October. RTL reported that 6 party members had been charged, including current vice president Elisabeth Margue, former vice president Stéphanie Weydert and former party secretary general Félix Eischen, who were allegedly aware of the contract.
A work accident that took place at a construction site on Rue de Neudorf, left a worker seriously injured. The worker suffered a 15 metre fall from a platform, which came loose due to unknown reasons. The man was treated at the scene before being taken to hospital. The prosecutor’s office and the Labour and Mines Inspectorate will open an investigation into the incident.
Four children were injured at a private party in Moutfort on Sunday after a sudden strong gust of wind hit a bouncy castle. Meteolux explained the sudden weather phenomenon as a dust devil. This is a short-lived whirl-wind which usually does not pose a threat to humans or infrastructure, however it can occasionally grow to be more powerful which becomes problematic when it cannot be predicted. The children were treated at the scene and later taken to the children’s hospital. It is believed that the bouncy castle was secured properly at the time of the incident.
MONDAY 12 JULY
First, the Coronavirus update for Luxembourg. The Ministry of Health reported 131 new resident cases on Friday, derived from 7,071 tests. There had been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 819. 5 individuals were reported to be in hospital, with 1 in intensive care. The effective production rate was 1.54. 358,842 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 236,897 have received their second dose.
A new report published by the Covid-19 task force warns that the increasingly transmissible Delta variant could see cases reach a daily average of more than 600 by September, according to modelling. Daily infections have jumped up in Luxembourg over the past week alone, averaging around 100 more cases per day than at the end of June. The total number of active infections has significantly increased to 1226 cases, compared to 351 cases last week.
60 students from the University of Luxembourg had to vacate their halls of residence last week following the discovery of dangerous bacteria in the tap water, reported as Legionella. The bacteria can cause pneumonia, however the university said on Thursday that the concentration of bacteria in the water was not critical and that closure of the Limperstberg student accommodation is a precaution. It is thought that corrosive pipes in the old building may have caused the contamination. The students will relocate to hotels and other accommodation at the university’s expense and will receive a compensation of two-months rent. It is not clear when the student accommodation will reopen. Students first complained of possible contaminated water in October of 2019, however claim that the first water samples were only taken this summer. A university spokesperson denies the claims, saying that the University regularly tests the quality of the water.
The EU statistics agency revealed that housing prices across the whole European Union increased the most since 2007at the beginning of this year, however Luxembourg is still at the top of the charts. Housing prices increased by an average of 6.1% across the EU compared to the beginning of 2020, with Luxembourg seeing the sharpest rise among the EU countries with a 17% increase from last year. Denmark saw the second highest increase at 15%, followed by Lithuania and the Czech Republic at 12%. Luxembourg’s neighbouring countries also saw a rise in housing prices, with Germany seeing a 9% annual increase, Belgium a 7% and France a 6% increase.
In an interview with RTL on Saturday, Minister of the Interior Taina Bofferding responded to questions about new tax measures that could be introduced. One relates to a new property tax on vacant land and housing. A further tax relates to a proposal to pay off debt accumulated in the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Bofferding explained that when the crisis is over, companies that have taken advantage of the pandemic to boost their profits can contribute to the repayment by paying additional taxes.
FRIDAY 9 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 131 new resident cases derived from 7,071 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 819. 5 individuals are in hospital, with 1 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.54. To date, 358,842 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 236,897 have received their second one.
At yesterday’s press briefing, deputy prime minister and labour minister Dan Kersch and health minister Paulette Lenert announced that the new amendments to the covid law will not contain any new relaxations or restrictions and would remain in force until mid-September. However, some changes were announced including gatherings of more than ten people now being possible in a private setting under the cover of CovidCheck. Cross-vaccination will now be available, as people aged 50 and under who received AstraZeneca for their first dose will be able to choose Biontech/Pfizer or Moderna for their second dose, starting today. Family leave has been extended until 14 September, and children’s leisure and school activities will be allowed to take place during the summer without masks and without distancing. Finally, the ministers announced police crackdowns to enforce existing restrictions at leisure and nightlife locales, with an increase in fines to €6,000 for organisers who fail to comply with the law.
Prime minister Xavier Bettel left hospital yesterday after spending four days at the CHL. He had been admitted with breathing difficulties on Sunday after testing positive for covid-19. Bettel will resume his duties today, seeing out the end of his isolation period by teleworking. Bettel thanked the CHL staff for their professionalism, determination and enthusiasm. He also expressed gratitude for all of the front line health professionals who have been fighting the virus over the past year.
The ministry of health announced yesterday that, following its first session at the City Concorde shopping centre on Wednesday, the new mobile unit of the large-scale testing operation will be at Auchan Kirchberg today. The ministry added that other stops in shopping centres were being planned, as well as other locations. The service is available, without an appointment, to residents and border residents, as long as they have a national registration number.
