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 .
WEDNESDAY 30 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 53 new resident cases derived from 6,407 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 0.92. To date, 335,005 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 199,871 have received their second one.
In response to a parliamentary question, Health Minister Paulette Lenert confirmed that the authorities have not ruled out the possibility of a third vaccine dose. A decision will be made depending on various factors, such as the emergence of new virus variants.
Luxembourg and Germany have extended their social security agreement for teleworking cross-border workers until the end of the year. The agreement, which was set to expire today, ensures that German residents who normally work in Luxembourg but are teleworking due to the pandemic continue to be affiliated to the social security system here.
Luxembourg and Ethiopia signed a tax treaty yesterday. The agreement, signed by Luxembourg’s Finance Minister and the Ethiopian Ambassador, eliminates double taxation.
Etienne Schneider has been appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of Luxembourg construction company Lux TP. The former Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister is taking over from Jean Cazzaro, who held the role for 8 years.
The University of Luxembourg was ranked among the top 20 young universities in this year’s Times Higher Education rankings. The university, founded in 2003, placed 3rd overall for international outlook. However, the university fell eight places compared to last year, moving from 12th to 20th overall.
St George’s students and staff visited the British Ambassador’s Residence gardens for the inauguration of their new insect hotel yesterday. The initiative forms part of the British Embassy’s COP26 campaign in Luxembourg. Secondary students discussed climate issues with the ambassador, while a group of younger pupils carried out a biodiversity audit; others assembled the insect hotel before the ribbon cutting ceremony.
TUESDAY 29 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 42 new resident cases derived from 14,295 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 0.89. 328,962 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 225,667 have received a second one.
Luxembourg’s Minister of Education Claude Meisch announced that the wearing of masks in schools could be dropped in September. Speaking to RTL yesterday Meisch said that, starting from the next school year, masks would only become mandatory if there were any recorded infections. Meisch added that vaccinating minors is expected to help improve the situation. He also announced that discussions were already happening about what procedures and methods could remain in place after the pandemic.
Children between the age of 12 and 17 will be invited for a vaccination against Covid-19, starting with the oldest and most vulnerable. That was announced by the Ministry of Health on Monday. Every teenager will receive an invitation by post. Personalised assistance is also offered through a hotline which can be reached by calling (+352) 247-65533.
Starting on Thursday, small goods ordered online could prove to be more expensive than consumers in Luxembourg have been used to. This is because an exemption on applying VAT across the EU on items with a value of €22 and under will end on 1 July. The changes are part of an effort to boost tax revenue across the bloc by closing loopholes and preventing fraud. According to a 2020 European Commission report, EU member states could have collected €140bn more in VAT revenue than they actually did.
RTL Group has announced that it will sell its RTL Belgium subsidiary to DPG Media and Groupe Rossel, two Belgian media outfits, in a deal worth €250m. The Luxembourg and Cologne-based broadcasting group has been scaling back direct ownership of media outlets in several countries over the past few months. RTL Belgium serves the French-speaking part of the country with three TV channels, two radio stations, a streaming radio station, TV service and a news site.
Wil Lofy, a prominent sculptor in Luxembourg’s art scene passed away at the age of 84. He was born in 1937 in Esch-sur-Alzette, and became famous for his artistic creations around the Grand Duchy. Some of them include the sheep fountain, Hämmelsmarsch in the heart of Luxembourg city and the Maus Ketty fountain in Mondorf-les-Bains. One of his most recent creations, Métamorphoses commissioned in 2016, portrays the problem of world hunger and humanity’s futile quest for a solution.
MONDAY 28 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: On Friday the Ministry of Health reported 14 new resident cases derived from 8,089 tests. No additional deaths were reported. The death toll in the Grand Duchy remains 818. 3 individuals are in hospital, with 2 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.69. 316,538 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 219,962 have received a second one.
Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday morning. He has since isolated himself in accordance with official guidelines.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs updated the list of third countries subject to temporary entry restrictions. Travelers from Albania, the United States, Lebanon, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Serbia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao will again be allowed to enter Luxembourg. Anyone visiting Luxembourg will still need to present a certificate for vaccination or a negative coronavirus test. A document showing that a COVID-19 infection was treated up to six months ago will also allow entry to the country.
Benoît Ochs, a Luxembourg general practitioner is now facing a one-year ban from practicing medicine. He has been accused of spreading misinformation about masks and vaccines. The Luxembourg medical college launched an investigation against Ochs after patient complaints. The verdict is expected on 14 July. Ochs has a right to appeal the decision reached by the disciplinary committee.
The deadline for UK nationals to apply for their Luxembourg residency has been pushed back from 30 June until the end of the year. According to the foreign ministry around 600 British nationals in Luxembourg have yet to submit their application for residency. So far, a total of 3,838 applications have been received by authorities. All UK nationals who arrived in Luxembourg before 1 January this year must apply to update their status.
The latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor released figures regarding the creation of new businesses in Luxembourg and across Europe. In the Grand Duchy the number of people who thought that there were good opportunities to start a business dropped from 58% in 2019 to 42% in 2020. The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t affected all entrepreneurs equally. Early-stage entrepreneurial activity by women decreased by 40%, compared to around just 9% for men.
The Rocklab announced the six acts that will compete in this year’s edition of the Screaming Fields festival. The lineup features Culture the Kid, Angel Cara, Chasey Negro, Lara Grogan, Mellow and Zirocco. The festival serves as a breakout platform for Luxembourg-based musicians aged 12–25. It will take place on 10 July. More information can be found on Rockhal.lu
FRIDAY 25 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 4 new resident cases derived from 489 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 818. 5 individuals are in hospital, with 2 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.77. To date, 311,296 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 194,690 have received their second one.
The government’s weekly review of Covid-19 cases showed that for the week 14-20 June the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 continued to decrease with 90 recorded cases. This was also the second week in which no new deaths related to COVID-19 were recorded. Regarding the distribution of covid variants it was found that the Alpha variant (UK) again represented the majority of cases, and the Delta variant (Indian) accounted for 35% of cases. There was 1 new case of the Beta (SA) and 4 cases of the Gamma (Brazillian) variants.
Luxembourg is waiting for the results of a study by the European Medicines Agency before it approves offering vaccines from different developers to people awaiting their second jab. Currently, doctors can decide on an individual basis whether to use a different vaccine for a second jab depending on the patient’s health condition. The EMA is expected to deliver a decision based on the study results by the end of the month. The government is also considering offering vaccinations to cross-border workers once the current vaccination phase has concluded.
The Independent Luxembourg Trade Union Confederation has produced a brochure this week highlighting the issue of sexual harassment, and how the problem has developed in schools. The brochure, available in secondary schools and printed in Luxembourgish, French and English, offers details on the services and support available for victims, as well as a guide on how to report incidents. There will also be advice on reporting teachers or other students concerned. The union stated it was important that there are consequences for those who commit sexual harassment and they hoped to raise awareness that such incidents had real consequences.
Luxembourg’s school system was criticised by the Alternative Democratic Reform Party at their press conference yesterday. MP Fred Keup said years of inefficient reforms and experiments had derailed the school system, adding the ADR did not believe school should be fun and that students would be more challenged if they were placed under pressure. The party called for the curriculum to once again focus on the essentials, such as reading, writing, arithmetic and general culture. Teachers should be better supported and given more autonomy, and bureaucracy reduced, said the ADR.
A study published this week by Eurostat reveals that housing costs in Luxembourg are 70% more expensive than the European Union average with only Switzerland and the Republic of Ireland coming in as more expensive for accommodation. The report also showed that costs in Luxembourg were significantly higher than neighbouring countries and the EU average. Alcohol and tobacco, private transport and public transport were the only areas where the Grand Duchy ranked cheaper. The lower ranking for public transport is because of the introduction of free nationwide public transport in March 2020.
THURSDAY 24 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health reported 12 new resident cases derived from 7,453 tests. There were no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 818. 3 individuals were in hospital, with 2 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate was 0.60. As of Tuesday, 299,354 people had received their first vaccine dose, while 211,700 had received their second one.
The Court of Auditors launched an inquiry this week to clarify whether procedures and laws were adhered to when choosing service providers for the Large-Scale Testing Campaign, as well as examine the financing behind the campaign. The Large-Scale Testing Campaign started in May 2020 and has cost in excess of €150 million. The chairperson of the commission, MP Diane Adehm of the CSV, said she expects the Court will ask about contracts and verify whether they were all put out to tender, as well as examine the decision-making process behind the campaign, including how what was set up as a research project was transformed into a full-blown state operation. The Court of Auditors will now draw up a report based on these questions.
The introduction of stricter transparency rules for MPs, including a transparency register will make it mandatory for politicians to name the representatives and organisations with which they meet. Based on a proposal by MP Sven Clement from the Pirate Party, the draft bill will allow citizens to see whether an individual MP, a parliamentary group, or a political group is serving the interests of one specific group. Exceptions include meetings with MEPs, trade unions, and Luxembourg citizens. MPs are expected to vote on the bill at the beginning of next week.
STATEC announced earlier this week that last year’s housing prices had “considerable and significant over-valuations” but that they expected values to rise at a slower rate over the next two years. House prices rose last year by 14.5%, which STATEC estimate as being overvalued by 5%. They forecast real estate prices to rise by 9% this year and by 5% in 2022. Luxembourg has one of the most expensive housing markets in Europe, with approximately 70,000 of its citizens choosing cheaper housing in neighbouring Germany, France or Belgium, raising property prices there as well.
Health minister Paulette Lenert responded to a parliamentary question earlier this week concerning the country’s unexpected shortage of medicinal cannabis. The minister explained that orders placed in the autumn of 2020, to cover consumption until the end of April, did not foresee the increase in consumption observed since November 2020. According to a health ministry report from earlier this month, doctors prescribed 140kg of cannabis for medical use in 2020, almost three times more than in 2019. The association of hospital pharmacies told RTL this week that they have run out of all three varieties of medical cannabis available in the country. Ms Lenert said it is currently unclear when stocks will replenish, and that a search last year for a new supplier had been unsuccessful, but authorities were examining any bids they received.
Organisers of the DKV-Urban Trail – Luxembourg’s second largest running event – announced this week that for the second year running the event has been postponed. The run, initially scheduled for 25 April, and then 25 July this year, will next take place on 24 April 2022. The run offers multiple routes, taking runners through different parts of the capital with the 2019 event attracting more than 3,000 participants. The ING Night Marathon was also cancelled earlier this year, with the 2022 edition scheduled for 28 May next year.
TUESDAY 22 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 19 new resident cases derived from 17,752 tests. No additional deaths were reported. The death toll in the Grand Duchy remains 818. 3 individuals are in hospital, with 2 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.57. 293,354 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 208,424 have received a second one.
The unemployment rate in Luxembourg continues to decline. In May there were 17,340 jobseekers in the Grand Duchy. That indicates an unemployment rate of 5.9%. Those figures were provided by ADEM, Luxembourg’s state run job center. The data shows a 14.2% drop in jobseeker numbers over the last year. The decline appears to have been helped by job retention measures for citizens. Job offers have risen by 73.9% with 3,961 vacant posts declared in May. The most-sought after profiles by employers were IT development and audit.
Luxembourg’s economy minister Franz Fayot presented a roadmap for the country’s economy as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. The strategy will focus on digitalisation, value chains, sustainability and securing the transition of the data economy. The roadmap must also be in line with the pandemic recovery plan submitted to the EU. It will also have to take into account Luxembourg’s climate targets to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030 and be climate neutral by 2050.
The Luxembourg Independent Audiovisual Authority issued a fine of €25,000 to media service provider Groupe 555 Sàrl. This is the result of a television programme by the name of Libido being broadcast without valid authorization. The media provider’s license for that channel had expired on the 31st of December 2019. The company had sent a request for renewal of the license in February 2020 but lacked certain documents and has not provided them since.
Greenpeace released a study analysing 51 sustainable funds in Luxembourg and Switzerland. The research concluded that the sustainability funds hardly channelled more capital towards sustainable economic activities. Greenpeace called for stricter sustainable financial rules. The NGO’s campaigner Martina Holbach said the EU’s taxonomy is insufficient and doesn’t effectively conclude social criteria.
Luxembourg City ranked 47th in terms of air quality among all cities in the EU. That is according to data released by the European Environment Agency. The capital ranked as “good” in terms of concentration of fine particulate matter. Nordic cities dominated the top ten with Sweden’s Umea at number one.
MONDAY 21 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: On Friday the Ministry of Health reported 13 new resident cases derived from 6,996 tests. No additional deaths were reported. The death toll in the Grand Duchy remains 818. 8 individuals are in hospital, with 1 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.57. 283,338 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 185,008 have received a second one.
Last Friday the European Commission approved Luxembourg’s recovery and resilience plan. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna. She praised the plan as one of the most environmentally friendly ones submitted so far. Luxembourg will spend 60% of the EU funds on measures to support climate objectives. This is well above the 37% minimum set by Brussels. Around a third will be spent on digitalisation, which again exceeds the 20% EU minimum.
PCR rapid test appointments – part of the Large Scale Testing programme – are now open to anyone aged over 6. This aims to give those who haven’t been vaccinated yet the possibility to be tested. A negative test will have the person receive a negative COVID-19 test certificate with a secure QR code. Luxembourg’s Large Scale Testing programme will continue between 16 July and 15 September with a certain part of the population receiving invitations to get tested.
Last week Luxembourg’s government announced that a survey on racism and discrimination will be launched. 15,000 residents of the Grand Duchy will be surveyed about their perceptions of racism in the country. Last year lawmakers called for such a study to be carried out in order to better understand how minorities experience life in Luxembourg.
Environment minister Carole Dieschbourg has reacted to the news that her family’s company – the Moulin Dieschbourg – is in violation of waste management laws. The minister claims she was unaware of the issue. Dieschbourg left the family business in 2013 and cut ties with it when she was appointed to the Luxembourg government. Opposition members recently accused her of turning a blind eye to the company’s transgressions. Last week Dieschbourg was formally summoned by lawmakers to give an explanation to the issue.
A local creative studio has developed a free, interactive video game about Luxembourg which will be launched today. Lux Runner features well-known Luxembourg landmarks and includes challenges and prizes to win. Matthieu Bracchetti, the CEO of the company behind the game reckons that it will be the first Luxembourg video game to come out.
FRIDAY 18 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 18 new resident cases derived from 7,044 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 818. 10 individuals are in hospital, with 2 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.74. To date, 278,096 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 182,454 have received their second one.
The government’s weekly review of Covid-19 cases showed that for the week 7 – 13 June the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 continued to decrease for the 11th week in a row. This was also the first week in which no new deaths related to COVID-19 were recorded since September 2020. Regarding the distribution of covid variants it was found that the Alpha variant (UK) represented 47.4% of cases, and the Delta variant (Indian) accounted for 30.9% of cases. There were no new cases of the Beta (SA) and Gamma (Brazillian) variants
Defence Minister François Bausch announced yesterday that Luxembourg and Belgium are to set up a joint land forces battalion. Belgium’s ambassador to Luxembourg, Thomas Lambert, said earlier this week that the battalion would be permitted to operate in hostile zones. The plans form part of the Grand Duchy’s efforts to boost defence spending for the NATO military alliance. Luxembourg is one of the countries with the lowest spending per GDP per capita in the alliance, at 0.6% but is aiming to increase to 0.72% by 2024. No decision has been reached on where the new battalion will be based. Bausch and the Belgian Minister of Defence, Ludivine Dedonder will confirm the plans by signing a letter of intent at a meeting between the two governments on 7 July.
Luxembourg ranked 12th in the 2021 edition of the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking, published yesterday, returning to its 2019 spot after falling three places last year. The survey analyses factors such as economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency and infrastructure. The grand duchy ranked high for public finances, business legislation, international trade, productivity and efficiency, and basic infrastructure. However, it performed poorly on prices, tax policy, technological and scientific infrastructure, and international investment. The Chamber of Commerce warned that this year is a period of economic uncertainty and issued a list of challenges it believes Luxembourg must rise to meet, including promoting a circular and sustainable economy based on green energy and ecological transitions and transitioning to a data-driven economy by developing an adequate infrastructure
Greenpeace this week called on Luxembourg’s Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna to ensure that the European Investment Bank (EIB) meets its emissions targets under the Paris Agreement on climate change. In 2019, the EIB – of which Gramegna is one of the governors vowed to align its financing activities with the principles and goals of the Paris agreement by the end of 2020, and said it would increase the share of its financing dedicated to climate action and environmental sustainability, to 50% by 2025. Greenpeace says that since the agreement, the EIB has invested €890 million in fossil gas projects and that the bank continues to support major greenhouse gas emitters.
THURSDAY 17 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 19 new resident cases derived from 7,141 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 818. 8 individuals are in hospital, with 2 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.73. To date, 273,095 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 179,476 have received their second one.
Following raids in Esch, Dudelange and in France earlier this month, Luxembourgish police announced yesterday that an international drug trafficking ring had been broken up, with five people suspected of large-scale heroin and cocaine reselling arrested, three of whom were remanded in custody. A total of 4.5kg of drugs were seized along with approximately 26,000 euros, a number of vehicles, a dozen mobile phones and a multitude of valuables, police confirmed. Luxembourg authorities praised the good cooperation with the French authorities.
Luxembourg’s parliament finalised a draft bill this week aimed at reforming the country’s constitution by giving deputies greater powers to set up an investigative committee when wishing to probe the government. The changes will mean parliament requires just one third of votes – instead of the current straight majority to start an investigation. The proposed reform allows members of the public and non-governmental organisations to present proposed legislation to parliament, allowing them more direct involvement in the democratic process, and replacing the often ignored public petitions. The proposed change is part of wider reforms which, if approved, aims to lessen the powers of the monarchy and give the justice system greater independence.
A survey, commissioned by RTL and the Luxemburger Wort, published yesterday, shows that housing is currently the top concern for voters. 81% of respondents prioritised housing, with concerns over increasing traffic and the future prospects of children trailing behind. Topics of least concern were the development of security, pensions and tax fairness in Luxembourg. 82% of those surveyed believed the government can get the country out of the current covid health crisis, with 92% welcoming the recent easing of restrictions. The dissatisfaction rate remained at 35% – the same level as a year ago.
Frank Engel, the former president of the Christian Social People’s Party, speaking to RTL yesterday, expressed confusion over the statement made on Tuesday by the public prosecutor’s office, in which they appeared whether or not to prosecute him. The statement announced that the investigation into the employment contract between Engel and the non-profit association “CSV Frëndeskrees” had been concluded and that a trial could take place before the end of the year. Engel said he would now wait for a clearer statement from the public prosecutor’s office and added that it was awkward to have to be informed of such developments via the media.
A persistent lack of rain over the past decade has diminished the levels, and quality, of the country’s groundwater, and a significant improvement will take up to 15 years, Luxembourg’s Water Management has said. Speaking to the Luxemburger Wort, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Environment explained that only if it rains regularly, and over a longer period of time, will the ground become saturated enough for the water to leak lower into the soil where half of the country’s drinking water originates. 85% of Luxembourg’s taps and boreholes extract water in protected zones to ensure good quality, with the remainder not in use because the water is of poorer quality, containing pollutants such as nitrates and pesticides. Luxembourg is no stranger to problems with its water with multiple incidents of water pollution reported in the last year.
WEDNESDAY 16 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 21 new resident cases derived from 7,430 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 818. 10 individuals are in hospital, with 2 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.72. To date, 270,860 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 175,704 have received their second one.
The Grand Ducal Police fined 78 people for breaking COVID-19 rules last week. 72 of the fines were linked to the curfew, which was in place between midnight and 6am until Sunday. Police carried out a total of 224 checks during the week in question.
Luxembourg and France have extended their taxation and social security agreements for cross-border workers until 30th September. Both agreements were set to expire at the end of this month and concern people residing in France who are employed in Luxembourg but are teleworking because of the pandemic. The extensions follow that of a similar agreement between Luxembourg and Belgium on the taxation of teleworking cross-border workers.
The British Ambassador has urged UK nationals to apply for post-Brexit residency before the 30th June deadline. Failure to do so could result in losing the right to live in Luxembourg. Whilst over 3,800 people have already applied, many still have not. All UK nationals who were resident in Luxembourg before 1st January 2021 should submit their application within the next two weeks. The British Embassy is available to provide additional guidance.
The public prosecutor’s office said it has closed its investigation into a controversial employment contract between former CSV president Frank Engel and a non-profit associated with the political party. A public hearing is being planned before the end of the year. Mr Engel received around €40,000 last year under the contract.
Roger Linden has been sworn-in as the new President of Luxembourg’s Supreme Court of Justice and the Constitutional Court. He replaces outgoing President Jean-Claude Wiwinius, who is retiring on 3rd July.
Den Atelier announced Luxembourg’s first restriction-free, all-standing open-air concert since the pandemic began. On 24th July, Belgian singer-songwriter Selah Sue will perform in front of up to 1,500 people at Parc Thermal in Mondorf-les-Bains. The event will take place within the new CovidCheck system, meaning no masks and no social distancing needed. Tickets are on sale on den Atelier’s website.
TUESDAY 15 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 1 new resident case derived from 367 tests. No additional deaths were reported. The death toll in the Grand Duchy remains 818. 8 individuals are in hospital, with 1 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.67. 268,206 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 171,426 have received a second one.
Meteolux issued a yellow alert for the south of Luxembourg for today. Temperatures are expected to reach 30°C. The authorities have highlighted the period between 2pm and 8pm as potentially dangerous. In the coming days, temperatures could go past the 30°C mark.
Luxembourg’s Minister of Culture, Sam Tanson presented a new grant system part of the “Neistart Lëtzebuerg – Culture” programme. The project was launched in May 2020 to support Luxembourg’s cultural sector in the face of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Ms Tanson announced that €5m in financial support will be allocated to the cultural sector via the programme.
Luxembourg’s data protection watchdog – the CNPD, banned the prosecutor’s office from using a controversial database. The criminal records data was used to carry out background checks as part of the recruitment process of the government body. The prosecutor’s office must also delete any information it has pulled from the database. The CNPD’s decision only relates to the recruitment of government employees and not for civil servant posts.
Yesterday Luxembourg’s railway company CFL presented its report for last year. In 2020 the number of railway passengers decreased to 14.5 million which is a reduction of 42% from 2019. The CFL’s annual net turnover is €4.6 million which indicates a decrease of 74%. The national railway company employs more than 4,800 people at the moment. In spite of being strongly affected by the pandemic the CFL stated it remained financially stable.
The Luxembourg City Tourist Office unveiled this year’s “Summer in the City” programme. Schueberfoeur 2021 will not take place in its usual format due to the pandemic. But a number of thrilling rides will be set up at the Glacis. Small fairgrounds will also be scattered around 10 of the capital’s districts. Luxembourg city’s summer programme also includes about 10 events spread throughout the summer. Such as an outdoor cinema at Glacis from the 21st of July to 1st of August followed by outdoor contemporary music concerts between the 4th and the 15th of August.
MONDAY 14 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: On Friday the Ministry of Health reported 23 new resident cases derived from 8,056 tests. No additional deaths were registered. The death toll in the Grand Duchy remains 818. 11 individuals are in hospital, with only 1 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.89. 263,291 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 159,738 have received a second one.
Anyone over the age of 18 in Luxembourg can now voluntarily sign up for the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. This is intended to speed up the country’s vaccination campaign. Luxembourg is in the sixth and final stage of its vaccination drive, with people under 30 expected to receive their vaccine invitations from this week. The government also authorized the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine to be administered to children aged 12 or over. This is in line with a recommendation by the European Medicines Agency.
The large-scale testing programme will be turned into a first-come, first-served testing station. That means it will be available without an invitation. This was announced by health minister Paulette Lenert. The change will come into force in the following weeks. A sample of 3,000 people will continue to be invited for monitoring purposes and antibody tests will also continue.
Nightclubs in Luxembourg city are now able to remain open until 3am. The reduction of the curfew was foreseen in the new covid-19 law. All reopenings will have to follow the sanitary rules currently in place. This means a maximum capacity of 300 people and a CovidCheck protocol to follow. The City of Luxembourg has also decided to extend the distribution of vouchers for free antigen tests.
Luxembourg’s data protection watchdog, the CNPD, has proposed a fine of more than $425m against Amazon for violations of EU privacy rules. The CNPD is the lead regulator for Amazon in the EU. The draft decision must be approved by the EU’s other 26 national regulators before a fine can be imposed. Spokespersons for both Amazon and the CNPD have so far not commented on the case.
Luxembourg came in fourth place in a global financial centers’ ranking. The list was based on metrics analysing the economic and business environment, quality of life, infrastructure and human capital. The U.S. came first in that bracket with the UK second and Switzerland third. In terms of international activity Luxembourg and Singapore are the most international financial centers. International business accounts for roughly 60% in the Grand Duchy.
FRIDAY 11 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 40 new resident cases derived from 7,094 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 818. 13 individuals are in hospital, with 2 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.94. To date, 260,638 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 153,744 have received their second one.
Minister of Health Paulette Lenert and Minister for Digitalisation Marc Hansen provided further clarification on the new CovidCheck certificates. From now on, anyone who gets vaccinated or tests negative for the virus will receive a certificate with a new QR code to be scanned with the new CovidCheck.lu app. From Sunday, these certificates can be used to dine indoors or attend events at venues which have registered for the CovidCheck system. People vaccinated before 10th June will get an updated code in the post in the next days. People who have recovered from the virus in the past 6 months will receive their certificates next week once the new COVID Law is in place.
The Health Minister will join Prime Minister Xavier Bettel at another press conference at 1pm today, when they will summarise the outcome of the preceding Government Council meeting.
The Education Ministry reported that COVID-19 infection numbers in schools continue to decline. Last week, there were 81 fewer positive cases detected in Luxembourg’s schools compared to the week before. From 31st May to 6th June, there were a total of 101 cases, all of which fell into either scenario 1 or 2, meaning no more than 3 positive cases in a class.
Luxembourg-Romania co-production “Collective” was named winner of the first LUX Audience Award, presented by the European Film Academy and the European Parliament. Both members of the European public and MEPs voted for the film, which revolves around the 2015 Collectiv nightclub fire in Bucharest.
In other film news, a 2nd Luxembourg co-production is set to compete in the official selection at the Cannes Film Festival next month. In addition to “The Restless”, Luxembourg will be represented by “Where is Anne Frank”, an animated feature film about Anne Frank’s imaginary friend, Kitty. The film will celebrate its world premiere at Cannes in July.
THURSDAY 10 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 52 new resident cases derived from 6,288 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 818. 20 individuals are in hospital, with 3 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.90. To date, 257,923 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 148,647 have received their second one.
As of today, Dutch authorities have downgraded Luxembourg to a “yellow” rating meaning that travelling to and staying in the Netherlands for longer than 12 hours is possible without a negative PCR test result, and that the mandatory quarantine period has now been lifted.
Police reported yesterday that, over the past week, they carried out around 236 COVID-19 compliance checks across the Grand Duchy. A total of 104 people were fined, around 90 of whom had broken the curfew currently in place between midnight and 6am. In fourteen cases, police officers reported non-compliance with the sanitary regulations for the responsible authorities.
In answer to a parliamentary question concerning Residence applications by United Kingdom nationals, Jean Asselborn, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs responded that the Government is closely monitoring the development of claims made by British nationals and that as of June 4, 2021, a total of 3,838 requests for a residence document were made. 3,273 of these requests were finalized, with 565 still being processed. No request was refused. In view of the approaching deadline of June 30, a second reminder letter was sent dated May 20, 2021 to all these people yet to apply. As of June 4,the number of people who still have to apply is around 630. The minister concluded that the submission of a request is the sole responsibility of the persons concerned and that a late entry, without a valid reason, risked the loss of the right of residence and, consequently, of the right to work and of the right of access to certain social benefits.
According to a statement released yesterday by STATEC, the annual inflation rate increased from 2.1 to 2.5% last month causing prices to increase slightly in Luxembourg. At service stations, one litre of diesel cost 3.2% more while petrol increased by 1.4%. When compared to May 2020 fuel prices were 35.5% more expensive. Groceries became slightly more expensive compared to the previous month. The cost of a plane ticket rose by 3.8% between April and May alone.
In response to a parliamentary question, Education minister Claude Meisch announced yesterday that the National Language Center (INL) is currently developing a website accessible anywhere on the globe that will enable people to learn Luxembourgish. Reimbursement of learning costs would be available for those who wish to take the Grand Duchy citizenship. The website will also help ease overcrowding of INL’s courses which saw a record 17,000 students enroll for language courses in 2019/2020.
WEDNESDAY 9 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 35 new resident cases derived from 8,325 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 818. 16 individuals are in hospital, with 2 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.90. To date, 398,074 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 157,846 have received their second one.
In response to two parliamentary enquiries, ministers this week announced that Luxembourg will issue covid certificates from mid-June that match the European Union format, with a QR code verifiable by a new application called Covidcheck.lu. As soon as the certificates in the European format are issued, all previous vaccination certificates will become available in the same format on the MyGuichet.lu platform. The European Union plans that their COVID digital certificates will be available in all Member States from 1 July 2021.
Internal Security Minister Henri Kox apologised yesterday after a spokesperson at his ministry asked for a news article about police reforms be removed from the Reporter.lu website at the end of April. The request was sent when the ministry identified 12 passages that were factually incorrect, giving the piece an erroneous and misleading character. In response to parliamentary questions, Kox and Prime Minister Xavier Bettel wrote that the spokesperson had used a poor choice of words when stating “I ask you to please delete the article” in an email.Kox denied any involvement and said that his ministry does not intend to undermine the freedom of the press, or censure a journalist. He added that the Ministry of Internal Security officially apologised for creating any doubt about respect for the principle of press freedom. Since 2013, Luxembourg has fallen from fourth to 20th position in a global media ranking on press freedom.
Statec published it’s twice-yearly forecast yesterday which showed that Luxembourg’s gross domestic product should grow by 6% in 2021, followed by a 3.5% growth rate in 2022. The report also claimed that the Luxembourg job market is the most dynamic in the eurozone partly explained by the job retention measures put in place by the government. Luxembourg ran an unprecedented budget deficit of 4.1% for 2020, while still the lowest in the whole eurozone, but Statec forecast that public accounts would nearly balance this year, claiming the 2020 recession was less severe in luxembourg than in other eurozone countries.
COPAS, the umbrella organisation of care providers in Luxembourg, yesterday criticised a number of sections within the new Covid-19 law, in particular the requirement for staff to be tested twice a week. COPAS emphasised that all staff should have to take the same type of test, and questioned whether the new Covid-19 law undermined staff members’ right to privacy since they would technically have to disclose if they were vaccinated or not, if they refused to take the mandatory test. The organisation also criticised the fact that an employer can remove an employee from their post, should they refuse to get tested.
Minister of Social Security Romain Schneider reported this week that in 2020 a total of 1.2 million certificates of incapacity for work were issued – an increase of 40%. Over half of the certificates declaring incapacity were for family reasons. The number of accidents resulting in days off work decreased, while maternity leave figures remained stable. Over half of employees missed a day of work at least once last year, with the average length of absences increasing from 8.7 days to 10.4 days. Real estate and cleaning companies were the most affected sectors while the lowest increases happened in the finance and hospitality sector.
TUESDAY 8 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 74 new resident cases derived from 295 tests. No additional deaths have been registered. The death toll in the Grand Duchy remains 818. 14 individuals are in hospital, with 2 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.89. 250,779 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 138,726 have received a second one.
Luxembourg’s finance minister Pierre Gramegna has welcomed an agreement reached by the G7 group of advanced economies at their last meeting. The deal envisages the implementation of a global minimum corporate income tax of 15%. Gramegna expressed his support for a fairer tax framework for multinational companies. He has already shown his support for the measures in an interview with Bloomgberg in May, where he also added that small countries in the EU “have specific considerations to value that need to be taken into consideration.”
Luxembourg has launched the Meluxina high-performance computer. This is a big step in the country’s digitization strategy and a project which has seen €30.4m invested in it. The Luxembourg supercomputer is part of a network of eight other computers in Finland, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Portugal. Together they form a joint undertaking which has its headquarters in Luxembourg.
Minister for Mobility and Public Works François Bausch provided insight into Cargolux operations after an official inquiry by Member of Parliament Marc Hansen. The majority of night flights at Findel airport are operated by Cargolux. Last year, the company had 970 night flights at Findel airport, a rise of 60 flights compared to 2019. In terms of Cargolux’s carbon footprint Ministers François Bausch and Carole Deischbourg noted that a 5% reduction was registered over the last decade.
Luxembourg is looking to implement a new recycling strategy involving biogas plants that produce biogas from things such as food waste or crops which can then be used as a fertilizer. The government will support small-scale biogas plants, which often fail to be lucrative for farmers. Minister for Energy Claude Turmes said that the use of biogas plants will incentivise a change of energy sources.
An exhibition by Congolese artist Alexandre Elenga titled “the Power of Color” will be on Display at the Ruth Gallery in Mondorf-Les-Bains starting this Saturday. Elenga is a painter and an illustrator whose style has been classified as urban or contemporary pop art. The exhibition will run from the 12th of June to the 22nd of August. It will be open to the public Monday to Sunday from 10am to 10pm. More information is available at www.ruth-gallery.lu.
MONDAY 7 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: the Ministry of Health reported 94 new resident cases derived from 8,410 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 818. 14 individuals are in hospital, with 3 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.85. 242,374 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 131,111 have received a second one.
Passengers coming to Luxembourg from the UK will now have to quarantine for 7 days. Those arriving in the Grand Duchy will be asked to do a PCR test. A second one should also be administered on the sixth day of the person’s quarantine. In the event of refusal to submit to those tests the quarantine is extended to 14 days. The new rules will be in force until the 30th of June. They were introduced due to an increased circulation of mutated strains of covid-19.
Luxembourgish residents who have been fully vaccinated will now be able to travel to France without a PCR test. France has eased their restrictions for a number of countries. This is part of the country’s plans to boost the tourism sector.
Luxembourg’s emergency services were on duty on Friday as storms caused major disruptions in the country. Several people reported a phenomenon resembling a tornado in Kirchberg. Most of the interventions were in and around the capital and in the region of Hosingen and Troisvierges. While in the municipality of Differdange some vehicles ended up partially underwater due to the sudden rainfall.
A recent petition has demanded that the government introduces a benefit for stay at home parents. This aid scheme existed previously but was abolished in 2015. The petition’s author Olivier Betz argues that parents should receive a minimum revenue as long as they have children aged 0 to 15. Anyone who is a Luxembourgish resident and over 15 can sign the appeal. Back in 2019 a similar petition failed to get the 4.500 signatures required for it to be discussed in Parliament.
According to a report by Eurostat and Statec, Luxembourg has the lowest gender pay gap when calculated according to average hourly pay rates. The gap in Luxembourg was estimated at 1.4% with the average for Europe at 14.1%
Luxembourg’s first five-a-side indoor football complex – the Loft – will open in Contern on the 13th of June. 2,200 m2 of covered synthetic pitches will be available for individuals, companies, schools and football clubs alike. The project is sponsored by Bosnian footballer Miralem Pjanic who started his youth career in FC Schifflange 95.
FRIDAY 4 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 61 new resident cases derived from 6,881 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 818. 16 individuals are in hospital, with 3 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.88. To date, 237,717 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 127,192 have received their second one.
The Confederation of Public Servants issued a statement yesterday demanding that essential roles in the civil service receive priority vaccination. The statement accused the government of playing for time and said if priority voluntary vaccination was not implemented quickly, it would be proof of a “serious error of judgement”. The union also requested that patients be able to select the vaccine administered to them. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said that a decision on priority vaccinations would be made next week.
The government this week agreed to ask parliament to extend two schemes that offer help for companies affected by pandemic restrictions. The first is an extension until Autumn of a scheme that pays uncovered costs for restaurants, hotels, tourism, sports or entertainment venues that have lost 40% or more of their pre-covid revenue but still had to meet costs for payroll, consumed goods or financial charges. The government council also agreed to continue to not penalise businesses and self-employed people unable to pay their monthly social insurance payments. Those payments still remain due and are billed monthly, but the CCSS would not charge interest on late payments until the end of the year. The government’s plans are expected to be approved by Parliament.
Luxembourg’s government agreed this week on spending of up to €367 million to replace its existing fleet of obsolete military vehicles to fulfil it’s NATO commitments on shared defence. Defence Minister François Bausch said in a statement that 80 lightly armoured vehicles will be purchased for the Luxembourg army, as well as their logistical costs during their 15-20 year life cycle of about 15 to 20 years. The decision forms part of an effort for Luxembourg to reach the promised 2% of GDP made by NATO members.
Yesterday saw the 30th anniversary of the European Consumer Centre (ECC) Luxembourg. Minister for Consumer Protection, Paulette Lenert, and the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, met to discuss current issues in the field of consumer protection. Their talks focused on the new consumer agenda and on upcoming initiatives at the national and European level. Created in 1991, the ECC Luxembourg’s services, which are free of charge, include informing consumers about European consumer law and policy, and advising on cross-border disputes within and outside of the EU.
STATEC announced yesterday that it is in the process of organising the 37th census in Luxembourg. Because of the Covid health crisis and to limit the risk of contamination, participation via the online questionnaire available on Guichet.lu is strongly encouraged. The online questionnaire is available in Luxembourgish, French, German, English and Portuguese, and can be completed from 8 November onwards. In addition, a lottery will be organized to encourage online participation with prizes drawn at random from all the households that use the digital questionnaire. The census provides socio-economic information, such as the situation on the labor market, the use of languages, the possible disability situation and mobility behaviors. It is organized jointly by STATEC and the municipalities every 10 years as well as with Guichet.lu concerning the online questionnaire.
THURSDAY 3 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 44 new resident cases derived from 6,665 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 818. 21 individuals are in hospital, with 5 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.99. To date, 232,381 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 123,941 have received their second one.
At yesterday’s press conference, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert presented the latest changes to Covid-19 restrictions from 12 June. Luxembourg households will be able to welcome up to ten guests at home. Ten people will be allowed to eat or drink together on a terrace, while up to four people will be able to sit inside a bar or restaurant without the need for a negative test result. Groups of more than four people will have to present the new Covid-19 certificate to prove that they have either been vaccinated, tested negative, or recovered from a Covid-19 infection. Nightclubs will be allowed to admit 300 people provided they can show a negative test result, or produce the Covid check.The curfew is to be lifted entirely and restaurants and bars will no longer have restricted opening hours.Masks are still mandatory on public transport and in shops but there will be no limit on the number of customers allowed in stores and shopping centres.
A worldwide demand for construction materials has caused a shortage of supplies that has forced some Luxembourg construction firms to delay work, put employees on leave or seek partial unemployment assistance, the government said this week. The shortage of building materials is the result of reduced production throughout the worst of the covid pandemic followed by a surge in demand, especially in the US and China, now that the virus appears to have abated, Labour Minister Dan Kersch said. He added that it is impossible to forecast exactly how long the shortage of materials will last.
STATEC, the national statistics bureau, released a study yesterday that examined 2018 salary data and showed salaries in Luxembourg are only higher than those in neighbouring countries for certain sectors. The study showed that the average annual gross salary was €64,932, which was 182% of the EU average, but was reduced to €50,000 (or 145%) after cost-of-living differences had been accounted for. When STATEC analysed pay by sector. Luxembourg was top in financial services, health, civil service and education sectors, but Belgium led in construction, retail, hospitality, and administrative services, and Germany in industry. Sectors that demanded a higher educated and better paid workforce such as the financial sector and the scientific, technical and specialised services sector represented 22% of Luxembourg’s workforce – far higher than in Belgium, Germany and France.
Luxembourg City municipal authorities have decided to allow a demonstration this coming Saturday by the non-profit association “Provelo”, who are demanding the creation of additional bicycle lanes and more safety for cyclists. The city administration had originally refused to authorise the demonstration, arguing that a street market, also due to take place in Luxembourg City this Saturday, and the expected high turnout of customers with their cars presented a health hazard. The demonstration will start on plateau du St Esprit at 3pm and take a 6km route around the city and was organised to coincide as closely as possible with World Bicycle Day which is today.
WEDNESDAY 2 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 51 new resident cases derived from 9,565 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 817. 24 individuals are in hospital, with 7 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.83. To date, 229,708 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 121,348 have received their second one.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert are holding a press conference at 3pm today. The ministers will summarise the outcome of the preceding Government Council meeting. It is expected that coronavirus restrictions will be eased further from mid-June in light of falling infection numbers.
The CHL and Hôpital Kirchberg are now offering parallel emergency medical services in an effort to reduce patient waiting times. These services will be provided weekdays between 7am and 5pm. The two hospitals will continue to alternate outside these hours and on weekends.
The Upper Sûre Nature Park yesterday welcomed its newest team member: Tom Schmit, Luxembourg’s first ranger. Over the summer period, he will be present on the lake’s beaches to provide information, raise awareness and point out rule breaches, if needed. He will also travel between the different communes around the nature park and serve as a contact person.
Luxair has teamed up with local non-profit Rosa Lëtzebuerg to launch its Pride month campaign. The airline yesterday unveiled a new livery featuring the rainbow pride flag colours as part of its “Be pride. Be Luxembourg” campaign. This partnership aims to promote a more inclusive and welcoming culture both within Luxair as a company and in general. Luxembourg Pride Week will take place in Esch-sur-Alzette from 3rd to 11th July.
Applications are now open for the Screaming Fields Mini Festival. Six up-and-coming bands or artists, aged 12 to 25, will be selected to play live on an open-air stage on 10th July, with the chance to be seen and heard and to win prizes such as a Rocklab Membership. To apply, visit www.screamingfields.lu.
TUESDAY 1 JUNE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported no new resident cases. 337 tests were carried out on Sunday. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 815. 19 individuals are in hospital, with 8 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.82. 228,017 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 117,557 have received a second one.
Luxembourg’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign is going at a similar pace to the EU average. That is according to data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. 44.1% of all EU adults above the age of 18 have received at least one jab. In Luxembourg that figure is 44.2%. Malta leads the chart, with 63.3%, followed by Hungary with 61.7%. In Bulgaria just 13.9% of the adult population has been vaccinated, the lowest in the EU.
Luxembourg’s Ministry of Health provided clarification on COVID-19 testing before events with more than 150 attendees. One of the options is presenting a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before the start of the event. Another, is presenting a negative result of a test or a self-test certified by a person authorized for this purpose. This test can be completed at pharmacies, for example. The third available option is carrying out a self-test on site under the supervision of a staff member of the event organizer.
The Cancer Foundation published data regarding smoking yesterday on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day. Luxembourg has 88,000 daily smokers, which amounts to 17% of the population. The data is a result of a survey which also indicated that the highest proportion of smokers is among people between 18 and 35. Over 30% of that age group are cigarette smokers. According to Cancer Foundation director Lucienne Thommes the prices of tobacco products need to be dramatically increased, while prevention programmes need to be expanded.
Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and the Minister of Finance Pierre Gramegna traveled to Paris for a two-day long state visit yesterday. On the agenda will be the Covid vaccination certificate, the situation of cross-border employees and international taxation. Bettel and Gramegna will also participate in a meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. A total of 37 countries’ representatives will take part in the meeting which runs under the motto “Shared values: Building a Green and Inclusive Future.”
MONDAY 31 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: On Saturday the Ministry of Health reported 59 new resident cases derived from 9,837 tests. No new deaths from Covid-19 were reported. The death toll in the Grand Duchy remains 814. 20 individuals are in hospital, with 12 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.73. 226,779 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 113,353 have received a second one.
Luxembourg’s authorities released COVID-19 related data for the period between the 17th and the 23rd of May. The number of people testing positive for the coronavirus has decreased by 35%. While the number of PCR tests carried out for the period in question increased significantly from 49,715 to 72,118. Wastewater analysis has shown a constant downward trend in recent weeks as well. 79% of detected cases are of the British variant, 5.7% are of the South African variant and 4.3% of the Brazilian one.
Nearly 200 people gathered in Luxembourg city on Saturday as part of a protest with the slogan Free Palestine. The demonstrators called for a peaceful solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. According to them, Palestinian demands were disregarded following the recent ceasefire. For the protesters, the ceasefire doesn’t solve any of the preexisting issues either.
A reform of the taxi system in Luxembourg received a positive opinion from the competition council. The proposed bill will abolish the territorial zone limitations and will remove restrictions on the number of licenses that can be issued. It will also introduce legal provision for services of rental cars with a driver. That could open the door to operators like Uber.
EuroCost put Luxembourg 39th in a global ranking of expat rent prices. The ranking is based on rent prices paid by expatriates on two to three-bedroom apartments. Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, New York and Moscow were the most expensive cities for expatriates. Due to the pandemic there was a drop of expatriates in some cities resulting in lower rents. Within Europe, Luxembourg maintained its rank as the 13th most expensive place for expatriates to rent an apartment.
Luxembourg’s vocational guidance center, the Maison de l’Orientation, announced the opening of its new orientation service. The center is open to anyone seeking information and advice concerning their studies, training or professional career. Anyone is welcome regardless of their age, level of study or qualification. The vocational guidance center is open Monday to Friday, from 10am to noon and from 1pm to 5pm.
FRIDAY 28 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 80 new resident cases derived from 9,699 tests. There has been one additional death, bringing the death toll to 813. 32 individuals are in hospital, with 15 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.60. To date, 224,155 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 105,235 have received their second one.
A small demonstration was held on Wednesday by the “Make Amazon Pay” campaign outside of Amazon’s Luxembourg headquarters in Kirchberg to coincide with the latest shareholders meeting. The group are critical of Amazon’s business model and its dangerous impact on society and were gathered to protest against the company’s global tax strategy and working conditions. An Amazon spokesperson told Delano yesterday that Amazon offers excellent working conditions and pays all the taxes required in every country where they operate
Horesca – the main hospitality sector federation – called for an easing of health measures during a meeting this week with the small- and medium-sized business and tourism minister – Lex Delles. François Koepp, secretary general of Horesca, delivered a list of demands at the meeting, including an increase in the number of customers allowed to sit at the same table, closing times to be brought closer to the 12pm national curfew, and a number of financial measures to assist the industry until covid restrictions were fully lifted.
The patients association published a press release yesterday saying that Luxembourg’s taxi-ambulance services were overpriced and suffered from poor hygiene. The association said the service was not qualitative, and called for stricter quality standards for equipment, and for the training of the driver.They further demanded a centralised customer service system for complaints and for prices to be fixed through an agreement with theCNS.
In it’s latest monthly economic report published this week, STATEC announced that the next wage indexation is now expected at the end of 2021, four to five months earlier than previously expected, meaning salaries could be adjusted before Christmas this year. Officials predicted that the inflation rate of 2% will fall to 1.6% in 2022. STATEC said that while inflation had risen recently, due to oil prices, it expected less upward pressure in the coming months. The report said inflation of goods remains steady but drew attention to price increases for raw materials, meaning construction costs will climb even further.
The Nutri-Score system, which provides information on the nutritional value of food products has been authorised for use in Luxembourg this week. The Nutri-Score system is already in use in other European countries, and takes calories, saturated fat, sugars and salt but also fibre and proteins, among other nutritional values into account. Food is then given a colour and letter from A (green) to E (red) based on its score per 100g or 100ml. Use of the Nutri-Score logo is not mandatory for Luxembourg producers and distributors but once used on a brand’s product, the company must continue to display it on all products of the same brand.
THURSDAY 27 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 90 new resident cases derived from 8,841 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 812. 34 individuals are in hospital, with 17 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.74. To date, 223,371 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 101,531 have received their second one.
Following the news that a European Covid-19 certificate is to be introduced in early July, members of opposition parties have mostly welcomed the introduction. Martine Hansen, president of the Christian Social People’s Party, pointed out that they had been requesting just such a certificate for the past “four to six weeks”. Ms Hansen also stressed the importance of considering those who had not yet received the vaccine, mainly the young, and urged that a European agreement should be reached that allows travelling with certified results from a rapid test. Nathalie Oberweis of the Left Party stated she thinks that a European Covid-19 certificate should not become a requirement to travel while many young people are still waiting for vaccination. Ms Oberweis also stressed the need to be careful not to create travel inequalities.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told 100,7 this week that Cargolux has voluntarily stopped flying over Belarus, after a Ryanair flight was forcibly diverted to Minsk on Sunday so that a journalist and his girlfriend could be detained before the airplane was allowed to depart. Several other airlines have also opted to stop flights entering Belarusian airspace, according to global news media outlets. Luxair does not have any flights that go through Belarusian airspace.