One man was arrested after an attempted bank robbery at the Savings Bank in Place de Metz at around 2 pm yesterday. The man threatened bank employees into handing over money before fleeing the building. Police launched an immediate manhunt and located the alleged perpetrator several minutes later.
Following two years of construction work, the city market took place for the first time yesterday at Place de Paris. Stalls serving food and drink, clothing, accessories and other items were set up on each side of the tram rails, with stall owners saying the new location was well placed to welcome potential customers including local employees and from the nearby tram stop. Customers were pleased with the square’s regeneration and hoped that the variety of stalls would increase over time. As part of the “The City is Alive” summer programme, a carousel is to be installed at the Place de Paris.
THURSDAY 8 JULY – I’m SIMON CLARIDGE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 201 new resident cases derived from 7,049 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 819. 5 individuals are in hospital, with 1 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.52. To date, 358,842 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 234,236 have received their second one.
The government’s weekly review of Covid-19 cases showed that for the week 28 June to 4 July, the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 increased from 107 to 787 cases – an increase of 635%. The effective reproduction rate also increased sharply from the previous week – rising from 0.86 to 2.08. However, this was also the fourth week in a row in which no new deaths related to COVID-19 were recorded. Regarding the distribution of covid variants it was found that the Delta variant (Indian) now represents the majority of cases at 60.8%, and the Gamma (Brazillian) variant accounted for 24.1% of cases.
Replying to a parliamentary question from the CSV, Minister of Health Paulette Lenert and Minister of Internal Security Henri Kox reported that the sharp rise in the number of new coronavirus infections started in the five days following the National Day celebrations, and that infection clusters have been detected in three nightclubs in the city. The ministers added that the nightclubs in question had been reported to the police, with a request to carry out stricter controls. The ministers announced that all people aged between 15 and 40 would be invited to be tested over the next two weeks through Luxembourg’s Large-Scale-Testing programme and that the results would inform the next draft bill for the extension of the Covid-19 law.
The Christian Social People’s Party have criticised the release of one of two culprits arrested in January for a fatal stabbing in Bonnevoie because he was no longer a minor. Minister of Justice Sam Tanson and Deputy State Prosecutor David Lentz explained that the current wording of the law does not leave them with another option then to release a minor who turns 18 while in custody. Minister of Justice Sam Tanso announced that the “legal loophole” would be fixed in the context of youth protection reform, CSV MP Laurent Mosar stressed that this was insufficient and indicated he would submit a draft bill specific to this issue.
This week, the Minister for Cooperation Franz Fayot signed a new strategic partnership agreement with the director of UNAIDS. UNAIDS is a UN agency intent on the prevention of HIV and AIDS and providing support to those affected by the disease. The agency also fights against the stigmatisation of LGBTQ people and emphasizes access to health services. Last year Luxembourg contributed 4.2 million euros to the agency, and the new agreement will extend Luxembourgish cooperation until 2025.
According to a report published yesterday by Eurostat, Luxembourg has the EU’s lowest percentage of workers aged between 55 and 64. 44% of people in the age range, dubbed “Baby Boomers”, had a job last year, meaning that more than half are retiring before age 65 or were not previously working, Eurostat reported. Romania, Croatia and Greece were the only other EU countries with similar statistics.According to Eurostat almost 80% of people between 20 and 54 years old in Luxembourg are employed, above the 76% EU average.
WEDNESDAY 7 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 118 new resident cases derived from 5,833 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 818. 5 individuals are in hospital, with 1 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.70. To date, 354,951 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 230,601 have received their second one.
Luxembourg is set to make an initial donation of 350,000 vaccines to the COVAX facility. The Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and mRNA vaccines will be distributed to the country’s cooperation partner countries.
The Economy Ministry and Luxinnovation have officially launched the new Startup Luxembourg platform. The platform aims to promote the Luxembourg startup ecosystem abroad, as well as facilitating networking at the national level. It also enables direct contact with incubators, startups and institutional players.
This week also saw the official launch of the Kultur | lx cultural institution. Created last July, Kultur | lx aims to support, promote and develop the Luxembourgish cultural scene. The institution forms part of the national cultural development plan and has already integrated existing initiatives such as music:LX and Reading Luxembourg. Its budget for 2021 amounts to just over €1.9 million.
Luxembourg’s three nature parks jointly launched a project aimed at raising awareness and implementing measures for insect protection. The project is funded by the Environment Ministry and brings together various sectors and members of Luxembourgish society. Activities for the public include a travelling exhibition and participation in the iNaturalist challenge, which runs until 3rd October and aims to document as many insects as possible.
The popular “Glacis um Kino” drive and walk-in cinema is returning to Limpertsberg this summer. From 21st July until 1st August, spectators can watch various films from the comfort of their car or a two- or four-seater sofa. The programme includes contemporary and family-friendly films, as well as classics such as Dirty Dancing, cult films like Pulp Fiction and even a Luxembourgish co-production: Wolfwalkers. Tickets are available on www.luxembourg-ticket.lu.
Vodafone, JP Morgan, PwC and HSBC have lined up to celebrate Luxembourg Pride Week and will light up Adolphe Bridge as well as other buildings. Listeners should keep an eye out..
TUESDAY 6 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 9 new resident cases derived from 342 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 818. 3 individuals are in hospital, with 1 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 2.12. 350,904 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 226,809 have received a second one.
The Ministry of State confirmed that Prime Minister Xavier Bettel is in a ‘serious’ but stable condition after contracting Covid-19. He was initially admitted to the hospital on Sunday morning. The prime minister is still symptomatic and will remain under supervision for another two to four days .
The government’s new MyGuichet app was launched yesterday making documents accessible from mobile devices. This includes COVID related documents as well. Eventually, the app will also allow users to present official documents in a reliable manner. Parents will also have access to the documents of their underaged children.
According to a study by TNS Ilres the pandemic has encouraged people in Luxembourg to purchase more regional agricultural products. For a large majority of households, one of the main reasons for buying regional products was to support Luxembourg producers. 93% of households also considered Luxembourg agricultural products to be of good quality. However the study also revealed that 84% of households wish to receive more information on regional products.
Yesterday a train crashed into a car which was stuck at a railway crossing gate on rue de Mamer in Bertrange. The authorities issued a warning that drivers should avoid the area for the time being. At the time of the accident, 34 passengers were on the train. None of them suffered any injuries.
Yesterday the Christian Social People’s Party presented a proposal for faster construction of affordable housing. The opposition party demanded that further measures be added to the Housing Pact 2.0 and that private investors get a chance to contribute. The proposal also advocates for a country-wide tax on unused real-estate in order to combat market speculation.
Biometric data stored in identity cards could be amended if a new bill comes into force. Currently, the cards carry the holder’s photo and signature. If the legislation is passed two fingerprints will be added in accordance with European regulation. In addition to that the card-holder’s address would be removed from the card’s electronic chip. The bill will be put to vote in parliament this week.
MONDAY 5 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: On Friday the Ministry of Health reported 136 new resident cases derived from 6,120 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 818. 3 individuals are in hospital, with 1 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.84. 343,732 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 216,876 have received a second one.
Luxembourg’s Ministry of Health announced that the sixth and final phase of the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign ended last week. As of right now anyone who has not yet made an appointment will be able to register on a new waiting list. This includes cross border workers as well. People can register for any of the following vaccines: Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson. The waiting lists will be open until the end of the month at www.impfen.lu.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel was admitted to the hospital yesterday following his positive Covid test on 27 June. He is undergoing additional tests and analyses. Out of precaution Bettel will remain under observation for 24 hours.
The next municipal elections will take place on 11 June 2023. This was made official after a meeting by Minister of the Interior Taina Bofferding and Syvicol, the association of local communes. 2023 will be a key year with both local and national parliament elections taking place. Local elections are traditionally scheduled for October. But the date was changed so they don’t coincide with the general elections.
A collaborative media investigation by Le Monde and other European publications has targeted the practice of rulings in Luxembourg. The media outlets claim that the grand duchy is circumventing the problem of favourable tax rulings through tacit acquiescence. The Ministry of finance reacted immediately by saying that the allegations are false and unfounded.
According to a new law police video surveillance should only be used in areas where there is a risk of serious crime. The bill which was approved in parliament last week provides a clearer framework for the use of video surveillance. For example, images obtained by police through the Visupol network can be kept for a maximum of two months, except when required for investigations.
The Luxexpo site in Kirchberg will be transformed into a congress and exhibition center. This is intended to make the grand duchy one of the top 50 business events locations worldwide. The site will be redeveloped in several stages to allow it to continue operating during the works. Public works minister François Bausch said the plan is to build in height in order to free up floor space. The government did not disclose a budget for the project or a more detailed timeline of the next steps.
FRIDAY 2 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 108 new resident cases derived from 5,115 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 818. 4 individuals are in hospital, with 1 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.49. To date, 341,043 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 210,682 have received their second one.
The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs confirmed yesterday an extension of restrictions applicable for travel from the UK to Luxembourg until 15 July 2021 inclusive, due to the increased circulation of more transmissible Delta variant. Anyone over the age of six who has stayed in the UK, regardless of the length of that stay, within the fourteen days before arriving in Luxembourg must undergo an immediate COVID-19 test, and must declare to the test laboratory that they stayed in the UK. COVID-19 tests will be performed, free of charge, for all arrivals at Luxembourg Airport. Arrivals from the UK must go into strict quarantine for seven days with the obligation to undergo a second test from the sixth day of quarantine. In the event of refusal to take a test, the quarantine period will be extended to a total of fourteen days.