The Left Party yesterday demanded further action by authorities concerning potential pollution caused by heavy metals, from a construction site close to a former landfill in Beggen. The Party’s local division criticised the Ministry of the Environment for not carrying out targeted analyses of the groundwater, and said it was unacceptable that the municipality of Luxembourg City kept shifting responsibility onto the Ministry. They demanded that the construction work be stopped immediately and the site cleaned with all costs borne by the polluter. The Party stated that further analyses should be carried out before any further construction work was allowed.
The Minister of the Economy – Franz Fayot – announced yesterday that Luxembourg will be one of the 175 official participants taking part in the 2025 World Expo from 13 April to 13 October 2025 on Yumeshima, an artificial island along the coast of Osaka, Japan. Mr Fayot said the decision to participate in World Expo 2025 was linked to the fact that the event’s main theme – “Designing the society of the future, imagining our life of tomorrow” – is in line with Luxembourg’s goal of sustainable and innovative economic development. Furthermore, Luxembourg maintains very close bilateral relations with Japan which date back more than 90 years.
WEDNESDAY 26 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported one new resident case derived from 420 tests. There has been one additional death, bringing the death toll to 812. 34 individuals are in hospital, with 17 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.80. To date, 222,112 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 100,639 have received their second one.
Last week, police carried out around 210 checks to ensure compliance with COVID-19 regulations, particularly regarding the curfew. Some 90 people received fines, in most cases because they were out after curfew without a valid reason.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told local media that Luxembourg is preparing to issue a COVID-19 passport ahead of the summer holidays. The certificate, which could be launched as a smartphone app in mid-June, will serve as proof that an individual has been fully vaccinated, recovered from the virus or tested negative recently. The document would facilitate travel and enable eligible persons to attend large events.
Daniela Di Santo has been appointed the new director of Fonds Belval. Ms Di Santo had been acting as interim director since March before taking the reins of the public establishment last Thursday. A trained architect, she also served as Deputy Director of the fund between 2015 and 2021.
Amazon announced plans to create an additional 600 jobs in Luxembourg by the end of the year. The internet giant currently employs around 3,000 people in Luxembourg, with this number set to increase to 3,600 later this year.
TUESDAY 25 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Due to yesterday’s bank holiday, only limited data was made available. Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 9 new resident cases derived from 978 tests. As of Saturday, the death toll was 811.
A joint study of the Nurses Association and the University of Luxembourg will look into the reasons for medical staff shortages in Luxembourg. The pandemic has put this particular issue into the spotlight. The number of cross-border employees in the sector has increased and many local staff are expected to retire in the upcoming years. The Nurses association will thus aim to determine how to make jobs in the public health sector more attractive.
Luxembourg’s ministry of Finance and the ministry of the economy confirmed that three COVID-19 economic aid schemes will be extended. The refundable advance scheme and the state guaranteed loan regime have been extended until the end of the year. While the instrument providing funding to stimulate investment during the pandemic has had its ceiling increased from €800,000 to €1.8 million. This investment aid scheme is also being extended until the end of the year.
Luxembourg’s partial unemployment programme will be modified starting from the end of June. The scheme currently has the state paying 80% of employee wages for 31,342 people. That number is set to decrease as aid for the hospitality sector will be discontinued. Construction companies suffering from materials shortage and being unable to operate at full capacity will continue to benefit from the state aid. While the number of companies receiving subsidies will drop from 4,029 in May to 3,676 in June.
Over 4,000 affordable housing units will be created in Luxembourg by 2025. That was announced by the Minister for Housing, Henri Kox. The government has so far contributed almost 100 million euros to the construction of the housing units. That sum is expected to double over the next 5 years. Various projects in cities such as Kehlen, Wilz and Differdange are currently underway.
A working group will determine how to proceed with regard to the recently discovered medieval ruins at a building site in Echternach. The site is earmarked for a large real estate project, including flats, restaurants and an underground car park. Culture minister Sam Tanson met with local officials to discuss the recent discovery. The ruins reportedly date back to the 7th century. While the excavation uncovered walls believed to belong to the gardens of the old Echternach abbey which was destroyed by a fire in the 15th century.
FRIDAY 21 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 67 new resident cases derived from 10,397 tests. There has been 1 additional death, with the death toll standing at 809. 51 individuals are in hospital, with 18 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.83. To date, 213,291 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 90,771 have received their second one.
Figures released yesterday show that 242 cases of Covid were detected in schools from 10 to 16 May – a drop of 55 compared to the previous week. A chain of infection was reported in Leudelange. One pupil tested positive and was in contact with 19 others, 12 of whom later tested positive. The class were subsequently placed in quarantine.
The European Commission announced yesterday it had placed an order for 1.8 billion doses of the BioNtech / Pfizer vaccine to be delivered between the end of 2021 and 2023. The Ministry of Health, contacted by L’essentiel, said yesterday that Luxembourg will be allocated 0.14% of the order or 2.52 million doses.
Luxembourg’s national health insurer, the CNS, this week signed an exchange of information agreement with two doctors’ associations that will allow information to be shared between doctors and dentists, patients and the CNS. The time spent processing bills will be shortened as medical bills issued with a QR code will be accessed on a shared server.The CNS hopes that 30% of doctors will be able to use this system by July.An app, which lets doctors issue bills digitally and patients submit them to the CNS, will also be launched in the summer, and will be upgraded eventually to include prescriptions and sick leave certificates.Paper bills will remain available to patients without access to digital technologies.The changes will assist the CNS to switch to a third-party payer system by 2023, meaning that doctors will be paid immediately by the CNS and that patients will only have to pay the sum not covered by insurance.
The latest employment figures published yesterday show that 18,249 people were registered with ADEM by the end of April – a decrease of 440 from March and a 10% decrease from April 2020.Of those registered as looking for work, nearly 7,000 have been unemployed for 12 months or longer, whereas roughly half have been registered with ADEM for a year or more.The report showed that just under 3,000 vacancies were registered with ADEM in April, and that the unemployment rate is approximately 6.1%. ADEM said the number of unemployed young people under 30 has decreased by 17.2% over the past year. The number of people receiving unemployment benefits in April fell by 1.5%.
Den Atelier has teamed up with D’Coque for a series of gigs called The Pond Eclectic in early September at the Kirchberg park amphitheatre.Five acts, chosen to suit the unusual venue, have been lined-up for the show from 5 to 8 September, starting with UK post-punk trio White Lies and Swedish indie folk singer-songwriter José Gonzalez, followed by Parisian popsters L’Impératrice and finishing with German singer-songwriter Olli Schulz. Capacity for the shows will be 300, with the audience able to sit in groups of four.
THURSDAY 20 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 159 new resident cases derived from 9,931 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 808. 59 individuals are in hospital, with 21 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.81. To date, 209,494 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 87,857 have received their second one.
At a press conference yesterday, held by Paulette Lenert and Dr. Jean-Claude Schmit, it was revealed that 19,500 out of 33,600 people who had registered for the AstraZeneca jab had been invited but that the next deliveries would be for second jabs only. GP practices will be permitted to administer vaccinations over the summer if there are sufficient deliveries. Regarding vaccine passports, Ms Lenert said that Luxembourg would wait for criteria to be released by the EU and that the country would align with the EU for a universal solution.
Following a recent investigation by ministry officials, Minister of Justice Sam Tanson said yesterday that some interventions by security companies employed around the city’s railway station and in Bonnevoie, had been excessive and violated contracted terms. The security companies were formally reprimanded by the Ministry of Justice and warned that future violations could mean their contracts were terminated. Ms Tanson stated that the Ministry was closely monitoring the situation and stressed that public security should not be privatised under any circumstances.
The Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Jean Asselborn, has called for an immediate ceasefire and the resumption of political talks to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr Asselborn was talking at a special meeting of EU Foreign Ministers devoted to the crisis and escalation of violence in the Middle East and in particular to the escalation of violence in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The Syre water partnership said yesterday in a statement that the rapid development of Luxembourg airport with construction works and increased flights, and the use of de-icing agents in winter was damaging water protection. The contamination in March of the Birelerbaach river with glycol, a product used to de-ice aircraft and the airport runway, was one example given by the partnership, who further claimed they had tried repeatedly to persuade the authorities to do more to protect water but with no success.
Luxembourg City mayor Lydie Polfer said yesterday that there are currently no plans to cancel the Schueberfouer this year but advised that the 2021 edition may be different in style to the ones before the coronavirus pandemic. Ms Polfer added the event happening would depend on the evolution of the epidemic and underlined the public’s responsibility in sticking to the safety measures to allow this and future events to happen.
Yesterday, Prime Minister and Minister of Communications and Media Xavier Bettel signed a multi-year agreement with Radio ARA, providing stable funding for the years 2021 -2025. Mr Bettel congratulated Radio ARA for representing various interests and social groups, and reaching out to the general public while including communities that are little served by broadcasting multilingual information programs.
WEDNESDAY 19 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 49 new resident cases derived from 8,725 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 808. 61 individuals are in hospital, with 29 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.92. To date, 204,869 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 86,634 have received their second one.
200 people received fines last week for failure to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. The police carried out around 230 checks across the country over the past week, mainly checking that people were not out after curfew without a valid reason. Breaking curfew was the reason for around 70% of fines issued during these checks.
Luxembourg was among 14 European countries to sign a declaration on the protection of LGBTIQ persons in the EU. In signing the declaration, on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, 14 European Ministers expressed their commitment to upholding the EU’s fundamental values, namely the principle of equality, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation among other factors.
The Luxembourg team got off to a good start at the European Swimming Championships in Budapest this week. Luxembourg’s swimmers set a new national record in the 4×100 metre relay race, beating their old record by 1.47 seconds. Max Mannes set a new best time in the 50 metre backstroke race, whilst both Pit Brandenburger and Ralph Daleiden Ciuferri set new best times in the 100 metre freestyle race. In his European Championship debut, 17-year-old João Carneiro improved his best time by around one second in the 200 metre butterfly race.
Esch2022 – European Capital of Culture is looking for more than 500 volunteers to help actively shape the project between September 2021 and December 2022. As a so-called “REMIXER”, volunteers can participate in various ways depending on their interests and experience. All ages, genders, backgrounds and abilities are welcome. For more information and to register, visit volunteer.esch2022.lu.
TUESDAY 18 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 142 new resident cases derived from 7,956 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 808. 35 individuals are in hospital, with 28 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.85. 199,581 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 85,332 have received a second one.
The Ministry for Home Affairs announced that municipalities could volunteer to have their spaces repurposed as Covid test centres. This prompted a reaction from the communal syndicate FGFC which was not consulted over the matter. The union issued a press release criticising Minister for Home Affairs Taina Bofferding. The FGFC stated that municipal responsibilities should not be conflated with those related to public health.
Commercial property owners who reduce rent for their tenants during the pandemic should be able to continue benefiting from tax breaks. Those amount to up to €15,000 and cover the period of this year. This measure was introduced by the government last year in order to help businesses deal with the impact of the pandemic. The finance ministry submitted a draft law to parliament regarding the extension of the measure last month. MPs began deliberations yesterday and it’s expected that there won’t be any opposition to the proposed legislation.
Luxembourg’s Roads Administration announced that it will be carrying out roadworks on the A3 and A7 motorways this weekend. A section of the A3 will be closed from 8pm on Friday until 6 am on Monday. Due to preparatory work being carried out a few hours beforehand, traffic disruptions are expected towards the end of Friday afternoon. The A7 will be impacted between Saturday at 6 am until Monday at around 6pm.
Luxembourg ranked third in an LGBTI rights ranking which assessed countries in Europe. Advocacy group Ilga-Europe published the latest edition of the Rainbow Europe map, marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. The ranking unfortunately outlined that the process of ensuring LGBTI rights has stagnated in the last 12 months. That is true for Luxembourg as well as other countries.
The Global Education Network Europe awarded a certificate of good practice to Luxembourg’s Ministry of Education. The distinction was issued for the introduction of the course “Life and Society” in schools in the Grand Duchy. According to the Education Ministry, the course is an opportunity for students to develop their personal, social and political points of view in order to become responsible citizens.
MONDAY 17 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: On Saturday the Ministry of Health reported 106 new resident cases derived from 10,333 tests. No deaths were reported and the death toll in the Grand Duchy remains 806. 42 individuals are in hospital, with 29 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.93. 196,032 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 81,347 have received a second one.
A bill regarding coronavirus restrictions in Luxembourg was voted in by Members of Parliament last Friday. The new measures entered into force yesterday. The curfew has been extended until midnight. While people are allowed to invite up to four people into their households. Restaurants and cafés can stay open until 22:00 and serve indoors as well. Four guests can sit at the same table. While up to 150 people are now allowed at organised cultural and sporting events.
Starting today Pharmacies in Luxembourg will offer rapid antigen tests. They can be administered on the drug stores’ premises and the results are available within 30 minutes. The list of pharmacies offering the tests can be found at pharmacie.lu It is up to the pharmacies to decide if an appointment is required. So people are advised to contact the drug store to potentially book an appointment. Patients with COVID-19 symptoms should not go to a pharmacy but instead contact their general practitioner by phone.
On Saturday a contingent of 20 troops from Luxembourg’s army embarked on a flight to Mali. They will be deployed for a period of about four months and will take part in a peace-keeping mission. The troops’ deployment is linked to Luxembourg’s commitment to the Multinational MRTT Unit, a NATO airborne association.
A survey by Luxembourg’s National Research Fund showed that 70% of respondents trust science and research today. That is an increase of 3% compared to two years ago. 83% of survey respondents agreed that the knowledge of scientists is important to slow down the spread of the coronavirus in Luxembourg. While three quarters felt that political decisions should be based on scientific evidence.
A new Digital Sciences subject will be taught in secondary schools in Luxembourg starting from the next academic year. A webinar explaining the motivation behind the decision to include the subject in the curriculum will take place tomorrow from 2:30pm to 4pm. It is organised by the Ministry of Education and will provide details regarding what the digital sciences subject will include. The webinar will be held in Luxembourgish and will be broadcast live on Radio 100,7.
FRIDAY 14 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Due to yesterday’s bank holiday, only limited data was made available. The Ministry of Health reported 151 new resident cases derived from 11,359 tests. To date, 187,619 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 75,277 have received their second one.
Former Second Deputy Prime Minister – Félix Braz – of the Green Party submitted two appeals this week against his alleged involuntary resignation following a heart attack in 2019. Braz was hospitalised in Belgium following a heart attack in August 2019. One month later, the executive committee of the Green Party reshuffled its cabinet positions giving François Bausch the role of deputy prime minister. In October 2019, the cabinet changes were confirmed at a party congress and prime minister Xavier Bettel’s order granting Braz an “honourable resignation” was signed by the grand duke. The first appeal questions this grand ducal order, and the lack of clear regulations governing what happens when a politician in a cabinet position suffers health problems. The second appeal alleges the compensation Braz received was discriminatory and not in accordance with the law.
The Minister for Family Affairs and Integration – Corinne Cahen – announced this week that, starting from January 1 2022, the calculation of child and family support will again be index linked to inflation. In 2006,the benefit was removed from the indexation process but Ms Cahan noted that following previous administrations focusing on indirect support, it was now time to increase that value of benefits.
On Wednesday, the Court of Justice of the European Union sided with Amazon in an appeal against a European Commission decision from 2017 that said a tax ruling issued by Luxembourg amounted to illegal state aid and ordered Amazon to pay €250m in taxes to Luxembourg authorities. But the EU’s General Court on Wednesday said that “the commission did not prove to the requisite legal standard that there was an undue reduction of the tax burden and a European subsidiary of the Amazon group.” In response to the decision, Amazon said they welcome the Court’s decision, which was in line with their position to follow all applicable laws and receive no special treatment. They added Amazon could now continue to focus on delivering for our customers across Europe.
The government announced this week that access to the beaches around the Upper Sûre Lake will remain free to the public between 15 May and 15 August 2021, and that the state will cover the costs of the ticket service and security. A private security company employee will be present on each beach to ensure compliance with Covid-19 regulations. The Upper Sûre Nature Park will announce further details next week.
WEDNESDAY 12 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 121 new resident cases derived from 10,012 tests. There have been two additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 806. 82 individuals are in hospital, with 30 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.96. To date, 179,434 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 69,058 have received their second one.
The Ministry of Labour confirmed that 5.7 million rapid tests will be distributed to businesses from next Monday. Over 76,000 vouchers have already been sent out inviting businesses to collect their tests from one of four regional centres. Companies with more than 500 staff will receive their kits directly. Employees are encouraged but not obliged to test themselves twice a week for six weeks.
According to road statistics for 2020, there were fewer accidents but more deaths on Luxembourg’s roads last year compared to 2019. In 2020, 26 people died in road accidents, four more than the previous year. The total number of accidents involving bodily injury fell from 988 to 771 and that of seriously injured people fell from 248 to 217. The drivers who were responsible for serious and fatal road accidents last year were aged 35 to 44.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled yesterday that a €1,000 fine issued to LuxLeaks whistleblower Raphael Halet did not violate his freedom of expression. The former PwC employee lost his appeal against the fine which he received from a Luxembourg court after he shared confidential documents from his employer with a journalist. The Strasbourg Court backed the Luxembourg court judgement.
Applications are now open for the 8th Entrepreneurial Woman Project, organised by the Luxembourg-Poland Chamber of Commerce. This unique project includes a series of weekly workshops in English, starting on 25 September, aimed at helping business-oriented women understand the essentials of starting their own business in Luxembourg. For more information and to apply, visit www.lpcc.lu/flagship-events/entrepreneurial-woman-project.
TUESDAY 11 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 131 new resident cases derived from 4,997 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 804. 53 individuals are in hospital, with 31 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.94. 175,126 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 66,144 have received a second one.
Those in Luxembourg who will want to dine indoors starting from the 16th of May will need to be able to present a negative Covid-19 test. Restaurant goers will also be able to bring their own rapid antigen test which will then need to be administered on site. There are still questions over how to dispose of the waste generated by the tests such as packaging or swabs. Labour minister Dan Kersch will present further details on the matter during a press conference today.
According to Eurostat CO2 emissions in Luxembourg fell by nearly 18% in 2020. This is the result of lockdown measures imposed during the pandemic. Luxembourg has seen one of the biggest decreases in emissions in the EU. Only Greece and Estonia have had a bigger decrease with 18.7% and 18.1% respectively. Emissions from fossil fuels account for about 75% of human made greenhouse gas emissions in the EU.
A Luxembourg court decided that Iranian funds frozen in Luxembourg cannot be transferred without the approval of local authorities. A group of 152 individuals, victims of the 9/11 terror attacks, claimed compensation in 2016 in an ongoing legal battle between the US and Iran. However, Iran also can not claim the money back as legal procedures are still ongoing.
Data released by Luxembourg’s government reveals that nearly 71.5% of senior civil service jobs in the country are occupied by men. The statistics are relevant for the end of last year. According to the data women make up 52.6% of public sector workers in the Grand Duchy. Close to half of the public sector staff work in education, with administrative roles amounting to about 40%.
Luxembourg will support glassmaker Guardian in updating its production line. Economy minister Franz Fayot did not reveal the cost of the upgrade during yesterday’s press conference. But he said it would be in the double-digit millions. The state will allocate the finances as part of an environmental subsidy program. Guardian’s furnace in Bascharage will be replaced with a more environmentally friendly and technologically modern model.
MONDAY 10 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: On Saturday the Ministry of Health reported 138 new resident cases derived from 10,763 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 802. 55 individuals are in hospital, with 31 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.80. 169,648 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 64,666 have received a second one.
Pharmacies in Luxembourg are preparing to administer rapid antigen tests for people who want to dine indoors starting from the 16th of May. A list of drugstores who will be offering the service is currently being set up. It will be available on covid19.lu and on pharmacie.lu Rapid antigen tests require a waiting time of 15 to 20 minutes and some pharmacies are looking to set up tents outside their premises. The tests will cost between 30 and 35 euros. Restaurants will be able to offer rapid tests but, like pharmacies, they are not obliged to do so.
Luxembourg’s Trade Union confederation organised a protest against the decision of supermarket chain Match to open on Europe day yesterday. The business don’t normally open on this day but decided to do so after many other stores were open as well. According to the trade Union many employees rejected the idea of working during the holiday. Match plans on opening on other holidays in the future.
Luxembourg signed the ILO Forced Labour Protocol aimed at tackling forced labor. The Grand Duchy became the 51st country to sign the document. The protocol requires signatories to ensure the release, recovery and rehabilitation of people living in forced labor. They would also not be prosecuted for any crimes they were made to commit while in slavery. The Forced Labor protocol was adopted at the international labour conference in 2014. The EU has pledged to promote it among member states. So far only 8 EU member states have ratified the treaty.
The issue of violent robberies in Luxembourg city was discussed in Parliament last week. Although the Police say crime is not on the rise, many citizens feel there is a lack of security. The council of state is currently examining a law that would prevent people from lingering at the entrance of private buildings. City councilors from Déi Lénk, Ana Correia Da Veiga and Guy Foetz have filed two appeals regarding public safety. They called for the stop of the use of private security companies to carry out public surveillance missions. And said funds would be better spent on increased police presence and assistance for drug addicts.
TEDxLuxembourgCity and the Ministry of Education are organising an event dedicated to education. It will take place this Wednesday at 17:00. The conference will be streamed live for the general public. Minister of Education Claude Meish is among the speakers part of the event. More information can be found at tedxluxembourgcity.org Registration is compulsory but also free.
FRIDAY 7 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 162 new resident cases derived from 8,667 tests. There has been 1 additional death, with the death toll standing at 801. 86 individuals are in hospital, with 33 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.84. To date, 160,427 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 59,824 have received their second one.
The president of the Horesca federation, Alain Rix, yesterday criticised aspects of the government’s revised covid measures announced on Wednesday. Speaking to RTL, Rix said many questions remained regarding the testing of customers, including why vaccinated people would need to take a test to eat at a restaurant, and said Horesca should have been consulted on the best way to implement the new measures and assist in developing a plan. However, Rix admitted the reopening was a positive development for those in the sector who are desperate to get back to work.
Opposition to the appointment of Christianne Wickler as chair of the Cargolux board of directors and member of the board continued this week as three political parties – the CSV, Déi Lénk and the Piratepartei – have tabled a motion for the government to ask the Luxair board of directors to dismiss her from Cargolux. The parties are concerned by Ms Wickler’s previous involvement with the non-profit organisation Expressis-Verbis, an internet platform that has published l articles questioning the handling of the coronavirus health crisis. Deputy prime minister and minister for mobility, defence and public works François Bausch repeated that Wickler’s appointment was justified. Prime minister Xavier Bettel stated that Mrs. Wickler is a competent person whose skills are not in question. He added that in a democracy, you have the right to have your opinion.
In a statement published yesterday, the Independent Luxembourg Trade Union Confederation criticised the government’s proposed reforms for the healthcare sector as unrealistic. Although the union welcomed the new bachelor’s degree for healthcare workers, it warned that by not upgrading the existing system or abolishing the existing BTS training programme there was a danger of creating several “classes” within the nursing profession. The union demanded the reform project be put on hold pending immediate revisions.
Luxembourg’s Minister of Tourism, Lex Delles, and the Mayor of the municipality of Schengen, Michel Gloden, announced yesterday their intention to buy the MS Princesse Marie-Astrid, the boat in which the Schengen Agreement was signed on 14 June 1985. The ship, currently used for tourist excursions on the Danube under the name “MS Regensburg”, will be transformed into a museum, and will host an exhibition on the Treaty on Open Borders as well as a performance space adaptable to various forms of art or activities. The boat will be kept in seaworthy condition and docked in Schengen, near the European Museum. The project, which is expected to cost €5.8 million, is scheduled for completion in 2025.
Following the news on Wednesday that some public events could now accommodate up to 1,000 people, Rockhal yesterday announced a concert by Luxembourg artist, Serge Tonnar, set to take place on Friday May 21. Sanitary measures for the coming concert have not yet been announced, although it is expected that tests before and after, and mandatory mask-wearing throughout the concert will be required. Tickets for the concert will go on sale today.
THURSDAY 6 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 179 new resident cases derived from 9,435 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 800. 88 individuals are in hospital, with 34 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.89. To date, 155,897 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 57,339 have received their second one.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert announced a number of changes to current Covid-19 restrictions at a press briefing yesterday afternoon. Highlights from the briefing included: Households will now be allowed to host a total of four guests, although families of more than four guests are also permitted. Restaurants can now open until 10pm, and can seat customers indoors in groups of four but customers will have to take a rapid test. 500,000 tests will be distributed to the hospitality sector. The curfew hours are now midnight until 6am. Public events, including some in the sports sector, will be permitted to have up to 150 guests, although some pilot projects may accommodate up to 1,000 people. All public events will require compulsory rapid tests for guests. Deliveries of rapid tests to businesses will begin on 17 May. All Covid consultation centres will close from 17 May as they are no longer deemed necessary. Anyone with Covid symptoms should now contact their GP immediately.
The new president of the Christian Social People’s Party, Claude Wiseler confirmed this week that searches were carried out for a second time at the party’s headquarters last Friday. The searches are thought to be linked to the fraud and embezzlement case concerning the non-profit organisation CSV-Frëndeskrees, which led to the resignation of former CSV president Frank Engel last month.
Lux-Airport announced yesterday plans to carry out a complete renovation of its sole 4,000 metre-long runway. The runway is overdue for renovation as during winter it has regularly had to be closed off due to holes. Improvements will include better water drainage and signs, and the runway lights will be updated to a modern LED system, saving energy and reducing the CO2 emission of the airport. Work will start next week and will be carried out over the next two years from spring to autumn, during the airport’s night curfew between 23:00 and 06:00, allowing full use of the runway during operating hours.
STATEC – the national statistics office – announced yesterday afternoon that in April, the national consumer price index saw a fall of 0.4% in the price of petroleum products compared to the previous month, while the prices of other goods and services increased slightly by 0.1%. The annual inflation rate increased from 2% to 2.1%.
WEDNESDAY 5 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 147 new resident cases derived from 7,045 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 800. 97 individuals are in hospital, with 32 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.91. To date, 152,149 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 54,558 have received their second one.
The University of Luxembourg will roll out new bachelor programmes in nursing and midwifery over the next couple of years to address potential shortages in the healthcare sector. These include a three-year general care nursing bachelor’s programme, starting in the 2023/24 academic year, and four specialised nursing bachelor programmes, set to start either in the 2022/23 or 2023/24 school years. Two bachelor programmes for midwifery and medical-technical radiology assistant training are also set to launch in the 2023/24 academic year.
The European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking inaugurated its headquarters in Luxembourg this week. Located in Cloche d’Or, the team is currently made up of 15 staff, with growth expected from the end of the year. Luxembourg is also getting a supercomputer called “Meluxina”, which will be operational shortly. Hosted in a data centre in Bissen, this will be the second European supercomputer to be activated after “Vega” in Slovenia.
The inauguration took place in the presence of European Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, who also confirmed during his Luxembourg visit that the EU is on track to producing 3 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses annually by the end of the year.
The newly inaugurated Police Academy welcomed its first recruits this week: a cohort of around 200 officer trainees enrolled as part of Luxembourg’s police recruitment drive. Police Director-General Philippe Schrantz congratulated the trainees, noting that becoming a police officer is an honour but also a responsibility.
According to the latest Eurobarometer survey, Luxembourg residents are the most confident in the EU about their national economic situation. Despite the pandemic, 86% considered Luxembourg’s economic situation to be “good”. On the other hand, residents cited housing prices and health as the biggest problems facing the country at present. Luxembourg residents were the second least satisfied, after Greece, with the EU’s response to the pandemic. More than half thought COVID-19 vaccines had been developed and authorised too quickly to be safe, although 70% agreed that vaccination was the only way to get rid of the pandemic.
TUESDAY 4 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 84 new resident cases derived from 2,492 tests. There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 800. 66 individuals are in hospital, with 29 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.93. 148,450 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 52,103 have received a second one.
The Association for the Support of Immigrant Workers, the Research Centre for Intercultural and Social Training, and the Liaison Committee of Foreign Associations issued a joint statement about the voting process for international residents, specifically referring to a recent Sandweiler referendum. In order to participate in local elections or referendums, foreign residents need to be registered. And this process has to be concluded at least 87 days prior to an official election. The organisations argue that “this period is disproportionate and should be reduced”.
Negotiations between the psychotherapists’ association and Luxembourg’s national health service CNS appear to be in a stalemate. The biggest point of contention remains giving every insured person the right to be reimbursed for psychotherapy sessions. The recently proposed plan by the CNS excluded people such as those who have been taking antidepressants within the last three months. The psychotherapists’ association is adamant that everyone should be covered by the CNS, with no exceptions.
Police are calling for witnesses after a 10-year-old boy was attacked by a dog and hopitalised as a result. The canine was neither wearing a collar nor a leash, and his owner was nowhere to be found. The Diekirch police are looking for witnesses in relation to the incident which occurred on the 1st of May at around 1:30pm near the “Camping de la Sure”. The dog was reportedly a large Bernese mountain dog with grey, brown, and black fur. The police department can be reached via phone at 244 80 1000 or at the following email address: Police.DIEKIRCHVIANDEN@police.etat.lu.
The National Library of Luxembourg will be displaying the exhibition “Views of Luxembourg and the ‘Orient’ – Francis Frith and Victorian Photography”. Visitors will be able to enjoy the selection of photos from the 6th of May to the 26th of June 2021. The exhibition presents two very different sceneries shot in the 19th century by English photographer Francis Frith. One represents Luxembourgish neighbourhoods at the time. And the other – the grand archeological sites from the distant Orient. Guided tours in English are also available. More information can be found at bnl.lu
MONDAY 3 MAY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: On Saturday the Ministry of Health reported 192 new resident cases derived from 11,688 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 797. 57 individuals are in hospital, with 34 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.98. 144,383 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 51,788 have received a second one.
Last Friday Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert provided an update on the country’s vaccine and testing strategy. The situation is fairly stable according to Mr Bettel and the government will look into lifting some restrictions this week. The self administered rapid tests will play a key role in the next phase of the pandemic’s management. 14.5 million of those tests have been ordered. They will be rolled out across businesses and schools. An awareness campaign will be launched including vouchers for unemployed and retired people.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been authorized for people aged 30 and over in Luxembourg. But there isn’t any information yet on how many doses of the vaccine will be delivered. On the other hand, 265,000 Pfizer and 40,800 Moderna doses are expected by the end of June. While 21,600 AstraZeneca shots are due in May. A wait list for potential leftover vaccines was launched as well, with more than 4,000 people registering so far. That is in addition to the AstraZeneca wait list which was set up last week.
During Friday’s press conference Prime Minster Bettel also announced Luxembourg will send 58 ventilators to India. The recent surge of Covid-19 cases has heavily impacted the country.
The COVID-19 consultation centers in Kirchberg and in Esch sur Alzette will be closed on public holidays this month. The dates in questions are the 1st, 9th and 13th of May. The centers normally operate seven days a week, from 9am to 3pm. They are designed for people who have COVID-19 symptoms or who have tested positive for the virus.
On Saturday, the Independent Luxembourg Trade Union Confederation (OGBL) held its annual Labour Day celebrations. Due to the pandemic the event took place in Esch-sur-Alezette rather than in Neumünster Abbey in Luxembourg city. The Union’s president Nora Back stressed that ordinary people shouldn’t be the ones who will take the financial burden of the pandemic. She addressed the issue of tax reforms, and siad that “politicians need to show more courage”.
And finally, the organizers of European Capital of Culture – Esch2022 unveiled details about their programme for children and young people. There are a total of 140 projects, about half of which are tailored for those from the younger age group. During a press briefing last week, six projects were presented. All of them offer children the opportunity to either get to know the history of the Esch region or to be involved in projects themselves. More information can be found at Esch2022.lu
FRIDAY 30 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 211 new resident cases derived from 9,418 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 794. 95 individuals are in hospital, with 36 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.97. To date, 136,453 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 50,027 have received their second one.
The Minister for Mobility – François Bausch – yesterday defended the nomination of Christiane Wickler as Cargolux’ new chair of the Board, stating that the fact she is also the president of the online platform “Expressis Verbis” which has published articles questioning the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the pandemic itself, and the media’s reporting on the pandemic, is “not at all problematic”. Speaking to RTL, Bausch pointed out that Wickler, a former Green Party MP, was unanimously accepted by all Cargolux shareholders based on her vast experience in economic matters. In addition, the Minister continued, the articles published on “Expressis Verbis” have nothing to do with Wickler’s new tasks as Cargolux chair, and are covered by free speech.
Responding to a parliamentary question, the Minister for Mobility and Public Works this week presented details of the costs relating to vandalism of public transport. The figures presented accounted only for damages, and did not take the salaries of employees who repaired the problems into account. Acts of vandalism on trains over the last five years cost over €173,500. Train stations and buildings are also regularly damaged and the report showed that over €422,000 had been paid to repair infrastructural damages.
Following the success of last year’s cycling campaign it was announced yesterday that the 2021 edition will be officially presented next week. Throughout the summer months, some roads will once again be closed to car traffic, either on specific weekends or throughout the summer, in an attempt to improve the safety of cyclists. Luxembourgish municipalities have filed their proposals for closures with the respective roads’ authorities and officials now need to evaluate whether or not a road can be closed without causing too many disruptions.
In a study published yesterday, STATEC revealed that from March to June 2020, 85% of Luxembourgish Internet users made online purchases. This was an increase of 5% compared to the same period in 2019, explained by the fact that Luxembourg spent most of 2020 in confinement due to the coronavirus. The study showed that all age groups purchase goods online but it is the 25-44 year olds who order the most on the Web at 78%, followed by 66% of 55-64 year olds. Clothing made up 60% of online purchases, while food delivery from restaurants accounted for 33%. Books and magazines, as well as drugs and nutritional supplements, were also popular internet purchases.
The 5th edition of the Luxembourg Street Photography Festival is due to take place at The Rotondes from 13 to 16 May 2021. Highlights of this year’s festival include conferences chaired by internationally renowned photographers, exhibitions by members of the Street Photography Luxembourg collective and several guest photographers, and the chance for visitors to consult the opinion of a specialist on their photos during the Portfolio Review or hang their best photographs on the Open Wall. The festival programme, as well as registration details, can be found at www.lspf.lu and www.rotondes.lu.
THURSDAY 29 APRIL – I’m SIMON CLARIDGE
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 232 new resident cases derived from 8,831 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 792. 90 individuals are in hospital, with 36 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.04. To date, 132,681 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 49,227 have received their second one.
Minister of Labour Dan Kersch confirmed yesterday that 6 million of the 15 million rapid covid-19 tests ordered by the government would be given to companies and their employees starting in May. Civil servants and self-employed workers will also have access to the tests, with the aim that everyone will be able to voluntarily test themselves twice weekly. The government is still working out the details for distributing the tests.
Luxembourg City Mayor Lydie Polfer made an appeal yesterday demanding a higher police presence in the capital from the government. Ms Polfer made note of a spate of criminal activity over the weekend, and lamented the lack of police officers present on the streets, who are needed to discourage the potential criminals. Mayor Polfer announced that she has contracted more private security firms, and that additional guards would begin patrolling in town from mid-May for a six-month period.
A Chamber of Employees report, published earlier this week, warns that Luxembourg suffers from a shortage of occupational doctors, with one doctor for every 6,300 employees despite the legal ratio being 1 occupational doctor for every 5,000 workers.However, the report explained that the legal ratio was unrealistic and had never been realised given the number of doctors in the country. Furthermore, the report warned that the situation is expected to worsen as approximately half of the occupational doctors are expected to reach retirement age within the coming decade.
Cargolux announced yesterday that they ended 2020 with a record €637m profit – three times better than 2018 – its previous best year. In a statement, Cargolux explained that had experienced unprecedented demand for the transportation of personal protective equipment (PPE) and that they had played a key role in delivering critical supplies throughout the covid-19 crisis, and by this keeping supply chains moving. At the presentation, it was announced that Christiane Wickler, a former MP for the Green Party, had been appointed as Cargolux’s new chairman of the Board. She is the first woman to hold this position and succeeds Paul Helminger, who died a fortnight ago.
STATEC – the national statistics office – confirmed yesterday that, during the month of March, Luxembourg courts declared a total of 116 bankruptcies presenting no significant increase in the number from recent years despite the ongoing coronavirus situation. However, STATEC said they did expect the number of bankruptcies to increase in the months to come. A large increase in the number of liquidations since 2020 was noted since 2020, with courts declaring the liquidation of 183 companies in March 2021 compared to 53 in March 2020 and 60 in 2019. A notable increase in liquidations was noted in the commerce companies and those involved in specialised, scientific and technical activities.
Mayor Lydie Polfer announced yesterday that the football match between Luxembourg and Scotland due at the end of June will not be played at the Stade de Luxembourg. Mayor Polfer said that there were still many aspects requiring proper inspection and underlined that the revision of the stadium’s IT system is still ongoing and needs to be completed before the first official game can take place. It is now likely that Luxembourg’s encounter with Azerbaijan on 1 September will be the inaugural game of the new stadium.
WEDNESDAY 28 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 219 new resident cases derived from 9,788 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 791. 91 individuals are in hospital, with 37 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.99. To date, 131,867 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 48,621 have received their second one.
The sixth and final phase of Luxembourg’s vaccination campaign is commencing this week. The Ministry of State and Ministry of Health confirmed that invitations would be sent out by post later this week. This last phase concerns the general resident population aged 16 to 54, starting with the oldest, who have not yet been vaccinated.
Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna confirmed yesterday that the national recovery and resilience plan is based on three pillars: cohesion and social resilience; green transition; and digitalisation, innovation and governance. 32% of the €93.5 million to which Luxembourg is entitled from the EU is dedicated to digital investments. The minister also announced that public investments reached a new record level in 2020, amounting to a total of €3.2 billion. For 2021, investment levels are maintained at 4.5% of GDP.
According to Economy Minister Franz Fayot, SMS Group, which recently took over Luxembourg steel company Paul Wurth, has pledged to keep around 330 jobs and the headquarters in the Grand Duchy for at least 15 years. The Düsseldorf-based group confirmed last week that it had acquired the remaining shares of Paul Wurth from the Luxembourg state.
The new premises of the Police Academy in Luxembourg-Findel were inaugurated this week. The new building has been completely redesigned according to the specific needs of police training and can accommodate around 200 police officer trainees per year. There are classrooms, offices, a computer room, a canteen and a space for webinars. Some courses will continue to take place on the Verlorenkost site.
TUESDAY 27 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 165 new resident cases derived from 6,458 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 791. 57 individuals are in hospital, with 37 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.92. 130,591 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 48,210 have received a second one.
The latest Standard Eurobarometer survey indicates that 52% of Luxembourg’s respondents wanted to be vaccinated or already have gotten the shot. The hesitancy can be explained partially by the timing of the survey – between February and March 2021. During this time questions were raised regarding the extremely rare cases of blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca Vaccine.
Yesterday the Confederation of Public Servants issued a press release arguing that key workers should be prioritized in Luxembourg’s vaccination campaign. The public service union questioned the position of Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. They referred to rumors stating that the Education and Internal Security Ministers advocated for their employees’ vaccination, but their proposals were rejected. The Union also criticized the mixed messages regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine. Luxembourg’s infectious diseases council, said that the jab should not be administered to people under the age of 54 unless they are in a vulnerable category. While Luxembourg’s government made the shot available for volunteers between 30 and 54.
Luxembourg’s Ministry of Health recalled the importance of vaccinations in the context of World Immunisation Week 2021. Although this year’s focus is on COVID-19 the authorities were adamant that routine vaccinations against other infections are also important. The health officials reminded people born after 1980 to get their second dose of the combined vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella. More information can be found at vaccination.lu
Luxembourg’s finance minister Pierre Gramegna, presented yesterday the state’s financial situation for the first quarter. Facing the members of parliament on the finance and budget committee and the committee for the control of budget execution he confirmed that the last few months have been productive. Public revenues were up by 9.5% in the last three months with a total collection of 5.4 billion euros. That is compared to the first quarter of 2020. The taxes collected by Luxembourg Inland Revenue for that same period amounted to 2.728 billion euros. That marked an increase of 7.6% compared to last year’s first quarter.
Luxembourg’s equal opportunities ministry launched a website providing gender equality education materials. The website – rockmega.lu – offers books as well as videos covering topics such as gender equality, inclusion and individual awareness. The materials were created in order to promote gender equality from an early age. The website features a number of webinars and workshops as well.
MONDAY 26 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 195 new resident cases derived from 10,735 tests. No additional deaths have been registered. The death toll remains 790. 69 individuals are in hospital, with 36 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.98. 128,534 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 47,898 have received a second one.
Speaking to RTL, Minsiter of Health Paulette Lenert said she is “optimistic” regarding the summer period. The current regulations are in place until mid-May, however she implied that some of the restrictions could be relaxed in the following weeks.
The CVS party voted in Claude Wiseler as its new party president on Saturday. Wiseler replaces Frank Engel who recently stepped down and who has now left the party.
The travel agency Sales Lentz is reportedly looking into offering so-called vaccine trips. According to Reporter.lu, the company would organise holidays to a destination where non-residents can get vaccinated. The idea of vaccine tourism is being explored by the travel industry which has been struggling during the pandemic. The trips could be organised as soon as May and destinations reportedly include Serbia or Bulgaria. Israel and Dubai are also being looked into according to Reporter.lu
Luxembourg and Germany have jointly called for France to close the Cattenom nuclear plant situated on the border between the three countries. The German regions of Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate joined Luxembourg’s calls for the closure of the facility which has been a cause of concern for a while now. A potential incident at Cattenom would have an immediate effect on the Grand Duchy and the German regions. The scale of a potential disaster was recently explored by a documentary by Arte titled – An Zero.
The municipality of Useldange is planning on introducing new digitisation projects. One of them will see water meters in households replaced with “smart” meters. They would capture parameters such as water quality, temperature, pressure and consumption. This is intended to raise awareness among residents about their water consumption and to contribute to the preservation of the environment. Another project which could be implemented is smart parking. It would indicate in real time, the available parking spaces on the territory of the municipality.
Neither of the two Luxembourg co-productions won an Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards. Wolfwalkers lost out to Pixar’s Soul in the best animated feature category. And collective, in two categories lost to Another Round as best international feature and to My Octopus Teacher as the best documentary.
Students from the European School of Luxembourg won a social entrepreneurship competition organised by the youth movement Impact Wombats. The contest, supported by Spuerkeess, Fondation Été and IMS Luxembourg, required the 15 to 19 year-olds to come up with a business idea. Their projects were to be centered around the theme “Sharing is Caring”, promoting sustainable development and connectivity between people. The team from the European School of Luxembourg won the Challenge with their business idea exploring the hidden value of potential vegetable food waste.
FRIDAY 23 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 209 new resident cases derived from 8,922 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, with the death toll now standing at 790. 112 individuals are in hospital, with 34 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.99. To date, 123,137 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 46,901 have received their second one.
The Ministry of State said yesterday that the AstraZeneca vaccination waiting list website, which went online at 6pm on Wednesday recorded 15,000 registrations overnight with a further 3,000 recorded between 8am and 12pm on Thursday morning. More than 25,000 parallel connections accessing the form at the same time were recorded shortly after 6pm causing servers to crash under the pressure. More than 100,000 unique visitors were recorded on the Guichet.lu portal. The page was viewed more than 480,000 times overall. The extremely high number of registrations means that the sorting process could take several weeks or even months.
The Minister of Education – Claude Meisch – presented the findings of the most recent annual standardised competence tests in a briefing yesterday. Meisch said that the tests, conducted in November, showed a level of stability in line with previous years which was good news given that much of the last school year was disrupted due to the coronavirus crisis. The Minister acknowledged the dedication of teachers, parents and pupils, and a strong digital infrastructure that supported distance learning when schools closed. It was revealed that pupils in difficult socio-economic circumstances fared less well than pupils from higher-income families although similar results would have been expected prior to the crisis as well. The subject with the most homeschooling issues at secondary school level was mathematics. Meisch announced further support resources would be available to students requiring additional tuition, including a repeat of The summer school programme which will take place in the last two weeks of the summer holiday,
The city council of Differdange said yesterday that acts of vandalism were committed in the Oberkorn cemetery in the early hours of Thursday morning. Several graves were vandalized and many cups and flowers damaged. The City of Differdange filed a complaint with the police and asked any to contact the police on 113 as soon as possible. Affected families whose graves have been victims of these acts of vandalism were asked to contact the reception of the town hall on 58771-0. Otherwise the municipal administration would contact all persons concerned in writing as soon as possible.
The Minister of the Environment – Carole Dieschbourg – said yesterday, in response to a parliamentary question, that by the end of March this year €4,106,000 euros’ worth of subsidies had been granted to support the purchase of a bike or an electric bike. The average subsidy amount granted is €316. Because of the massive increase in demand for bikes during the coronavirus pandemic, backlogs for payments have grown, with the average processing time for a correctly completed application at 103 days, and 153 days for an incomplete application.
THURSDAY 22 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 285 new resident cases derived from 9,472 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, with the death toll now standing at 788. 114 individuals are in hospital, with 38 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.96. To date, 120,308 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 46,416 have received their second one.
Yesterday, the government launched the registration site for people aged between 30 and 54 wanting to join a waiting list for the AstraZeneca vaccine, although by evening the site was overloaded. The list is on a “first come, first served” basis, with no prioritisation. The registration site can be found at www.impfen.lu. Madam Lenert also offered details on the vaccine side effects observed in Luxembourg. Three people have died following a vaccine, she said, and autopsies are being conducted. The minister underlined that reactions were rare, with just 1% of all people vaccinated saying they had noticed side effects, with 129 suffering severe side effects. Thirteen vaccinated people were hospitalised following a jab, while three people suffered potentially life-threatening reactions.
The 11th version of the “Social Panorama”, published yesterday by the Chamber of Employees, claims that workers in Luxembourg have the highest poverty risk in the entire Eurozone, alongside Spain. The report blames housing costs for the majority of the financial burden as tenants spend one third of their disposable income on rent, or as much as 50% in the case of low-income households. However, the report also states Luxembourg and Malta are the only EU countries which saw noteworthy job increases in 2020 but noted that workplace happiness and well-being have been declining since 2014.
The Minister for Home Affairs – Taina Bofferding – spoke yesterday of her surprise at the criticism by the Association of Luxembourg Cities and Municipalities on Monday that municipalities would soon have to pay 10% more for the services of the Grand Ducal Fire and Rescue Corps. Ms. Bofferding said that “nothing is for free” and that the National Plan for the Organisation of the Emergency Services’ goal that emergency services should reach the site of an accident within 15 minutes, wherever it occurs, would not be attainable without an increase in costs.
Although the number of people killed in road accidents dramatically decreased across Europe in 2020, the rate actually rose in Luxembourg, according to preliminary figures released by the European Commission earlier this week. The Commission attributes lower traffic volumes due to the covid-19 pandemic as a factor for the drop in the number of road fatalities. Approximately 18,800 people were killed in a road crash last year, a massive reduction of 17% from 2019 and, for the years 2010 – 2020, road fatalities dropped in Europe by 36%. However, Luxembourg was one of five EU member states with a higher rate of road deaths last year, with an increase of 18%, but the commission noted that numbers in small countries fluctuate from year to year, and overall Luxembourg road fatalities have shrunk by around a fifth between 2010 and 2020.
Yesterday, the City of Luxembourg inaugurated the new temporary Park & Ride at the Cloche d’Or, located near the Stade de Luxembourg. Now open to the public, the provisional car park has a capacity of 606 spaces, including 5 spaces reserved for people with reduced mobility. As with other Park & Ride locations in the capital, parking will be free for the first 24 hours and then €10 per day. Motorists can locate free spaces in real time by accessing the dynamic guidance system of the City of Luxembourg (Parkleitsystem) or by using the cityapp or VDL mobile application.
WEDNESDAY 21 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 175 new resident cases derived from 9,310 tests. There have been no additional deaths, with the death toll standing at 786. 121 individuals are in hospital, with 38 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.95. To date, 119,259 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 46,256 have received their second one.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert are giving a press conference this evening at 5pm. The ministers will give an update on the current COVID-19 situation, as well as on the vaccine rollout strategy. This will be Minister Lenert’s first press conference since her return to work on Monday, following a 3-week absence due to health reasons.
Luxembourg dropped 3 places in this year’s Reporters without Borders ranking. The country now ranks 20th in the World Press Freedom Index. The drop is linked to a lack of government transparency, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. According to the index, media in the Grand Duchy “are limited structurally by the country’s small size and the fact that their interests often conflict with those of decision-makers and businessmen”.