The Ministry of Education has announced that free summer school classes will be available from the 30th of August to the 10th of September. Primary classes will be available for French, German and maths, while secondary pupils can receive extra support in German, English, French, maths, biology, natural sciences, chemistry, and physics. Last summer, 4,800 primary school pupils and 1,100 secondary school students participated in the classes.
STATEC published a list of the main employers in Luxembourg classified by size, yesterday which showed that The Post Group remains the largest employer in the grand duchy with 4,620 members of staff. In second place is the rail operator CFL, which grew its workforce by 70 people last year to around 4,580 employees. The first private employer on the list is supermarket chain Cactus which ranks third with a workforce of 4,460 people. The biggest change comes from Amazon, which moves up from 10th to 8th place.
A survey conducted for Luxemburger Wort and RTL, and published yesterday, revealed that The Greens would be the only coalition party to lose voters if a national election was held this month. Survey figures showed that The Greens would lose a seat, while the democratic party and the social democrats would gain one each. If the governing coalition decided to remain together, they would collectively gain one seat, allowing them to stay in government, while the opposition would lose one seat. Although nearly a quarter of those surveyed said they would vote for The Christian Social People’s Party, the highest recorded percentage of support, it represents a 4.3% drop compared to the 2018 election, and four fewer seats.
Minister of Labour and Employment Dan Kersch announced that 5 million rapid antigen tests have been distributed to employers during discussions with the OGBL and LCGB unions. Direct distribution of over 1.1 million tests was organised for companies with over 500 employees. 3.6 million tests were distributed to smaller businesses or individuals employing cleaners. The Minister thanked the 120 jobseekers who staffed the four test distribution centres and the municipalities which hosted them. Union representatives also praised the positive outcome of the campaign. The situation will be reassessed in September after the summer holidays.
THURSDAY 1 JULY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 92 new resident cases derived from 4,386 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 818. 6 individuals are in hospital, with 1 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.21. To date, 338,821 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 203,972 have received their second one.
Video footage showing Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert wearing no masks and hugging and chatting at close proximity while at a private concert has caused some controversy on social media over the last few days. The Minister for Health responded by telling RTL that all those present at the event on Mother’s Day had undergone the CovidCheck regime which allowed for events without masks or distancing. The Ministry of State further commented that the success of the vaccination campaign allowed for cultural events to once again take place with screening and CovidChecks, and that the Prime Minister supported any event within a regulated setting that respected the measures and rules.”
Following estimates by the Council of the European Union that one in five children suffers sexual abuse during their upbringing, MP Nancy Arendt from the CSV Party yesterday brought the issue before the Chamber of Deputies.Arendt requested an in-depth analysis and figures on sexual abuse, the creation of an awareness campaign to better detect abuse, and an increase in the number of police officers trained to fight cybercrime.
This week, parliament voted down three opposition motions demanding better regulation of vacant housing units and building lands. The Left wanted the creation of a register for vacant dwellings showing for how long they have been empty.Government estimates show that approximately 6% of the national housing stock is currently empty. The Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party proposed imposing council tax on unused land and vacant houses and flats. The Christian Democrats called for all unoccupied housing owned by the state to be immediately put back on the market. Parliament also rejected the introduction of a national tax to combat speculation on unoccupied real estate and unused building land, which is seen as a problematic driver of house price increases.
The government announced yesterday that it will extend its guarantees for loans to companies for up to €2.5 billion until the end of year, in order to assist the Luxembourg economy as the country begins to open up again. Through the scheme, launched in March 2020, the state gives loans to companies over a maximum six-year period, capped at €2.5 billion So far, Luxembourg firms have received loans amounting to €186.6 million, of which the state guarantees 85%. Throughout the worst period of the covid crisis in 2020, banks allowed companies to delay debt repayments of a value of €4.5 billion until the end of the year.
Luxembourg City mayor Lydie Polfer this week blocked one part of an exhibition about conspiracy theories related to the so-called “Bombers Affair” that shook the country between 1984 and 1986, The director of Luxembourg’s City Museum told the press that the veto was due to a court case relating to the affair that was still ongoing. Between 1984 and 1986, a series of 18 bombings and other acts of sabotage were carried out across the country, including attacks on electricity pylons, the Headquarters of the Gendarmerie and the Palace of Justice, and at the airport. No-one has ever been caught or convicted for the attacks, which spawned a range of conspiracy theories on the motives and identities of the perpetrators, with the country’s security services and royal family among those being alleged as responsible .