Just one day ahead of the report’s publication, a new pressure group including journalists, environmentalists and trade unions launched a campaign for more transparency and the right of access to information. Planned activities include a demonstration on World Press Freedom Day on 3rd May.
Luxembourg and Cuba signed an air service agreement providing for mutual traffic rights between the two countries. The agreement provides a regulatory framework for the future development of bilateral relations, particularly economic relations.
Luxembourg’s unemployment rate fell for the first time in over six months. At the end of March, the rate stood at 6.1%, after having remained stable at around 6.3% since August 2020. Over one year, the number of residents registering with the ADEM employment agency fell by 27%. On the other hand, the number of available positions increased by 10.9% compared to March 2020.
In other job market news, the ADEM JobBoard will be open to all from next Wednesday. This online service was previously reserved for jobseekers and employers registered with the agency.
2020 was a great year for the Letzshop online sales platform, which observed an increase of 1,434% in orders compared to the previous year. Turnover for local commerce was 803% higher in 2020 than in 2019. The marketplace currently has over 387,000 products online, including 2,270 “Made in Luxembourg” products.
TUESDAY 20 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 189 new resident cases derived from 9,583 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 786. 79 individuals are in hospital, with 36 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.92. 118,118 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 45,973 have received a second one.
An expert group will lead an investigation into care home clusters of COVID-19 cases. The inquiry will analyse the sources of the infections and the implementation of health protocols. The experts will also look into the degree of immunity of the care home residents after vaccination. The working group will include an external coordinator, experts from the national health laboratory and the Institute of Health. The recruitment of international members of the group is already ongoing.
Georges Heirendt will replace Jean-Louis Schiltz as president of the Robert Schuman hospital. According to RTL Schiltz and Michel Wurth will step down from their posts as president and vice president respectively. This comes after a shaky couple of months for the board of directors. In February news broke out of the vaccination of three members of the board who were not eligible to receive the vaccine at the time. This was met with disapproval from the public and some political leaders as well.
Minister of Health Paulette Lenert returned after a couple of weeks of sick leave due to feeling unwell. During this time Deputy Minster of Health Romain Schneider replaced her and took part in a number of official meetings and press conferences. Lenert’s work has generally been appreciated by the public. A recent study by research institude TNS Ilres showed she had the highest approval rating among her colleagues.
A number of non-profit organisations and unions have joined forces to demand more transparency. The Luxembourgish Association of Professional Journalists (aljp), the Association for the Support of Immigrant Workers (ASTI), and Greenpeace are among those demanding further reform. They argued that the phrasing of the 2018 transparency law failed to guarantee full access to pertinent information. It only considers administrative documents which often leads to papers being left out of official dossiers.
The European Commission approved the modification of three European Social Fund Operational Programmes. As a result of that, there will be an increase of nearly 344.8 million euros in available funding for investments across the EU’s member states. In Luxembourg, the funds will be used to support around 20,000 people employed in sectors affected by the pandemic. This will be achieved through a short-time work scheme.
Yesterday the Minister for Mobility and Public Works François Bausch and Luxembourg City’s Mayor Lydie Polfer unveiled future plans for the capital’s tram line. The next stage of the project will connect the Gare district with Bonnevoie. The tram route will be extended by 1.2km with its final stop – the Lycée de Bonnevoie. The authorities hope that the construction work will be completed over the course of 2022.
MONDAY 19 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 207 new resident cases derived from 11,988 tests. There have been no new reported deaths and the death toll remains 785. 85 individuals are in hospital, with 31 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.90. 113,942 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 45,168 have received a second one.
The current COVID-19 restrictions will be extended until the 15th of May. That was announced last Friday by Luxembourg’s Prime Minsiter Xavier Bettel and acting Minister of Health Romain Schneider. There are some small changes on the horizon for the sports and cultural sectors where more people will be able to assemble. The 11pm to 6am curfew and the limit on private and public gatherings remain in force. However, if the hospitalization rates remain stable these rules will be up for review.
People between the age of 30 and 54 will be able to volunteer to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. They will need to go through an online registration system. Luxembourg’s infectious diseases council, however said a precautionary principle should be applied. And that the jab should not be used in people under the age of 54 unless they are in a vulnerable category. AstraZeneca is authorized by the European Medicines agency which maintains that the benefits of the shot outweigh the risks.
People between the age of 65 and 69 who were invited but did not make an appointment during phase 4 of the vaccination campaign will now be able to do so. They can register between the 19th and 25th of April at guichet.lu. Personalised assistance is also available at 247-65533.
There are only two remaining COVID-19 clusters in Luxembourgish care homes. That is an improvement considering the situation during the last few months. The two remaining clusters are in Schifflange and in Pescatore.
A Major fire broke out at an old Diekirch brewery in the early hours of Sunday. The flames had spread to every floor and a 900m2 hall. There were concerns that the fire would spread to nearby buildings. Reports state that approximately 100 firefighters were in attendance. By 2.30am the fire was brought under control. No cause has been established.
Former mayor of Luxembourg City Paul Helminger passed away at the age of 80. He had graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris and Stanford University in the USA. After serving as mayor between 1999 and 2011 Helminger became chairman of the board at Luxair.
FRIDAY 16 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 215 new resident cases derived from 8,661 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 785. 117 individuals are in hospital, with 33 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.23. To date, 107,163 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 40,352 have received their second.
The Ministry of Health confirmed yesterday that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been used since Wednesday morning in Luxembourg, even though the company itself has halted its deployment following cases of blood clots forming in rare cases in patients in the US. There have been six cases so far, out of nearly 7m vaccinations. Several European countries have suspended use of the vaccine pending the results of investigations carried out across the Atlantic, and by the European Medicines Agency. The Ministry said they did not plan to make any change to the vaccination campaign, and that the government will discuss the point when it holds its next council meeting later today
Minister of Education Claude Meisch (MY-SH) announced in a press briefing yesterday that, starting next week, students and staff will receive one rapid antigen self-administered test per week. He added the Ministry of Education recommends that everyone take one rapid test per week, and that schools are free to organise the logistics with teachers being responsible for forwarding test results to public health officials. Meisch and General Directorate of Secondary Education Romain Nehs said the self-test pilot phase, started prior to the Easter break, had been a success. 4,000 students received a self-testing kit in the last week of March resulting in four positive cases, while in the first week of April, one student tested positive out of 3,000 tests.
Luxembourg’s prison administration said yesterday that the Schrassig penitentiary, which has been largely coronavirus-free since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, has been placed under partial lockdown as 15 inmates are currently infected with the coronavirus. The administration added that it would allow only family visits but no other outside contact. The prisoners who tested positive have been isolated and anyone who has been in contact with them has been quarantined awaiting a negative test result. They added that rapid antigen self-administered tests would be introduced in Schrassig very soon.
Yesterday, the Polish President and HRH Grand Duke of Luxembourg exchanged letters to commemorate the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. In his letter, Polish President Andrzej Duda wrote of his delight that relations between the two countries were based on genuine partnership and friendship, and hoped to continue to develop their political, economic, and cultural ties. Formal relations were established between the two states on 18 April 1921, and Luxembourg is now the third-largest direct investor in Poland, with over €24bn invested in 2019, while commercial exchange exceeded €750m. Nearly 5,000 Polish nationals live in Luxembourg today.
A report released yesterday by Eurostat shows that Luxembourg experienced the highest employment rate increase across the EU in the last quarter of 2020. The employment rate for those aged between 20 and 64 was 72.6%, an increase of 0.3%. The highest increase was registered in Luxembourg at 2.1%, followed by Estonia with 1.2%. The largest decrease was seen in Slovakia and Belgium, both with minus 0.3%.
THURSDAY 15 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 272 new resident cases derived from 9,510 tests. There have been 5 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 784. 122 individuals are in hospital, with 33 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.23. To date, 103,565 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 37,787 have received their second one.
The health ministry confirmed yesterday that the death of the 74-year-old woman, two weeks after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, was due to a cerebral hemorrhage caused by a blood clot. The Luxembourg prosecution office stated that the death would be treated as suspicious and that a relationship with the AstraZeneca vaccine could not be excluded. The health directorate and judicial authorities are waiting for the results of an autopsy which was carried out on Tuesday. Although this development will fuel fears towards the AstraZeneca vaccine, the public prosecutor’s office added that any premature conclusion would amount to speculation.
In response to a parliamentary question, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said yesterday that he was one of the more than 188,000 users in Luxembourg whose personal Facebook data – such as phone numbers, birth dates, full names and IDs – had been leaked in 2019 and then re-emerged online earlier this month. Bettel said that the current belief is that 188,201 Luxembourgish accounts are affected, but added that work is ongoing to confirm this figure. Last week, a breach at LinkedIn saw the personal data of 500 million accounts put up for sale.
In the absence of any other candidates, Claude Wiseler is the only candidate for the presidency of the opposition Christian Social People’s Party. Wiseler has said his objective now is to unite the party, which has endured months of squabbles under Frank Engel, and to avoid any internal party struggle in the appointment of the new CSV president. The vote to validate Wiseler as president will take place during the party’s annual general meeting on 24 April. A 50% vote is necessary, but the outcome of the vote is not in doubt.
Earlier this week , Prime Minister Bettel and Minister for Home Affairs Taina Bofferding, visited the fire and rescue centre in Dudelange and the emergency services call centre in Luxembourg-Gasperich to meet with civil security officers working on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19. In Dudelange, officers explained the concept of transporting infectious patients to the Ministers before a meeting with professional and volunteer firefighters who specialise in such interventions. Among the topics discussed in Gasperich were the dispatching of COVID-19 patients to hospitals across the country and how the CGDIS contributes to the operation of vaccination centres across Luxembourg. The ministers thanked all staff members for their tireless work in the fight against coronavirus for more than a year now.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Digitalization – Marc Hansen – visited the State Information Technology Center in Leudelange where 2.9 million invitations have been sent, as part of the Covid vaccination campaign. Hansen described the Center’s work as an essential pillar, while Bettel praised the workers as the people in the shadows who make it possible to manage the crisis.
Yesterday, police issued a warning of scams at petrol stations along the Moselle. The scammers approach people claiming to have been assaulted before asking for money for fuel so that they can return home. Personal details are exchanged and promises made to refund the money. As the victims are often tourists or people passing through, the cases are usually not reported but the police urge that such cases should be reported to them immediately.
WEDNESDAY 14 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 179 new resident cases derived from 10,412 tests. There have been 5 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 777. 136 individuals are in hospital, with 33 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.95. To date, 99,988 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 35,103 have received their second one.
The first one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses arrived in Luxembourg this week. The Health Ministry confirmed the arrival of an initial 2,400 doses, with the next delivery expected on 26th April. This news came just ahead of Johnson & Johnson’s decision to delay its vaccine rollout in Europe over blot clot fears.
The Agriculture and Environment Ministries, together with local agricultural associations, have renewed their anti-littering campaign. The campaign aims to raise awareness about the danger littering presents for livestock and animal welfare in general. This message is considered all the more important during this particularly difficult period for farmers.
The 3rd edition of SpaceResourcesWeek.lu is taking place in a “phygital” format next week. The four-day event is set to bring together over 100 international speakers to take stock of the development of the space resource use sector. Economy Minister Franz Fayot will give the opening keynote at the launch ceremony, which is scheduled for Monday afternoon at Luxexpo. The programme is available at www.spaceresourcesweek.lu.
Meanwhile, Luxembourg City’s traditional Octave Mäertchen has been cancelled again this year due to the pandemic. The 16-day festival normally starts on the third Saturday after Easter. This year it was set to take place from 24th April to 9th May, but like many events, it has once again fallen victim to the health crisis.
And finally, Luxembourg Gaming Xperience is launching a new gaming concept: LGX Arena. The first tournament of this circuit will be held online on 2nd May, with participants playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on Nintendo Switch. More than €10,000 will be up for grabs throughout the year. Free registration is now open at www.lgx.lu.
TUESDAY 13 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 29 new resident cases derived from 457 tests. There have been 4 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 772. 99 individuals are in hospital, with 28 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.96. 96,054 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 34,225 have received a second one.
The fifth vaccination center in Luxembourg opened yesterday at the Luxembourg Air rescue hangar in Findel. The other four facilities are located in Luxembourg city, Esch/Belval, Mondorf and Ettelbruck. A sixth vaccination center will also open at the Luxexpo convention center. Prime minister Xavier Bettel and social security minister Romain Schneider visited the Findel yesterday. Schneider is currently replacing health minister Paulette Lenert. She is still recovering from an illness and is scheduled to return next week.
The last round of a COVID-19 study by Research Luxembourg is due to start this month. The study dubbed CON-Vince aims to evaluate the prevalence and dynamics of the spread of COVID-19 within the Luxembourgish population. And it focuses in particular on asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic individuals. However only participants previously enrolled in the study will be contacted. New volunteers are not being recruited.
Former CSV party president Frank Engel, has not ruled out creating a new party. He stepped down three weeks ago after being accused of misusing party assets. Speaking to RTL radio he said many members no longer identified with the CSV and some had even encouraged him to create a new party. This could potentially lead to the CSV – one of the biggest political parties in the country – losing even more influence.
Shopkeepers in Luxembourg have begun to show signs of recovery according to figures published by Eurostat. Total trade rose 1.7% in February 2021, compared to the same month in 2020. And that is before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. This may be related to deferred spending resulting from the closure of non-essential shops last year. Nevertheless figures are looking hopeful for 2021 with Statec predicting a 6 to 8% economic rebound in terms of consumer confidence.
Luxembourg satellite operator SES will open a new technology and operational center in Bristow, Virginia, in the USA. The facility will employ 200 people by 2026. Prince William country where the center is located has received a 500,000 USD grant for the project from Vigrinia’s governor Ralph Northam. The state will also help SES with the recruitment and training of staff.
MONDAY 12 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Covid-19 related data for Sunday is no longer released on the day. On Saturday the Ministry of Health reported 183 new resident cases derived from 11,499 tests. There have been 5 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 768. 106 individuals are in hospital, with 27 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.93. 91,074 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 30,879 have received a second one.
Travelers arriving in Luxembourg by plane will once again be able to benefit from a free PCR test at Findel airport. That was announced by Luxembourg’s Ministry of Health on Friday. In order to be administered the test passengers will be required to present their plane ticket. The test results are usually available within 24 hours.
The Luxembourgish government has ordered a total of 7,951,000 rapid antigen tests so far. These numbers were recently confirmed by the ministry of health. A strategy for the use of the tests will be presented in the following days. Test phases have already started in schools, hospitals and care homes. The tests require a nasal or throat swab and users can carry them out themselves, without the help of a medical professional. The aim of the introduction of antigen tests is to locate infections sooner, and break infection chains.
Data from 500 million LinkedIn accounts has reportedly been scraped and leaked online. Luxembourg’s Commission for data protection has asked its Irish counterpart to confirm the number of affected Luxembourgish accounts. Earlier last week it emerged that data from 500 million Facebook accounts, including 188,200 in Luxembourg, had been made available on the internet. In both cases Luxembourgish authorities stated it is better for users to assume that their account has been affected than the other way around.
A cookbook by the British Ladies Club of Luxembourg was among the winners at the 2020 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. It got first place in the Best Easy Recipes Book category in Luxembourg and will be participating in the world finals at the end of the year. The cookbook includes favourite recipes from BLC members, friends and the local community.
The “Like a Jazz Machine” festival will take place in Dudelange between the 13th and the 16th of May. The health restrictions currently in place have resulted in a limited number of available tickets. The lineup features Billy Cobham’s Culture Mix, Jean-Paul Bourelly Hips Project, Michel Meis quartet and more. For more information head to jazzmachine.lu
FRIDAY 9 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 387 new resident cases derived from 13,579 tests. There were no additional deaths, meaning the death toll remains at 762. 140 individuals are in hospital, with 32 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 0.63. To date, 88,717 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 28,420 have received their second one.
Following the latest assessment published by the European Medicines Agency on Wednesday, the Ministry of Health has issued a press release announcing that Luxembourg will continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine – now called Vaxzevria – for all age groups, but also warned patients to immediately contact a doctor should they show symptoms indicative of a blood clot.
Claude Wiseler yesterday submitted his candidacy for the presidency of the Christian Social People’s Party, which will be put to a vote during the party’s annual general meeting on 24 April. Former CSV president Frank Engel left the post in March amid a controversy concerning an undeclared job contract with a party-affiliated charity, and internal disputes about various policies. Wiseler has already selected his team, including Anne Logelin and Paul Galles for the shared position of vice presidency. There is still time for other candidates to bid for the presidency, as the deadline ends today (Friday).
According to their annual report published this week, The Centre for Equal Treatment managed 203 discrimination cases over the last 12 months. The majority of cases dealt with discrimination based on race,ethnicity,gender or against people with disabilities. Other cases covered discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, religion and age. 14 cases were in the “multiple discrimination” category while 31 belonged to the “other” category. The report states that 104 cases were resolved, while 42 are still in progress. The remaining cases saw applicants withdraw their claim, or cases cease through lack of proof.
The Administrative Court yesterday upheld a previous ruling that a memorandum of understanding signed between the municipality of Bissen, the Ministry of the Economy, and Google should remain secret. Local activist group Mouvement écologique had sought to make the memorandum of understanding public because it was concerned about the environmental impact of Google’s plans to build a major data centre in Bissen, but the court decided that the agreement cannot be considered an administrative document and also ruled that such information could be helpful to competitors. Google’s planning application was approved last October, and the construction of the two 30,000m2 data centres is estimated to cost around €1.2bn.
Housing prices in Luxembourg rose by almost 17% in the last quarter of 2020 compared to the same period the previous year according to figures published yesterday by STATEC. This follows the trend of previous years which saw prices jump by 7.1% in 2018 and 10.1% in 2019. The average price of a house in Luxembourg City is €1.35 million, more than double the cost of property in the north of the country. Housing sales recovered to pre-covid levels in the second half of the year after experiencing a huge drop at the start of the initial Covid-19 outbreak, and STATEC reported that the overall number of transactions for 2020 was down by only 6.3% compared to 2019.
Den Atelier yesterday announced that Siren’s Call Festival, which was set to take place in Luxembourg City’s Neimenster on 26 June, will be postponed to 25 June 2022 due to the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic.
THURSDAY 8 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 168 new resident cases derived from 8,457 tests. There was 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 762. 139 individuals are in hospital, with 31 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 0.78. To date, 86,356 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 26,408 have received their second one.
The Ministry of Health announced yesterday that invites for the fifth and penultimate phase of the vaccination campaign would start to be sent out this week. Phase 5 covers residents aged 55 to 64, and people suffering from medical conditions which could complicate a Covid-19 infection, such as low-risk diabetics, people with high blood pressure, people who fall into the ‘obese’ category, and pregnant women.
Despite intermittent snow and cold temperatures, a number of cafés and restaurants opened their terraces to customers at 6am yesterday. HORESCA acknowledged the decision to open was a step in the right direction but said that it would have preferred terraces to stay open until at least 8 pm. The HORESCA general secretary, François Koepp, yesterday estimated that 30% – 40% of their members would open their terraces while the majority would wait for better weather conditions.
Minister for Home Affairs Taina Bofferding presented an amended bill giving more authority to traffic wardens to report offences and administer fines. According to the Minister, in the long-term, the amended bill will improve the citizens’ sense of security. However, some debate this, saying it gives power that can easily be abused. This allows traffic wardens, but also members of the police force, to sanction offences with administrative fines of €25 to €250 for offences including, for example, loading or unloading goods outside the specified times, using a lawnmower outside the authorised times.
Figures released by the Belgian and Luxembourg federation of automobiles – Febiac – show that the Luxembourg car market is picking up again with 12,456 new registrations in the first quarter. And for the first time, electric vehicles have overtaken sales of those with diesel engines. 37.3% of new registrations were for petrol engines and 30.3% were diesel engines. Electrified vehicles, including hybrids, represented 32.4% of new registrations.
The Minister for Equality between Women and Men, Taina Bofferding, announced yesterday that Luxembourg is now a member of the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC). EPIC is a multi-stakeholder partnership that helps UN member states achieve a sustainable development goal (SDG) of equal pay for work of equal value by 2030. A recent STATEC report shows that Luxembourg has reduced the gender pay gap to 1.6% on the gross hourly wage and 7.2 % on annual wages in favour of men. Since 2016, Luxembourg has had a law on equal pay which is an integral part of the Labour Code. Pay inequality has been elevated to an offence. The Ministry of Equality between Women and Men works alongside companies, their staff and others to raise awareness for equal pay, as well as issuing free software to help companies measure wage gaps.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Health, announced that it was encouraging people to participate in the European Web Survey on Drugs. The survey, aimed at people over 18 years of age who have previously tried drugs, aims to better understand drug use patterns and to contribute to the development of future policies and preventive solutions throughout Europe, including Luxembourg. The survey can be filled in anonymously and online. The survey can be found on the News page of our website.
WEDNESDAY 7 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 7 new resident cases derived from 483 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 761. 137 individuals are in hospital, with 32 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.95. To date, 83,652 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 25,288 have received their second one.
The Health Ministry also announced that COVID-19 vaccination certificates are now available online at MyGuichet.lu. This applies to people having received their first or second jab as part of the national vaccination campaign. The certificate, which has a GouvCheck code proving its authenticity, can be downloaded from the website guichet.lu/certificat-vaccination.
Luxembourg’s vaccine campaign is catching up with other European Union members, after the country had one of the slowest roll-outs across the bloc. The Grand Duchy’s 7-day rolling average of vaccinations now matches the EU average and surpasses Germany.
The Robert Schuman Hospitals group is looking for a new Managing Director following the departure of Dr Claude Schummer. Dr Schummer was put on “special leave” last month after his mishandling of the hospital’s vaccination strategy. The group has now confirmed that it is seeking a permanent replacement, with Sandra Thein remaining in charge of management until a new Managing Director is found.
The investment aid scheme for companies during the pandemic has been extended until the end of the year. The scheme, which was set to expire on 30th June, aims to encourage investment in economic development, digitalisation or environmental protection projects with financial aid of up to 50% of eligible costs. In addition, the maximum amount of aid granted per company has increased from €800,000 to €1.8 million.
Police have advised that in the Larochette region, unknown individuals are trying to pass themselves off as employees of the Health Directorate. However, this is a trick. Do not let these people into your house and report the incident to the police by calling the number 113.
TUESDAY 6 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 54 new resident cases derived from 1,016 tests. There have been 5 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 760. 103 individuals are in hospital, with 30 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.94. 81,088 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 24,797 have received a second one.
Romain Schneider will temporarily replace Health Minister Paulette Lenert who is currently unwell. Ms Lenert was briefly hospitalized back in March after fainting and is unable to resume her duties. Mr Schneider will stand in for her between the 8th and the 19th of April. As a temporary Minister of Health he will be authorized to sign documents on Ms Lenert’s behalf.
The Luxembourgish government approved a bill introducing a tax allowance of up to 15,000 euros for property owners who reduce rents in 2021. This sum is the maximum ceiling for the whole year. The bill is an extension of an existing legislation that was presented in May last year. And it is intended to help businesses in the context of the current sanitary crisis.
The Police are on the lookout for a Black Audi A8. Officers were in a high speed pursuit of the vehicle in Vianden. The driver refused to stop for a roadside traffic check and instead sped up to avoid the Police. The pursuit was eventually abandoned by the officers in order to ensure public safety. The car was reportedly not registered correctly and the driver has not been found yet. Witnesses are encouraged to contact the Police via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or to call 244 80 1000.
Companies in Luxembourg have been invited to take part in the development of a new generation cloud infrastructures and services. The ministry of the Economy recently launched an appeal to those willing to participate. The call is aimed at businesses operating as part of the infrastructure and cloud services value chain. Companies are required to submit a document explaining their interest by the 16th of April. More information can be found at luxinnovation.lu
Luxembourg-based data analyst Aida Horaniet Ibañez is publishing short stories intended to help her daughter understand her job. The “My Mom is a Data Analyst” series also shows that there is a place for women in the data industry. Ibañez began writing the stories during one of the lockdowns. She has published them on her blog and thanks to a crowdfunding campaign has now commissioned a number of illustrations.
FRIDAY 2 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 238 new resident cases derived from 12,486 tests. There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 749. 146 individuals are in hospital, with 30 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.05. To date, 73,152 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 22,505 have received their second one.
Yesterday, parliament passed the law allowing restaurants, bars and cafés to open their terraces between 6am and 6pm to customers starting 7 April, but all other restrictions, such as the nightly curfew and limits on public and private gatherings, will remain in place until 25 April. Only two customers will be allowed at each table, unless the guests are from the same household. However, Prime Minister Bettel told the Chamber of Deputies they could not rule out further restrictions over the next few weeks and months, if the situation took a turn for the worse.
According to the research project Our World In Data.org, Luxembourg’s vaccination campaign is the fourth-slowest in Europe. As of 31 March, Luxembourg had given out 14 doses per 100 people, two below the EU average of 16. Luxembourg fares poorly when compared with Malta, a country roughly the same size but with a vaccination rate three times as high.
The Ministry of Family and Integration, and the Ministry of Health released a statement yesterday that revealed 53 coronavirus clusters had been detected in retirement homes during the pandemic affecting 1,660 residents . A cluster consists of 5 or more positive cases detected within a period of two weeks. The smallest cluster detected consisted of five cases, while the largest featured 101 positive infections. 40 retirement homes have experienced at least two deaths since the pandemic was declared last March. 328 residents – 6.2% of the overall resident population – have died in the last year, while around a third of home residents have contracted the virus.
Earlier this week ,the transport, environment and energy ministers launched an initiative allowing members of the private and public sector to sign up to a new e-mobility charter that aims to reach a national target of 49% electric or hybrid vehicles by 2030. Their goal is to reduce CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030 and be climate neutral by mid-century. Last week, the government announced an extension to subsidies of up to €8,000 for buyers of electric and hybrid vehicle purchases.
STATEC- the government statistics service – yesterday released a report showing Luxembourg’s population grew in 2020 by 8,622 to 634,730 people. 88% of that growth was due to net migration. The number of births in Luxembourg rose by 3.7% in 2020. The number of deaths rose by 7.6% compared to 2019, and deaths due to COVID-19 represented 11.0%
THURSDAY 1 APRIL
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 387 new resident cases derived from 13,171 tests. There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 746. 143 individuals are in hospital, with 25 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.02. To date, 70,911 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 21,663 have received their second one.
The Ministry of Health confirmed yesterday that Luxembourg will continue to follow the official advice of the European Medications Agency and carry on with the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under the age of 60. Germany, France and Spain have limited the vaccine to over-55s after new cases of thrombosis in the brain were discovered in female patients.
Following a major police operation last week at various locations in Luxembourg, local police relayed a press release from Europol yesterday that revealed more about the operation. French Prosecutors, who had been investigating a drug trafficking network since 2017, asked German and Luxembourg law enforcement authorities to arrest members of a criminal group suspected of laundering the proceeds of drug trafficking. Four members of the criminal gang, including its leader, were arrested; assets worth several million euros and €26,000 in cash were seized.
The Ministry of Health yesterday announced that as part of a collaboration between Luxembourg and French health authorities, a patient with COVID-19 from an intensive care unit in France was admitted to a Luxembourg Hospital late on Tuesday afternoon. The patient was transported in a specially adapted ambulance. The gesture comes as intensive care beds approach saturation in France and Belgium.
A new report from Eurostat – the EU’s statistics agency – reveals that Luxembourg has the highest share of non-nationals in its resident population. The report claims that 48% of residents are not of Luxembourgish nationality and that 39% are from another EU country, while 9% are from non-EU member states. Luxembourg is far ahead of the rest of Europe, with Malta coming a distant second with 20%.
Economics Minister Franz Fayot and Interior Minister Taina Bofferding yesterday announced that the Luxembourg census, which was due to commence in February has again been postponed until November due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Hot on the heels of Tuesday’s record of 22.5 °C in Findel, Luxembourg’s Ministry of Agriculture announced that a new official temperature record for the month of March was recorded yesterday, with Clemency in the south western region reaching 25.4°C.
WEDNESDAY 31 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 182 new resident cases derived from 10,249 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 743. 133 individuals are in hospital, with 21 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.02. To date, 68,613 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 21,071 have received their second one.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced yesterday that the country would step up random controls at its land borders to ensure people are carrying a negative coronavirus test upon arrival. Germany’s Federal Foreign Office uses risk classifications from the Robert Koch Institute to set entry requirements via road. Luxembourg is currently listed as a “risk area” meaning that “travellers must be in possession of a test result no later than 48 hours after entry.”
Yesterday, the Ministry of State and Ministry of Health announced in a press release that the first invitations to people covered by phase 4 of the vaccination campaign will be sent out this week. People covered by phase 4 are residents in the age category of 65 to 69 years, starting with the oldest, as well as moderately vulnerable people due to pre-existing health conditions. There are no set dates for phases 5 and 6 to commence.
Yesterday, Minister of the Economy, Franz Fayot, provided parliament with details of ten pirate attacks on ships flying Luxembourgish flags over the past decade. Most of the attacks happened in the Gulf of Guinea, a major oil extraction site off the west coast of Africa, by pirates operating from Nigeria. In 2020, 82 pirate attacks were reported in the region, including two attacks on ships registered in Luxembourg.
Earlier this week, the National Commission for Control and Assessment submitted a report to the Chamber of Deputies which revealed that 41 people had requested euthanasia or assisted suicide in Luxembourg in 2019 and 2020. The increase is explained by a greater awareness of the law and its acceptance by the population.
The Grand Duke and the Grand Duchess are this week supporting the “Light it up Blue” solidarity movement in support of understanding and acceptance for people with autism by illuminating the facade of the Grand Ducal Palace in blue, in the lead up to World Autism Awareness Day on Friday 2 April 2021. HRH the Grand Duchess has been the High Patronage of the Fondation Autisme Luxembourg since March 2018.
TUESDAY 30 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 26 new resident cases derived from 884 tests. There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 741. 107 individuals are in hospital, with 22 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.12. 65,851 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 20,705 have received a second one.
The proposed law concerning Covid-19 restrictions in Luxembourg will be voted in this week. According to RTL the opening of terraces will remain in the proposal. However, the person registration system for clients will be removed from the motion.
The Trois Glands parc in Kirchberg, behind the Philharmonie, the Mudam Museum of Modern Art WILL be closed between 6pm and 6am. That was announced by Luxembourg’s Ministry of Internal Security, and the Ministry of Mobility and Public Works. Private parties have been taking place on the premises in the past few weeks. Sanitary rules were not respected during these gatherings. The MUDAM and the Fortress Museum remain accessible to the public.
Lux-Airport issued a series of recommendations for passengers flying during the Easter period. People traveling from Luxembourg for their Easter vacation can take their COVID-19 test at the airport. Passengers that plan to be tested need to register online at www.lux-airport.lu/testing
According to Statec the average price of a home in Luxembourg rose by 4,7% in the fourth quarter of 2020. The data shows the average price of a flat has gone from €535,395 to €616,553.
The Luxembourg startup Magrid was the winner in the 2020 World Summit Award’s learning and education category. The groundbreaking maths training programme uses language-neutral exercises to help young learners build fundamental knowledge. Magrid was developed to deal with the learning challenges in Luxembourg. 65% of the students in the Grand Duchy are studying in a language that is not their native tongue. The programme was introduced in all Luxembourgish primary schools in March.
MONDAY 29 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health did not publish any Covid-19 data on Sunday due to an IT system Maintenance. On Saturday the authorities reported 290 new resident cases derived from 12,054 tests. There were 0 registered deaths and the death toll thus remains 738. 103 individuals are in hospital, with 21 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.08. 62,812 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 19,841 have received a second one.
PCR test taken before traveling abroad as part of Luxembourg’s large-scale testing program will be charged starting from the 5th of April. That was confirmed by Luxembourg’s Ministry of Health following a government cabinet decision on the 17th of March. Those requiring a test in view of a business trip will not have to pay. While students studying abroad will also be covered. More information on covid19.lu
On Saturdays hundreds of protesters took to the streets, calling for more affordable housing. They gathered at Luxembourg city’s train station and marched to the Place d’Armes. The demonstrators drew attention to the fact that the middle class is heavily impacted by the country’s housing market. The protest was organised by the “Wunnrecht” coalition which advocates for the construction of affordable housing units for those with low income. They are also calling for a rent limit and a real estate tax reform.
Meanwhile, Luxembourg’s Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Housing, confirmed that the Housing Pact 2.0 will support more affordable housing. The legislation concerns municipal planning and the acquisition of housing units by the public sector. The price of land weighs down heavily in the creation of affordable housing. A counterpart mechanism aimed at reducing the financial impact on the public sector will be introduced. It also will ensure that the private property rights of the initiator of a particular development plan are guaranteed.
The Luxembourgish authorities have decided to extend the so called Winter Action for homeless people until the 30th of June. Its purpose is to prevent homeless people from falling victim to hypothermia during the year’s colder months. It takes place in the emergency structure at Findel where free medical service is also provided for those without a home. A specific system for homeless people waiting for a COVID-19 test result has also been set up.
The “cycle streets” pilot project promoting soft mobility was launched last Friday. Three strategic Cycle Streets in Luxembourg city were inaugurated by the capital’s mayor Lydie Polfer and the alderman for mobility Patrick Goldschmidt. Those are: Rue de Bragance, rue Laurent Menager and rue de Pulvermühl. On the cycle streets cyclists have priority over motorised traffic and they can use the full width of the traffic lane. A test phase will run between March and September. After which the city of Luxembourg will evaluate the project. Many people however have already stated that the scheme does not go far enough to meet the needs and safety of cyclists.
FRIDAY 26 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 298 new resident cases derived from 11,753 tests. There have been 8 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 736. 118 individuals are in hospital, with 14 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.09. To date, 61,026 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 19,302 have received their second one.
The Ministry of Health issued a mandate yesterday instructing doctors not to prescribe Covid tests for people who want to travel abroad, and to reserve PCR tests for people who are suspected to have contracted the virus. The letter advised doctors to refer such people to private laboratories, where they can make an appointment themselves and pay for PCR tests.
The Confederation of Public Servants issued a press release yesterday lamenting the lack of a clear strategy in the government’s vaccination campaign.The unwillingness of healthcare workers to get vaccinated was also a point of concern.The confederation asked that politicians think about introducing alternative measures and demanded a meeting with government representatives to address the matter.
Following the absence of the Minister of Health – Paulette Lenert – from Wednesday’s government press conference, the health ministry clarified the situation stating that Minister Lenert is ‘on the road to recovery’ after suffering ‘a malaise’, and that her state of health had rapidly improved following the medical check-up. Ms Lenert confirmed she was taken to hospital on Tuesday evening for a check-up, but was discharged on Wednesday and will now recover at home before resuming her duties in three weeks.
The Christian Social People’s Party continue to target Minister for Family Affairs, Corinne Cahen; whom they blame for the recent increase in deaths in retirement and care homes. CSV MP Michel Wolter argued that the government should recognise the need for a change, and accused the DP politician of having failed her responsibilities and of having tried to hide the truth and blame others for her mistakes. He re-emphasised that CSV no longer sees Cahen as an option for the post of Minister for Family Affairs. As well as an extensive enquiry into the Covid clusters, the CSV demanded rapid tests be provided to all care home employees, and that a “green card” be introduced for nursing home employees, providing details of vaccinations, negative test results, and antibodies.
Luxembourg’s Minister of Social Security Romain Schneider briefed on changes to social security law for EU -UK cross-border workers, students and travellers in light of the Brexit deal agreed earlier this year. Social security benefits will continue to be available to people working between the two areas on 31 December 2020. This applies to Britons working in Luxembourg, as well as Luxembourgish citizens working in the UK. Employees will be subject to the social security system in the country where they work. Similarly, they will also continue to benefit from protection such as taking into account periods of insurance in the United Kingdom or Luxembourg for their pension in Luxembourg .
Students insured in Luxembourg and studying in the UK can continue to use their European Health Insurance Card to obtain healthcare but if their studies began after 31 December 2020, a health contribution payment (or “immigration health surcharge”) may be requested by British authorities if their stay exceeds six months.
People with travel insurance in Luxembourg can use their European Health Insurance Card during holidays in the UK.
The protocol is applicable for a period of fifteen years.
THURSDAY 25 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 353 new resident cases derived from 11,861 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 728. 121 individuals are in hospital, with 17 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.06. To date, 59,310 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 18,687 have received their second one.
At a press conference yesterday afternoon, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel stated that due to continued high rates of infection, there will be no change in the restrictions for Easter and advised that current restrictive measures will be extended until the 25 April. He then confirmed that restaurant and cafe terraces will be allowed to open from 7 April, from 6am to 6pm, only two people will be allowed at a table, unless from the same family. The impact of reopening terraces will be closely monitored to decide how to proceed after 25 April.
From Friday 25 March 2021, mobile teams will be increased for people who are unable to travel to receive the jab at home.
In addition, a fifth vaccination centre will open its doors on 12 April and is expected to increase capacities to around 55,000 jabs per week, and a sixth vaccine centre is planned to open at the LuxExpo.
Mr Bettel confirmed that Luxembourg has received 112,000 vaccine doses, with 77,000 used to date.
Finally, the government has decided to extend the validity for the €50 hotel vouchers it distributed last year until 15 September. More than 108,000 vouchers have been redeemed so far.
Following recent reports regarding Covid-19 clusters in retirement and care homes, the Federation of Nurses and Caregivers yesterday issued a statement stressing its members had strictly adhered to official guidelines, and that recent outbreaks were definitely not caused by a lack of Personal Protective Equipment. The Federation added it had previously questioned the decision not to vaccinate external staff such as cleaning crews, and criticised the government’s apparent judgement of people by status instead of function. They further claim the authorities had decided against prioritising vaccinations in “assisted living” structures despite Copas recommendations.
Yesterday, the Association of Prison Officers, issued a statement questioning why the government decided to only vaccinate prisoners and not the entire prison staff despite the prison management and the Ministry of Justice supporting the strategy. The Association claimed that the decision by the National Health Directorate could be a “safety danger” given how the large number of people confined within a prison, and added that a prison was unable to close for health reasons.
Figures released yesterday by Eurostat reveal that Luxembourg’s female fertility rate reduced from 1.63 in 2010 to 1.34 in 2019, placing them among those who have the fewest children in Europe. In addition, Luxembourg women become mothers the latest in the European Union, along with the Spanish and Italian, at 31.1 years with the European average being around 29.4 years. Furthermore, of the 6,230 births registered in 2019, 66%, or 4,109, had a mother of foreign nationality – the highest rate in the European Union.
WEDNESDAY 24 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 165 new resident cases derived from 10,145 tests. There have been 7 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 726. 130 individuals are in hospital, with 21 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.11. To date, 57,406 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 18,126 have received their second one.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert are set to hold a press conference today at 3.30pm, following this morning’s state council meeting. In an RTL interview, the Prime Minister confirmed that the possibility of opening restaurant terraces was on the table.
The Minister of Family and Integration, Corinne Cahen, confirmed yesterday that a total of 324 care home residents had lost their lives to coronavirus since the pandemic began one year ago. She also confirmed that an infection cluster in a care home in Niederkorn had resulted in the deaths of 22 residents since 17th February – a day before the vaccine rollout began there. The Director of Health, Dr Jean-Claude Schmit, emphasised that the vaccine had nothing to do with this cluster. Concerning its origins, he noted that care homes are not completely cut off from the outside world.
According to the Education Ministry, 9,000 rapid tests will be arriving in schools over the next week. This pilot phase will run from today until 2nd April in six schools, allowing the authorities to determine the value of using rapid tests in schools more generally after the Easter holidays. In participating classes, students will be able to test themselves in the classroom, although younger children will receive a test to be carried out with their parents at home.
31,520 full-time employees will benefit from the partial unemployment measure next month. The Economic Committee approved 4,276 out of 4,323 company requests for the month of April. The partial unemployment scheme, set up in the context of the pandemic, will run until 30th June.
Luxembourg has been ranked 8th in the United Nations’ World Happiness Report 2021. Despite the pandemic, the country climbed two spots since the 2020 report. Finland once again emerged as the happiest country in the world, followed by Denmark and Switzerland.
TUESDAY 23 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 80 new resident cases derived from 911 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 719. 102 individuals are in hospital, with 20 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.13. 56,383 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 17,872 have received a second one.
Dr Claude Muller, one of Luxembourg’s leading virologists has criticized care facilities for their lack of tracking of vaccinations. In particular the inoculation rate among employees. Speaking to RTL he said it was “unprofessional” to not be aware which of the staff members have been vaccinated and which ones have not. Muller also suggested care facilities should monitor how long after a jab each positive case has occurred. That could allow researchers to narrow down when the vaccine’s protective powers come into full force.
The levels of coronavirus residue in water purification plants remains elevated. That was confirmed by the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology. The number of average daily new infections has also increased over the past week from 163 to 166. Scientists are concerned in particular about the more contagious variants of the virus. The strain discovered in the UK currently makes up 58% of cases in Luxembourg while the one from South Africa – about 20%.
Dan Kersch from the Luxembourg Socialist Workers Party, proposed introducing a tax on companies who have registered big profits during the pandemic. The deputy prime minister said this “covid tax” would be applied based on certain criteria. Increase in turnover or an increase in the number of employees are some of the possible points of reference. The LSAP has once again made its position clear that young people should not be paying the price for the pandemic.
Luxembourg’s defense minister, François Bausch met his German counterpart Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Monday. They discussed Luxembourg’s participation in the Geometoc Support Coordination Element. This is a project led by Germany aimed at enhancing geospatial, meteorological and oceanographic support. Cyber defense was also on the agenda. As Luxembourg signed off just last week on a cyber defence strategy, including virtual training against cyber attacks.
This year’s edition of the marathon fundraiser Relais pour la vie will take place this weekend. More than 350 teams and 8,000 participants from across Luxembourg are set to take part in the event. This year’s edition will go ahead in a new format due to the coronavirus restrictions. Team members can walk, run or cycle at a time and location of their choice. The aim of each team is to log a combined 24 hours. The opening ceremony on Saturday will be broadcast on relaispourlavie.lu.
MONDAY 22 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Over the weekend the Ministry of Health reported 536 new resident cases derived from 23,536 tests. There have been 10 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 718. 101 individuals are in hospital, with 20 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.07. 52,870 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 17,469 have received a second one.
As reported last week, after the European Medicines Agency allayed fears over blood clots caused by the Astra Zeneca vaccinations. The Luxembourgish authorities confirmed the resumption of the AstraZeneca shots already last Friday. Luxembourg’s Health Ministry insisted it is monitoring closely people who have been vaccinated.
Luxembourg’s Minister of Education Claude Meisch said on Friday that at the moment, distance learning is not considered necessary before the Easter holidays. He added that the situation could be adapted at any given time, depending on the number of infections in the country.
Frank Engel, the leader of the Christian Social People’s Party has stepped down. This is the result of the politician receiving an undisclosed salary from the non-profit CSV-Frëndeskrees. He was reported to the public prosecutor’s office by members of his party. Engel said there had been a gentlemen’s agreement that the sum of roughly 40,000 euros he had received would be returned to the Frëndeskreess. A preliminary investigation has been launched by the public prosecutor’s office. While Engels maintains he did not break the law. Vice-presidents Elisabeth Margue and Stéphanie Weydert have temporarily assumed the party president’s tasks and powers.
The Grand Ducal Police announced that an automated teller machine, or an ATM, was blown up in Wintger, on the N12. This happened on Saturday morning at around 4:40 am. The Police have asked anyone who may have detected suspicious movements of vehicles or people near the crime scene on Friday or Saturday to come forward. The phone number for contact is 113.
Members of parliament will open an inquiry into Um Lauterbann, a care home in Niederkon. 28 people have reportedly died in the establishment since the start of the year. This number corresponds to the yearly average of the last five years. At least 16 deaths over the last two weeks have been reportedly linked to coronavirus infections. CSV MP Michel Wolter believes the care home had failed to discuss the cluster with the commune. The authorities will look into that as well as whether the establishment had communicated properly with the families of those concerned.
The Luxembourg union of travel agencies and the Luxembourg Event Association agreed on a job retention plan with labour union OGBL. This is expected to prevent layoffs in the tourism and events sector this year. The plan would use partial unemployment as a tool to keep people in jobs while easing the financial burden on companies. The state would cover 80% of an employee’s salary who is working reduced hours. At the same time the company will continue paying social security contributions. The job retention plan is awaiting confirmation by the government’s Comité de conjuncture this week.
FRIDAY 19 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 266 new resident cases derived from 9,795 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 705. 120 individuals are in hospital, with 23 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.08. To date, 50,220 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 16,934 have received their second one.
Following the European Medicines Agency’s conclusion that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh any dangers of side effects, Luxembourg has now lifted the ban it imposed earlier this week.
Interpol have warned that Luxembourg’s location in the centre of Europe, its role as an EU capital and its large financial industry make it an attractive target for international crime. The OpenLux investigation found last month that the Grand Duchy’s lack of transparency into business ownership provides opportunities for organised crime and money laundering in the country. Earlier this week, Interior Security Minister Henri Kox and Justice Minister Sam Tanson said the necessary secrecy of police investigations and the presumption of innocence for suspects arrested means there is no data as to whether organised crime has gained a foothold in the country. It is believed an Italian mafia organisation is present in Luxembourg’s catering and real estate industries.
Youth for Climate Luxembourg will, this afternoon, take to the streets of the capital again to march in protest against climate inaction. Since 2019, the environmental group has mounted a series of protests in partnership with young activists around the world to demand action from Luxembourg’s government in the fight against climate change. In a press release, Youth for Climate Luxembourg demanded immediate, concrete, and ambitious actions from world leaders in response to the ongoing climate crisis. To abide by the coronavirus restrictions, the group will not be calling for a mass mobilisation. Highlights of the afternoon include a Human Chain at 16:00 on the Place d’Armes and a chalk auction. Further information on the protest and its cause can be found at www.youthforclimate.lu.
Following the announcement in January that the Red Cross had decided to sell the Birtrange Castle due to the building’s poor condition, the “Nordstad” municipalities confirmed yesterday in a press release that their bid of more than the reserve price of €5.2 million was unsuccessful. According to local media, the new owner is “a private investor from Luxembourg and is ready to formalise the purchase once the legal procedures have been completed.”
THURSDAY 18 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 297 new resident cases derived from 11,412 tests. There have been 7 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 704. 113 individuals are in hospital, with 25 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.08. To date, 47,598 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 16,470 have received their second one.
According to a British study, the UK coronavirus variant, currently the majority variant in Luxembourg, is more lethal than the original strain of the virus. Despite the last government weekly statement for the week 1-7 March showing a decline from 210 to 191 new cases per 100,000 population, as of 28 February, the date of the last data analysis, the UK coronavirus variant represented 65% of all new cases of infection. Furthermore, a study published in the British Medical Journal on 10 March – based on data collected from nearly 110,000 people in which they found a much higher number of deaths (227) with those infected with the “British” variant compared to the original strain (141) – suggests that the British strain is 64% more deadly than the original.
Yesterday, the Christian-Democrat CSV party entered a leadership crisis after members reported president Frank Engel to the public prosecutor for alleged misuse of company assets. RTL reports that the scandal concerns an employment contract under which Engel received a salary for recruiting members for the CSV Frëndeskrees (FREND-S-KREES (or “circle of friends”) non-profit association. Martine Hansen, head of the CSV parliamentary group, said in an RTL interview that CSV MPs had not been aware of the contract and only found out about it at the general assembly of “CSV-Frëndeskreess asbl” last week. After seeking independent legal advice, the MPs reported the matter to the public prosecutor. In a separate interview yesterday, Mr Engel stressed that he “has nothing to apologise for” and that the only mistake he may have made in this affair is to not have informed more people about the existence of the contract. Engel also warned that he will bring defamation complaints against those who accuse him of unlawful behavior.
Yesterday, the Council of Ministers extended the deadline of the “Congé pour raisons familiales” which was due to expire at Easter. The government has decided to continue granting the special leave until the start of the summer vacation in order to accommodate parents of vulnerable children or parents of children under the age of 13 whose day care centers are closed due to pandemics. The provision applies to employees and employers and includes residents and cross-border commuters.
Minister of Justice Sam Tanson stated yesterday that the deadline for the recovery procedure that allows direct descendants of a Luxembourgish ancestor to apply for Luxembourgish nationality will be extended by one year to 31 December 2022. This is because, under the nationality law, the applicant must travel to Luxembourg to sign their declaration of recovery which has proved difficult due to the travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Official data reveals that more than 4,300 people reclaimed Luxembourg nationality last year, accounting for more than half of the people granted a Luxembourg passport.
WEDNESDAY 17 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 185 new resident cases derived from 10,260 tests. There have been 4 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 697. 128 individuals are in hospital, with 26 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.04. To date, 44,735 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 15,852 have received their second one.
Luxembourg has temporarily suspended all vaccinations with the AstraZeneca vaccine pending the results of the European Medicines Agency’s investigation over reports of blood clotting. The results of this analysis are expected later this week, although at this point, the EMA maintains that the benefits of the vaccine appear to outweigh the risks of side effects.
Education Minister Claude Meisch presented Luxembourg’s fifth European school yesterday. The Anne Beffort European School will open its doors in Mersch in September. Students will graduate with a European Baccalaureate. The decision to open a fifth school in central Luxembourg was made in response to ever-increasing demand.
The administrative board of the Hôpitaux Robert Schuman announced that Finance Director Sandra Thein will temporarily assume the management of the hospital group. The news follows the board’s decision to put Dr Claude Schummer on “special leave” last Monday. The hospital also plans to open an internal investigation into claims of abuse and bullying.
Applications are now open for the 11th edition of the Fit 4 Start acceleration programme. Start-ups in the ICT and SpaceTech sectors are invited to participate in this new edition, which will be held in a 100% digital format. Successful candidates will receive 20 weeks of personalised coaching and grants of up to €150,000. Applications close on 15th April. To apply, visit www.startupluxembourg.com/fit-4-start.
TUESDAY 16 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 49 new resident cases derived from 657 tests. There have been 4 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 693. 95 individuals are in hospital, with 25 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.03. 43,479 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 15,569 have received a second one.
The Robert Schuman Hospital refutes setting up a vaccination strategy separately from that of the government. This came after rumors that the clinic had tried to order 200,000 vaccine doses. The Hospital’s image has also suffered in recent times due to revelations that board members were inoculated during phase one of the vaccination campaign. Director-general, Dr Claude Schummer has been put on “special leave” since the 8th of March. Local media have suggested he could be replaced. Health Minister Paulette Lenert has condemned any efforts to hide private initiatives from public health officials. However she reiterated she will wait until there is more clarity on the situation before taking action.
Rapid tests will be implemented in schools across Luxembourg after the Easter holidays. The government aims at keeping weekly new infections at around 300. Speaking to RTL, Minister of Education Claude Meisch stated a pilot project will start soon and children will be tested once or twice a week.
A ship flying the Luxembourgish flag was attacked by a dozen pirates in the Gulf of Guinea yesterday. That was confirmed by Luxembourg’s Maritime Administration. After sounding the alarm the ship crew took refuge in the vessel’s reinforced citadel as per security procedures. Two patrol ships operating nearby intervened and took back control of the ship. While the pirates fled and all of the 21 crew members escaped unharmed.
Luxembourg’s business register could acquire new powers in the future. Namely, issuing administrative sanctions to companies that intentionally submit inaccurate or incomplete information. This comes after the Luxembourg court system was overrun by a large number of irregular referrals in 2020. Currently a bill of law is being debated. It could see the threshold for fines increased to 15,000 euros. The beneficial owners register was established in March 2019 in order to create more transparency and accountability. But the records are far from immaculate as was revealed by a recent journalism investigation called OpenLux. It exposed firms that allegedly hide or launder money, stocks and other assets in the Grand Duchy.
Two Luxembourg Co-Productions “Collective” and “Wolfwalkers” secured Oscar nominations yesterday. The Romania-Luxembourg co-production Collective is nominated in two categories: Documentary Feature and International Feature. The film has already proved to be a success, winning the award for best European documentary at the European Film Awards in 2020. The Ireland-Luxembourg co-production Wolfwakers on the other hand, is nominated in the Animated Feature category. The 93rd edition of the prestigious Oscar ceremony will be held on the 25th of April.
MONDAY 15 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Over the weekend the Ministry of Health reported 374 new resident cases derived from 20,903 tests. There have been 8 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 689. 93 individuals are in hospital, with 25 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.03. 39,558 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 15,307 have received a second one.
Luxembourg’s government announced the start of phase 3 of the country’s COVID-19 vaccination programme. Those concerned include residents aged between 70 and 74 as well as people who are significantly vulnerable due to their state of health. They will receive an invitation from the Ministry of Health by post with detailed information on the process of making an appointment. The invitation contains a personalised code with limited validity which cannot be extended. Those considered to be significantly vulnerable due to health conditions can be registered for vaccination via their General Practitioner or specialist physician. Personalised assistance is also offered through a hotline which you can reach at: 247-65 533.
4,141 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, from in the batch suspected of causing blood clotting issues in a couple of individuals, have been used in Luxembourg. The remaining 659 doses of the 4,800-dose shipment have been kept out of use. That was clarified by health minister Paulette Lenert who had announced earlier that all of the vaccine shots had been set aside. However she stressed that based on the current available data it cannot be confirmed that the AstraZeneca vaccine is the source of the reported cases of blood clots. Such cases were discovered in other countries such as Austria but in Luxembourg there hasn’t been any so far. The authorities are currently investigating the matter.
Subsidies for the purchase of an electric vehicle in Luxembourg will no longer be available at this end of the month. But the House of Automobiles is hoping that the government will extend its subsidies scheme. The association considers the state aid an important part in the development of e-mobility. Last month environment minister Carole Dieschbourg demanded an extension of the bonuses in question. But she stated the focus should be on electric models rather than on hybrid ones. While the House of Automobile hopes the bonuses for hybrid cars will remain.
The University of Luxembourg will hold a virtual Open Day on Saturday the 20th of March from 10am to 4pm. The event presents an opportunity to discover the university, its study programmes and research activities. There will be Q&A sessions on matters related to admission and accommodation, a virtual campus tour and presentations of scientific activities. A new data science master will also be launched in September in a bid to increase the university’s appeal. More information about the event can be found on openday.uni.lu.
The Luxembourg Film Festival’s VR Pavilion in neimënster, has been extended until the 30th of May due to high demand. The organisers will continue to screen thirteen films free of charge while still complying with the sanitary measures in force. The new VR to Go concept has also exceeded expectations from those willing to rent a headset and enjoy the immersive experience at home. The VR pavillion is open from 10am to 6am every day of the week. More information at neimenster.lu.
FRIDAY 12 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 265 new resident cases derived from 11,193 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 675. 124 individuals are in hospital, with 30 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 0.94. To date 36,693 people have received the first vaccine dose, and 14,764 have received the second.
Health Minister Paulette Lenert said yesterday that Luxembourg has stopped administering doses from a batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine pending further testing by European medical experts. The decision was made after other European countries suspended the vaccine following reports from Austria that one person had died 10 days after vaccination after developing blood clots within blood vessels, and three patients were diagnosed with dangerous blood clotting conditions. Luxembourg had not given out any injections from the batch of 4,800 doses of the vaccine. The European Medicines Agency said yesterday that there is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, and that they are not listed as side effects with this vaccine. They added that information indicates the number of thromboembolic events in vaccinated people is no higher than those in the general population.
Paulette Lenert also stated on Thursday that the vaccination hotline was overwhelmed and currently receiving over 20,000 calls daily despite it’s capacity of 3,000 calls a day. Lenert attributed this to those aged 75 and over, who often lack the digital skills and resources to book appointments online and thus rely on the vaccination hotline to do so. She concluded by saying the problem should be resolved within the next 2-3 days and called for patience.
There has been media speculation this week about the alleged resignation of Dr Claude Schummer – the general director of the Robert Schuman Hospital group – following claims that he secretly purchased 100,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Reginald Decreane – the general director of Pfizer Luxembourg – said yesterday that the hospital group had not placed an order for the vaccine, and added that an order would only be possible if the vaccine were to be made available to the private market. MPs on the parliamentary health committee have reacted with surprise and concern and demanded that their many questions be answered. Health Minister Paulette Lenert stated that she was not aware of any additional vaccine orders or whether it was possible for hospitals to make independent orders but would further investigate the issue.
Yesterday, between 300 and 500 employees from the cleaning sector attended a protest picket organized by unions in Luxembourg City to demand better wages and working conditions. Estelle Winter – central secretary for building cleaning companies and laundries – said the Covid crisis has shown that cleaning is an essential service, and that cleaning agents – 83% of which are women – are now paid 13.31 euros per hour, just above the minimum wage. Additionally, the OGBL and the LCGB unions are asking for the implementation of an annual bonus of 500 euros and to increase the number of leave days to 28 for the 185 companies in the sector.
The Prime Minister’s press secretary yesterday said that Mr. Bettel did bring up the fate of Alexey Navalny – Russia’s most prominent dissident – in a conversation with President Vladimir Putin commemorating the 130th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Luxembourg and Russia. A previous press release failed to mention Alexey Navalny. The press secretary said Mr Bettel raised Navalny’s case when restating the European Union’s commitment to the rule of law in its relationship with Russia.
THURSDAY 11 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 234 new resident cases derived from 12,493 tests. There have been 5 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 673. 122 individuals are in hospital, with 24 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 0.98. To date 34,530 people have received the first vaccine dose, and 14,431 have received the second.
Despite detecting a slight decrease in traces of coronavirus in wastewater samples for the first time in a month, researchers at the Luxembourg Institute of Science & Technology said yesterday that they remain cautious. They added that the level of the virus in wastewater still remains high and that the data they gather in the coming weeks will be crucial in determining whether it will be possible to loosen restrictions in April
RTL Today yesterday reported that the Limpertsberg vaccination centre has issued a directive to use up any leftover doses of Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines as, unlike the AstraZeneca vaccine, they cannot be stored once they are in open vials. People meeting the criteria for phases 1 and 2 will be notified that they have the option to visit the centre in the evening to be vaccinated with the remaining doses. The story states that the biggest problem is some healthcare professionals are not going to their appointments because they do not want to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine due to misinformation and false interpretations of scientific data . The RTL source said they find themselves “trapped” between avoiding vaccinating people outside of the official strategy and being forced to throw away unused doses in the evening
The Finance Ministry announced yesterday an extension to the agreement between France and the Grand Duchy that allows French cross-border commuters who work from home as a result of the pandemic to be taxed as if they were working in Luxembourg. The extension to June 30th matches the corresponding agreement made with Belgium, whereas the agreement with Germany is automatically renewed every month.
Mayor Lydie Polfer announced yesterday that Luxembourg City is to close more streets to cars and expand its pedestrians-only zones by mid-April. The Rue Beaumont and the Rue des Capucins will become car-free areas, while the Rue du Fossé will be redesigned to give pedestrians and cyclists more space. At the Place des Bains half of the parking places will be similarly transformed. Polfer urged restaurants and bars to submit applications for terrace areas in the redesigned areas in a bid to bring back life to the city.
Mayor Polfer also announced yesterday that the traditional “Éimaischen” festival has been cancelled for a second year because of coronavirus concerns.The festival, famous for the little earthenware whistles shaped like birds called Péckvillercher, is traditionally held on Easter Monday in the village of Nospelt as well as in the capital. Polfer said authorities have asked owners of unoccupied shops in the City to make them available as pop-up stores so that people who want to carry on the tradition by getting a Péckvillercher can still purchase one.
A massive fire broke out on Wednesday morning in the OVH cloud building at the Port du Rhin in Strasbourg. The company hosts computer servers around the world. 29,000 internet sites and numerous applications have been impacted in France and across Europe: the city of Saverne, the city of Vichy, the French bitcoins trading specialist Coinhouse, the Pompidou Center, and a number of museums and media houses, including Luxembourg’s Radio ARA.
WEDNESDAY 10 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 145 new resident cases derived from 8,903 tests. There have been 5 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 668. 117 individuals are in hospital, with 24 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 0.98. To date, a total of 47,515 vaccinations have been carried out in Luxembourg.
The confirmation that a former government minister recently received a vaccination ahead of his turn has sparked further controversy over claims of queue jumping. Henri Grethen, who is currently President of the Hospice Civils, confirmed that he received the jab last month – after it had already been announced that board members were not eligible to be vaccinated during the first campaign phase. Mr Grethen justified the move by saying he needed to regularly visit care homes and that the board had recommended he get vaccinated. Pirate Party MP Sven Clement has filed a complaint with the public prosecutor’s office over this and similar incidents.
The Luxembourg Police fined 145 people last week for failing to comply with coronavirus restrictions. In around half of those cases, the fines were due to people breaking curfew. Police officers carried out around 400 checks during this period to ensure compliance with the rules, which will remain in place until 2nd April at the earliest.
The government is set to provide €286 million in state aid to an affordable housing project in Wiltz. The “Wunne mat der Wooltz” project foresees the construction of a new district for more than 2,000 residents. The development of 872 housing units is in the pipeline, with 70% of housing being for affordable rental and 30% for subsidised sale. The project is expected to take at least 15 years to be finalised.
The government also launched a new gender equality monitoring body. The Equality Observatory has three main functions: to provide objective data to develop political strategies; to support the work of professionals in the field by giving them a detailed overview; and to monitor and analyse developments in gender equality in Luxembourg.
The Irish Club of Luxembourg is organising a unique St Patrick’s event this year: an online guided tour of Kilmainham Gaol (“kil-mei-nuhm jail”), next Wednesday at 7pm. The 40-minute tour will be given by David O’Neill, a professional tour guide at the jail, and will be followed by a Q&A session. For queries, email Irish Club President Geoff Thompson at email@example.com.
TUESDAY 9 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 30 new resident cases derived from 658 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 663. 99 individuals are in hospital, with 21 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.00. 32,591 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 14,118 have received a second one.
Several Luxembourgish organisations and trade unions joined forces to hold the country’s second national women’s strike yesterday. Demonstrators assembled at Luxembourg city’s railway station and headed towards Place d’Armes, while also stopping at the Ministry of Labour. The demands of those organising the strike included equal pay, a reduction of working hours without loss of salary, parental leave for all and access to decent and affordable housing. An online demonstration took place in the afternoon as well. Its aim was to accommodate vulnerable people or others who cannot attend the strike in person.
Vodafone Foundation Luxembourg in partnership with Femmes en détresse launched an app aimed at helping those suffering from domestic violence. Its aim is to connect victims of abuse to support services across the country. The app, dubbed Bright Sky enables users to locate their nearest support center by searching their area or current location. It was unveiled yesterday at a virtual launch event on the occasion of International Women’s day.
Businessman Flavio Becca has filed a lawsuit against the editor of online magazine Reporter.lu as well as one of its journalists. Last week the media outlet published an article on Becca’s business dealings and recent convictions. The businessman is now suing reporler.lu for publishing what he sees as unfounded accusations. Chief Editor Christoph Bumb has stated that this is an attempt at intimidating investigative journalists. He also said he stands behind the author of the article in question.
The British-Luxembourgish Society elected its first female president yesterday. Louise Benjamin will take the position, succeeding David Clark. Benjamin is also the former chair of STEP Benelux and the founder of the Benjamin Law Firm. The British-Luxembourgish Society aims at fostering bilateral relations between the two countries. The non-profit organisation hosts educational programs as well as social and cultural events.
Luxembourgish company Kleos Space has signed a contract with American enterprise Spaceflight inc. This agreement concerns the launch of a group of satellites with the aim to increase coverage in areas of maritime interest by doubling coverage on both poles. The project will result in increasing the volume of collected data that can be sold and will provide additional information in areas of interest. The upcoming mission is scheduled for December 2021, and will use a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
MONDAY 8 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Over the weekend the Ministry of Health reported 350 new resident cases derived from 19,739 tests. There have been 10 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 662. 90 individuals are in hospital, with 21 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.95. 30,723 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 13,448 have received a second one.
The current COVID-19 restrictions have been extended until the 2nd of April. That was announced by Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert last Friday during a press conference. The current rules in place include a curfew between 11pm and 6am. In addition to that only two people from the same household can visit someone else at home. The authorities are aiming to be able to reopen certain areas of activity, including the hospitality sector next month. But Mr Bettel noted that it would not be a case of opening everything again as “normal”. The government will look to slowly ease the restrictions while avoiding hospitals becoming overwhelmed.
Rapid tests will be introduced in schools in Luxembourg starting from the 15th of March. Primary and secondary school students will have access to devices allowing them to test themselves. Competence centres, aimed at showing the students how to conduct the tests, will be set up starting today. The tests are the same as the ones used in the sports sector. They provide a result quickly and are rather simple to use.
The third phase of Luxembourg’s large-scale testing campaign will be voted on in the Chamber of Deputies next week, and is scheduled to last until the 15th of July. During the second phase of large-scale testing 2.1 million invites were sent out. A third of the invitees got tested. While 9,200 covid-19 cases were identified in this manner.
An app allowing people to check in real-time if there is space in a Park-and-Ride car park is currently being developed by CFL. That was confirmed by Green mobility minister François Bausch during a recent parliamentary hearing. The app will be tested at the Belval-Université car park in October and November. And is part of the country’s parking strategy which is expected to be announced at the end of 2021.
Romanian-Luxembourgish co-production “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” won the Golden Bear award at the Berlinale film festival. According to the awards’ international jury “the film showed a rare and essential quality of a lasting artwork”. This is the first time that a Luxembourgish co-production has won this particular award. The film will be shown during the Luxembourg City Film Festival in cinemas on the 10th of March. And it will also be available for viewing on the festival’s online platform.
The Auguste van Werveke-Hanno scholarship was awarded to three students: Rachel Hoffmann, Georgina Henry and Catherine Arend. The grant is designed for undergraduates in architecture and fine arts. Each of the students will receive 5,000 euros by the foundation which supports exceptional university students since 2002.
FRIDAY 5 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 206 new resident cases derived from 10,119 tests. There have been 4 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 647. 108 individuals are in hospital, with 22 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 0.91. To date 29,401 people have received the first vaccine dose, and 12,717 have received the second.
The Superior Council for Infectious Diseases announced yesterday that the AstraZeneca vaccine can be used in all age and risk classes and will thus be used for people above the age of 65. The state council will today assess how to proceed with the vaccination campaign.In the meantime, vaccination phase 5a for 55 to 65-year-olds will continue.
Due to the international evolution of coronavirus, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Ministry of Health confirmed yesterday that the coronavirus test requirement for all passengers flying into the Grand Duchy set to expire at the end of February, will remain in place until 31 March 2021 inclusive.
The Ministry of Education, Children and Youth yesterday published a report of the COVID-19 situation in all public and private primary and secondary schools and skills centres for the week of 22 to 28 February. A total of 351 new cases were reported.
Yesterday, a Luxembourg court sentenced entrepreneur Flavio Becca to a two-year suspended prison sentence and a €250,000 fine, plus the confiscation of watches, for misuse of company assets. The court warned Becca not to reoffend within five years before ordering the return of the 643 seized watches to Promobe Finance, as well as the missing 187 watches that Becca claims to have given to members of his entourage. The court will add a fine of €20,000 for each of the 187 watches that cannot be recovered, which could result in a maximum fine of €3.74m. In the event of non-payment of this fine, Becca risks an additional 200 days in prison per watch, although the maximum duration will be capped at ten years. The court dismissed claims for compensation from Becca’s former business partner Eric Lux, and his companies, of their claims for compensation.
Monday is International Women’s Day and the “Journée internationale des femmes” platform or “JIF” is again calling on women to give up unpaid care work all day for the Luxembourg women’s strike, which premiered last year.In a press release, JIF called on men to take over the cooking, cleaning, tidying, washing, care and education work as a show of solidarity. JIF also suggested ways in which women could protest at work – for example through extended coffee or lunch breaks, through targeted equality-specific meetings or by wearing the strike button or purple clothing. From 12 noon to 1.30 p.m. there will be online events via Zoom on the topic of women’s strikes on Monday – moderated by members of the JIF platform and featuring artistic interludes including a contribution from Francis of Delirium. There will also be an on-site demonstration which “all persons of every gender” can attend starting at 5pm in front of the main train station in Luxembourg City.
A new report by Eurostat reveals that Luxembourg’s GDP per capita is 260% of the average EU regional unit making it the wealthiest in the EU. Luxembourg’s high rating is explained by the ‘high inflow of commuting workers’, alongside the assets of multinational companies headquartered in the Grand Duchy.
THURSDAY 4 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 267 new resident cases derived from 11,885 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 643. 104 individuals are in hospital, with 20 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 0.98. To date 28,476 people have received the first vaccine dose, and 11,984 have received the second.
STATEC, the government statistics service, reported yesterday that 120 companies were declared bankrupt in Luxembourg in January 2021, a decrease from the 154 declared in January 2020. It appears that there has been no significant increase in the number of bankruptcies despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Although, STATEC has predicted an increase in this number in the coming months.
Yesterday, a joint meeting between the Parliamentary Commissions on Budget and Finance, Internal Security, and Justice asked for a revision of a draft bill on police reform stipulating that the police will have access to the bank accounts of private individuals for administrative purposes. The Ministers agreed that this had not been the government’s intention, and conceded that the wording of the draft bill is “poorly worded” and needs to be revised so that it is clear that the police will have access to bank accounts in the context of a criminal prosecution only and not just for “administrative purposes”. The Commission for the Surveillance of the Financial Sector (CSSF) will monitor the appropriate use of this power, according to the draft bill.
The Vodafone Foundation and Femmes en Détresse yesterday announced their collaboration on a new free app that provides support and information for those suffering from or know someone involved in an abusive relationship. Set to officially launch on 8 March, the “Bright Sky” app offers the ability to assess the safety of a relationship, locate support centres and learn about different types of abuse. Additional special features are currently being developed. Reported domestic violence cases in 2019 rose 14% from the previous year with 1,337 victims reported – including three deaths. Over 63% of the victims – and two of the deaths – were women.
The Grand Ducal Police reported yesterday that, following a fire at a biogas plant in Grendel in Belgian region of Luxembourg on Tuesday morning, the Attert river has been polluted by a considerable amount of biomass wastewater. The Fire and Rescue Corps and the Water Management Authority attended the site to collect water and soil samples.
Yesterday, Education Minister Claude Meisch responded to a parliamentary question from CSV MPs concerning twelve primary school children who have been reported to the regional directorate for refusing to put on protective masks. According to Meisch, however, this number is “marginal” when compared to the 52,000+ children in Luxembourg who go to public primary schools. Since February 22nd, there has been a general requirement for all ages from the second cycle and older to wear protective masks during class and afterwards. Meisch added that it is important to provide children and parents with the correct information regarding the mask requirement in schools. There have been no cases reported in the secondary school system.
WEDNESDAY 3 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 152 new resident cases derived from 9,492 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 641. 100 individuals are in hospital, with 20 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.00. To date, a total of 39,121 vaccinations have been carried out in Luxembourg.
As International Women’s Day approaches, STATEC revealed that only 38% of employees in Luxembourg are women. While there has been significant progress in women reaching managerial positions, very high salaries seem to remain inaccessible to them and year-end bonuses appear to benefit men more. There are also more women than men on part-time contracts. That being said, Eurostat figures showed Luxembourg to have the second lowest gender pay gap in the EU, after Romania.
At Luxembourg’s annual HealthTech conference, Economy Minister Franz Fayot confirmed that a new funding mechanism for public-private partnerships in the sector was in the pipeline. The digital event, organised by Luxinnovation’s HealthTech Cluster and the Economy Ministry, brought together around 100 representatives of the sector and took stock of its evolution in the context of the pandemic. The latest data showed that 136 private companies made up Luxembourg’s HealthTech sector, which employed over 1,800 people last year.
The Immigration Directorate confirmed that Luxembourg granted 736 asylum seekers refugee status in 2020. In total, 1,167 people applied for asylum last year. This represents a considerable decrease compared to figures for the previous five years, a trend attributed to the coronavirus pandemic. In January 2021, a total of 67 individuals applied for asylum in Luxembourg, of whom 60 were granted refugee status.
Luxembourg has pledged €1.85 million to the Yemen humanitarian response. During a donor’s conference, Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn confirmed Luxembourg’s support for the response to the situation in Yemen, which is considered the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. This support will be channeled through the World Food Programme, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN’s Yemen Humanitarian Fund, as well as through NGOs.
The British & Irish Film Festival Luxembourg announced that it is organising two online screenings during St Patrick’s week in mid-March. The films will be shown via the Irish Film Institute International’s new online screening platform. The two films are Phil Sheerin’s drama/thriller “The Winter Lake”, starring Sex Education’s Emma Mackey and Sulphur and White’s Anson Boon, and Cathy Brady’s drama “Wildfire”, starring Star Wars actress Kate Dickie and Irish actresses Nora-Jane Noone and the late Nika McGuigan. The films can be viewed from 15 to 22 March and tickets cost €9 per screening. Tickets go on sale today from 10am at www.ifiinternational.ie/page/biffl/.
TUESDAY 2 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 52 new resident cases derived from 613 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 639. 77 individuals are in hospital, with 21 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.95. 27,093 people have received their first vaccine dose, while 10,700 have received a second one.
The Ministry of Health announced it will begin phase 5a of its vaccination campaign alongside phase 2. That is because the AstraZeneca vaccine is not being used on those aged over 65. Residents between 55 and 64 will be sent invitations to receive the vaccine, starting with the oldest. The decision to not use the AstraZeneca vaccine on those above 65 was taken because there isn’t conclusive data on its efficacy for that group at the moment.
Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 carriers are an important factor in transmission according to Research Luxembourg. The joint initiative which brings together scientists from different health institutions in the Grand Duchy analyzed the results of Luxembourg’s large-scale testing programme. The research revealed that asymptomatic carriers are likely as infections as symptomatic individuals. The analysis also showed that people with a disposable household income of less than €30,000 per year had the highest risks of being infected.
Luxembourg’s government has launched an investigation on possible vaccine queue jumping. This came after rumors that a family of hospital staff were fast-tracked to a vaccine shot. According to radio station 100,7 the board of directions of the Centre Hospitalier du Nord will meet to discuss a report from hospital management. Health minister Paulette Lenert said if there was indeed vaccine favoritism, that would show a “blatant disregard” for the use of vaccines. She did not rule out legal action.
The European Commission approved the modification of an aid scheme by Luxembourg’s government. The subsidies are designed to support uncovered fixed costs of companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The modifications included extending the scheme until June 2021 and increasing the budget from 120 million euros to 180 million euros. The Commission concluded that these modifications were necessary considering Luxembourg’s current economic situation.
Yesterday Luxembourg’s Minister of Finance, Pierre Gramegna, presented the country’s public finances as of the 31st of January 2021. Central government revenue has increased by 2.8% in the span of one year, amounting to 1.8 billion euros. At the same time government expenditure has decreased by 3.4% since last year. While social benefits financed directly by the state, including partial unemployment, increased by 9%. Mr Gremagna said “the resilience of certain tax revenues, testifies to the solidity of Luxembourg’s economic fabric.” And he declared he is confident the 2021 financial year will be better than that of 2020.
A survey carried out by the The City of Luxembourg indicates that many feel unsafe in Luxembourg City’s Gare district. 58% of respondents said they think security around the central train station is poor. This feeling was strongest among women and shopkeepers. Luxembourg City presented the results of the survey ahead of a council meeting which took place yesterday. According to City mayor Lydie Polfer the survey is a message to decision-makers to take action. She added that solutions must come not only from Luxembourg city officials but also from the police and from the government as well.
Neimënster abbey in Luxembourg City will present a series of events focused on Global Feminism in order to celebrate International Women’s Day. A round table including speakers from Argentina, Rwanda, Germany, Albania and Iran will take place on Sunday. While a series of films, plays and documentaries are planned for the 7th and 8th of March. One of the films – “Learning Feminism from Rwanda” – will also be available online via streaming. More information on neimenster.lu
MONDAY 1 MARCH
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Over the weekend the Ministry of Health reported 325 new resident cases derived from 20,212 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 638. 73 individuals are in hospital, with 20 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.05. 26,089 people have received their first vaccine dose in, while 9,982 have received a second one.
People who were invited to be vaccinated during the first phase but did not make an appointment will have the option to do so at a later stage. That was recently confirmed by Luxembourg’s ministry of health. Those concerned can register between the 1st and the 8th of March at guichet.lu . This group of people will likely get their shots after the end of the 2nd phase of the vaccination campaign.
A report by Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) has indicated that the concentration of coronaviruses in Luxembourg’s wastewater continues to increase. An upward trend has been noticed in the sewage treatment plants of Petingen, Beggen, Schifflange and Bettembourg.
A study by Luxembourg’s Covid-19 task force indicates that Large Scale Testing has helped prevent nearly 1,800 new infections. The researchers analysed the impact of the initial phase of testing which took place last summer. The peer-reviewed study will be published in the scientific journal The Lancet
Hospitals will have to double check their vaccination lists of people eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine in order to avoid errors. This was recently revealed by Radio 100,7. The decision comes after the controversial vaccination of three members of the Robert Shuman Hospital’s board of directors. Health facilities have reportedly been taking decisions on vaccinating personnel internally, on a case-by-case basis. With some, vaccinating retired staff members, each opted for a different interpretation of the government guidelines.
Local media reports that only 20 of 132 art projects for Esch 2022’s year of culture have been signed. The main problem is thought to be related to issues around intellectual property. “Esch2022” calls on the project sponsors to waive their property rights, the organisation would have the right to use the works for 70 years. In addition, the agreement provides for the commercial use of these rights – this means that “Esch2022” can earn money with the projects without the project sponsors making money from them.
The national federation of hotel and restaurant owners, Horesca demands that their establishments be allowed to open their terraces. Business owners from the hard-hit sector urged the government to allow them to partially reopen ahead of the 15th of March, when restrictions are set to be lifted. The federation noted that infections have increased despite the closure of restaurants and cafes during the last few months. Their statement read, “we are not part of the problem but we could be part of the solution.”
Luxembourg’s National Day of Resistance against Nazi occupiers during World War 2 was commemorated yesterday. The annual ceremony was adapted to the Covid-19 restrictions with a small number of guests invited to take part in the event. Nevertheless, people were free to pay a visit to the cemetery after the official commemoration.
A recent ranking by Yale University put Luxembourg in second position on a list of countries most adapted to the modern environmental challenges. The Grand Duchy scored 82.3 on the environmental performance index ahead of neighbors Belgium and Germany. Quality of water, air as well as waste management and others were taken into account in the ranking. First place went to Denmark with an 82.5 score on the environmental index.
FRIDAY 26 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 193 new resident cases derived from 9,778 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 634. 78 individuals are in hospital, with 15 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.15. To date 25,285 people have received the first vaccine dose, and 9,475 have received the second.
France said on Thursday it would bring in new COVID-19 restrictions for the area around its common border with Germany, as President Emmanuel Macron’s government tries to contain a surge of coronavirus variants in the French region of Moselle. The eastern area of Moselle, on the border with Germany and Luxembourg, has seen a surge in the South African variant of the coronavirus, prompting regional authorities to call for a local lockdown, which Paris has resisted imposing so far.
During a press briefing yesterday, Health Minister Paulette Lenert explained that due to the recent increase in new coronavirus infections and the spread of new variants, the government will now speed up their vaccination program and focus on giving as many people as possible their first AstraZeneca vaccination, with a wait of up to ten-weeks for a second jab. This is a strategy that other European countries are already pursuing as the AstraZeneca vaccine provides around 76% protection against the virus for up to 3 months, and research in Scotland shows a 94% decrease in patients ending up in hospital after a first dose. Jean-Claude Schmit, the Director of Health, also spoke yesterday to underline official confidence in the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine ,and announced plans to buy more rapid tests.
As the second phase of the vaccination campaign gets under way for the over 75 years and those classified as particularly at risk, the municipality of Esch / Alzette announced yesterday that they are making a “vaccination bus” available to take the over 65s directly from their homes to the vaccination center. Other communes have also set up transportation for the elderly.
As controversy grows surrounding Robert Schuman hospital’s early vaccination of board members, director Jean-Louis Schiltz spoke to the press during a conference yesterday. Mr Schiltz, who is one of the board members to have received a job, denied any wrongdoing and stressed he would not be lectured on matters of decency and morals. He restated the hospital’s position concerning the vagueness of the original government mandate which “did not specify that directors should not be vaccinated”, which was rectified after the three board members had been vaccinated. Mr Schiltz added that had he not been vaccinated he would create an unnecessary risk every time he entered the hospital, and following early vaccine scepticism it was important for board members to be seen as committed to getting vaccinated.
Belgium has now withdrawn 3 million masks remaining from the order it placed with Luxembourg-based company – Avrox – last summer, following claims they contain potentially dangerous nano-particles.Avrox. Avrox, which claims the masks were manufactured in Asia, responded yesterday by saying it eagerly awaits the results of further studies from Belgium’s public health body, and insists the masks meet all regulations and that there is no public proof of the presence of toxic nanoparticles on its masks.
The European Court of Justice yesterday ruled that a company cannot refuse an employee’s request for parental leave because the worker was not employed when a child was born or adopted. The ruling arose from a case brought by a woman refused leave in Luxembourg who was unemployed when her children were born. Parental leave is an important EU social right laid down in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, the court ruled, and also noted that each parent is entitled to the leave at any point within eight years after a child’s birth or adoption. However, EU member states may require that a parent be employed continuously for a year immediately before starting a period of leave, as is the case in Luxembourg, the court concluded..
ARA City Radio yesterday announced the launch of new community shows, as a celebration of Luxembourg’s Festival des Migrations 2021. The shows will start in the first week of March airing from 13:00 to 14:00, Monday to Friday; listeners can expect to hear Farsi, Tigrinya, Albanian, Portuguese as well as Greek and English on the airwaves. Radio ARA still hopes to add a show in Spanish to benefit new arrivals from Venezuela, and support the Spanish speaking community that has existed here for many years. Anyone interested in finding how they can get involved is invited to contact Ehab via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
THURSDAY 25 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 324 new resident cases derived from 12,516 tests. There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 632. 80 individuals are in hospital, with 16 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.06. To date 24,508 people have received the first vaccine dose, and 8,862 have received the second.
Figures released on Wednesday evening by the Ministry of Health indicate the British variant was the most common type of coronavirus in Luxembourg from February 8 to 14. The National Laboratory of Health analyzed 132 samples last week to garner representative results for the country , and found the British variant in 76 cases, or 57.6% of the total analyzed. There were 6 cases of the South African coronavirus variant found, or 4.5%.
Luxembourg’s police force said in a statement yesterday that, over the past fortnight, they had carried out around 700 checks to ensure compliance with COVID-19 measures. Approximately 80% of 300 fines issued were to people not respecting the curfew in place between 11 pm and 6 am. 34 official complaints were filed by police officers for offences including people meeting for illegal parties and businesses failing to comply with the sanitary regulations in place.
Following recent stories in the press concerning the waste management company – Superdreckskëscht – and its monopoly position in the waste sector, the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development responded yesterday to a parliamentary enquiry from MPs of the CSV party. Minister Carole Dieschbourg confirmed that an investigation into the company had been launched, but said that there was no reason to believe that there was a conflict of interest or breach of contract. Minister Dieschbourg denied that a 2005 law was specifically catered to parent company Oeko-Service and stated that press articles, which allege the company owners have close private ties with the Environment Management Department, had not provided sufficient proof for the assumptions and accusations.
A confidential report from the Belgian Institute for Public Health claims that 15 million cloth masks sold to Belgium by Luxembourg based company Avrox can be particularly harmful to people already struggling with respiratory problems. The report asserts the mask fabric contains nano silver and titanium dioxide, which are supposed to have an antibacterial effect, but can be toxic if they are released. The Institute explained that there is still doubt as to whether the nanoparticles are actually being released. Although Avrox is based in Luxembourg, the masks were manufactured in Asia.
WEDNESDAY 24 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 182 new resident cases derived from 9,597 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 629. 83 individuals are in hospital, with 17 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.02. To date, a total of 31,926 vaccinations have been carried out in Luxembourg.
This week saw the inauguration of new medical device production lines at Lintgen-based company Rotarex, in the presence of Crown Prince Guillaume and Economy Minister Fanz Fayot. The company expects to double its annual production of medical devices as part of the fight against coronavirus, as well as creating between 10 and 25 jobs by 2025. Thanks to a €4.5 million investment project, it can now again produce in-house critical components that were previously supplied by subcontractors. Rotarex is also involved in three R&D projects aimed at developing new generations of taps / valves and regulators for the administration of medical gases. These projects represent an investment of nearly €1.5 million.
The Luxembourg subsidiary of Commerzbank is set to close its doors at the end of 2024. The German bank’s recently announced decision to cut 10,000 jobs worldwide by 2024 will also affect its Luxembourg subsidiary, Commerzbank AG Filiale Luxemburg, which currently employs 200 people. The ALEBA trade union said it remains in close contact with the staff delegation and social dialogue with the bank’s management has begun on the development of the situation in Luxembourg in relation to this closure.
According to the Luxembourg Police, an 18-year-old woman was stabbed during a dispute with a 17-year-old boy in front of a school in Kirchberg on Monday evening. Another young man reportedly pulled a knife on the boy hoping to break up the fight, but it was the young woman who suffered a stab wound. The victim’s injuries are not considered life-threatening.
The pandemic appears to have taken its toll on the well-being of young people in Luxembourg, according to the KJT national helpline for children and youth. The number of young people reaching out to the KJT since last summer has been high, with many citing feelings of frustration and isolation. Despite receiving a stable number of calls, the helpline received over 300 online contacts in 2020 compared to around 230 the year before. Moreover, twice as many young people contacted the online helpline about suicidal thoughts compared to 2019. The KJT can be contacted via telephone: 1161111 or online at www.kjt.lu.
Luxembourg’s Ministries of Health and Social Security confirmed plans for a new, more efficient national health system. The respective ministers Paulette Lenert and Romain Schneider provided an update on the work of the “Gesondheetsdësch” during which they announced plans for improved collaboration within the health system, as well as a new CNS application. Direct payment of CNS invoices is set to be introduced in 2023. Full details of this new healthcare vision are expected towards the end of the year.
TUESDAY 23 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 34 new resident cases derived from 409 tests. There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 628. 63 individuals are in hospital, with 16 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.05.
The second phase of Luxembourg’s vaccination campaign started yesterday. Residents over the age of 75 are eligible for the shot. The issue of transporting the elderly was raised during the government’s last press conference, but no national strategy has been put in place. Municipalities are currently in charge of transportation.
Board members of the Robert Schuman Hospital have already been vaccinated according to a report by Radio 100,7. A hospital spokesperson stated that the institution did not receive any directions to not regard board members as regular staff, who are eligible for the vaccine. Michel Wurth, Claude Seywert, and Jean-Louis Schiltz are among those who have been vaccinated. Schiltz is a former CSV politician, who served as Minister for Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, as well as Minister for Defence.
An interactive air quality map covering the entire territory of the Greater Region has been launched by ATMO Grand Est and the Greater Region Geographic Information System. It is currently available in English, French and German. The data is based on the European Air Quality Index and gets updated on an hourly basis. According to the Luxembourgish government this is the first step in cooperation in the field of air quality in the Greater Region. The authorities also plan to set up an application that will allow citizens to get information about the daily or future air quality in their territory.
Luxembourg’s foreign minister Jean Asselborn spoke against border checks while talking to German media outlet RND. He insisted that commuters reaching their workplace without restrictions is essential. And he added that 60% of Luxembourg’s healthcare staff commuted into the country. His comments come after Germany introduced border checks with the Czech Republic and Austria’s region Tirol, just a week ago. Mr Asselborn said that he hopes there won’t be any “unpleasant surprises” like last year and called border checks “poison for the European idea.”
Unemployment in Luxembourg has remained stable at the start of 2021 according to information from ADEM and STATEC. The number of available resident jobseekers registered with the national employment agency in January stood at 6.4%, same as in December. Currently 19,882 people looking for employment are registered at the agency. However the number of resident job seekers receiving full unemployment benefits has increased by 20% since last year. There has also been a decrease of 36.6% of vacancies declared in ADEM compared to January 2020. But it has to be noted that January 2020 saw a record level of declarations. At the moment the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, calculated by STATEC, remains stable at 6.4%.
MONDAY 22 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Over the weekend the Ministry of Health reported 356 new resident cases derived from 18,065 tests. There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 625. 56 individuals are in hospital, with 13 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.04.
On Friday the Chamber of Deputies assembled to discuss the coronavirus measures. The legislation covering the restrictions has been officially extended until mid-March. The reason for that is the spread of new variants of the virus. The decision was backed by all parties except Dei Lenk and the Pirate Party.
The COVID-19 Task Force of Research Luxembourg has indicated there could be a new peak of daily coronavirus cases in May. Their recent report states that developments last week have shown that the epidemic dynamics remain volatile. The Task Force also pointed out that the total number of estimated active cases has gone up reaching around 2,800 cases. The decision to close schools ahead of the carnival break doesn’t seem to have had the anticipated strong positive effect. Schools in Luxembourg are reopening today but with new conditions, including a mandatory mask wearing for all students.
According to local media the Luxembourg state is looking to sell its 40.8% stake in industrial company Paul Wurth. The enterprise has been headquartered in Luxembourg since its creation in 1870 and currently has around 500 employees in the Grand Duchy. German SMS Group, a majority shareholder since 2012, is expected to now become the sole owner. Trade union LCGB, which represents the majority of staff at the company, issued a statement. It called for the Luxembourg state to guarantee unconditional support for job retention. The union has also requested an urgent meeting with the economy and finance ministries.
Internal security minister Henri Kox hosted a press conference on Friday where he stated that Luxembourg’s police force must grow, modernise, digitalise and be better equipped. Kox was responding to criticism from the police union that says people in Luxembourg fear crime is increasing and they feel increasingly unsafe. Kox said there is much to do and blamed the previous government for not making the police a priority. Luxembourg City mayor last year hired a private security agency to patrol the train station area. Kox said, The police force is currently recruiting and the force is expected to increase by 28% by 2026.
An oil spill in Breidfeld resulted in two ponds and a creek being tainted on Saturday. Emergency services including around 40 firefighters were deployed and the spill has since been contained. An investigation into the contamination has already been launched.
Scouting in Luxembourg has been awarded the European Citizen’s Prize for efforts during the COVID-19 crisis. It has earned the award with two of its projects. AllDagEngBA, or a good deed a day, where scouts ran errands for elderly people and people at risk. And Bitzdoheem” , sewing at home, which was dedicated to the free provision of non-medical protective masks to 51 social and charitable institutions. The award goes to 30 winners from 25 countries across Europe and will be awarded by the European Parliament.
FRIDAY 19 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 233 new resident cases derived from 10,243 tests. There were 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 619. 74 individuals are in hospital, with 17 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.00. To date 20,605 people have received the first vaccine dose, while 6,514 have received the second.
Minister of Health Paulette Lenert said yesterday that The National Health Laboratory had detected 4 cases of the South African Covid-19 variant in the Grand Duchy last week bringing the total to 18 cases to date. When asked whether the state would continue to vaccinate health personnel with the AstraZeneca vaccine following studies that it may be less effective against the variant, Lenert explained that the World Health Organisation’s advice was to continue administering the AstraZeneca jab as the vaccine would still protect people from the most severe health effects of coronavirus.
Although rent increases are regulated in Luxembourg, figures released by the Central Bank of Luxembourg yesterday show that new tenants moving into a property pay up to 44% more than people who have been living in similar types of accommodation for more than ten years. Most affected are new arrivals to the country or young people who are living at home longer. The situation means tenants remain in a property even after the household shrinks because a smaller one would cost just as much or more.
Meanwhile, a Central Bank of Luxembourg survey showed that Belgian cross-border workers were the “richest” with a median net wealth of 275,600 euros in 2018, higher than their French counterparts with 212,800 euros and Germans with 236,400 euros. The median net wealth of employees living in the Grand Duchy was much larger at 402,500 euros, mostly due to the higher value of real estate in Luxembourg.
The Embassy of Ireland confirmed yesterday that it will not hold its traditional St. Patrick’s Day celebration this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the Embassy was forced to cancel its St. Patrick’s Day reception, held annually on 17 March, hoping, in vain, that it could take place later in the year. Luxembourg’s Irish Ambassador, Stephen Dawson, expressed hope that the Embassy could hold a community gathering later this year, coronavirus restrictions permitting.
THURSDAY 18 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 267 new resident cases derived from 12,078 tests. There were 4 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 616. 73 individuals are in hospital, with 17 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.01. To date 19,622 people have received the first vaccine dose, while 6,296 have received the second.
The government announced yesterday that Phase 2 of the vaccination campaign will start this week as letters of invitation are sent to the over 75s and people with high vulnerability. Phase 2 vaccinations will begin from Monday 22 February.
The ministry further announced that two additional vaccination centres will open on 25 February. The centre at the sports hall of the Neuropsychiatric Hospital (CHNP) in Ettelbruck will open at 8am. The centre at the Badboeschelchen Scout chalet in Mondorf will open at 1pm.
Following advice from the Infectious Diseases High Council earlier this week, the Ministry of Health announced yesterday that the interval between first and second vaccination doses will be extended from 4 weeks to between 8 and 12 weeks. The latest data indicates an increased interval between the two doses appears to increase the effectiveness of the vaccine but added that waiting beyond the 12th week is not recommended.
There was disappointment amongst freelance workers yesterday, after Labour Minister Dan Kersch went back on last week’s promise to provide state assistance to the self-employed unable to work as a result of covid restrictions. The government again cancelled plans for aid following pressure from unions and business lobbies. The proposal was to give the self employed 80% of their salary, up to a limit of two-and-a-half times the minimum wage but the OGBL labour union and the UEL, which represents private-sector businesses, and others objected and demanded to know where exactly the money for the replacement salaries would come from and refusing to contribute from any of their member’s funds. Ministers said that the need for a replacement salary for the self-employed no longer applied thanks to other existing state aid. However, the majority of freelancers have received one payment of 2,500€ since last March last year. Parliament must still adopt the additional aid package for restaurants, hotels and other businesses still battered by the pandemic.
STATEC, the government statistics service, announced this week that the annual rate of inflation in Luxembourg had increased from 0.6% in December to 1.9%. The increase can be explained by an 11% increase in petroleum prices, after the introduction of the CO2 tax. Food prices also increased, according to Statec, with fish and seafood seeing a 4.5% rise, with an even bigger spike for fresh vegetables, up 7.4%. Predictions are however, that inflation will stabilize in the coming months.
Luxembourgish series “Capitani”, which has been available on Netflix since February 11, was always going to be the most watched show in the Grand Duchy, but available data reveals the series is among the most viewed on the platform in the world. According to official data displayed on Netflix’s homepages, “Capitani” is ranked third in France,fourth in Belgium, fifth in Portugal and sixth in Germany. And, according to Flixpatrol, a site that monitors the most watched films and series on streaming platforms, “Capitani” is the fifth most viewed Netflix series in the world, leading in countries such as Argentina, Greece and Uruguay. A second season of the series co-produced by Samsa Films and RTL is scheduled for mid-March.
WEDNESDAY 17 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 139 new resident cases derived from 9,391 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 612. 76 individuals are in hospital, with 16 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.01. To date, a total of 24,024 vaccinations have been carried out in Luxembourg.
In light of Luxembourg’s Overshoot Day, which fell on Monday, the Higher Council for Sustainable Development has called for the accelerated transition to a circular economy. Overshoot Day marks the date when a country has exhausted Earth’s annual resources in a given year. Only Qatar (whose Overshoot Day was 9th February) appears to have a larger ecological footprint than Luxembourg. The Higher Council proposed seven pillars of the circular economy to bring Luxembourg’s Overshoot Day to no earlier than 31st December. These pillars include the adoption of a more global and collaborative model, reducing waste, structurally supporting the health and well-being of humans as well as biodiversity and encouraging local and solidarity-based solutions.
Similarly, a new EcoConseil study revealed that each Luxembourg resident uses up to 423kg of paper annually. The study suggested paperless alternatives, as well as simply reducing consumption, reusing sheets of paper or opting for recycled products.
Two incubators supported by Luxembourg non-profit ADA have obtained the Afric’innov Label. This label guarantees the quality of support services, team professionalism, the quality of projects coming out of incubation and the credibility of the support structures for labelled entrepreneurship. Donilab, an innovative business incubator in Mali, and La Fabrique, a Burkina Faso-based incubator dedicated to social enterprises, recently received this prestigious quality benchmark. Both are supported by ADA’s “Young Entrepreneurs Sustainable (YES) Funding Initiative”.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel confirmed that progress was being made in implementing changes to the Grand Ducal Court following the publication of the Waringo report last year. The Prime Minister told MPs that implementation “is taking place in an efficient and transparent manner”. The recruitment of staff for the Maison du Grand-Duc will reportedly be carried out in line with clearer and more precise criteria. LSAP MP Mars Di Bartolomeo added that the reorganisation of the monarchy is ongoing but work remains to be done. There is currently no set timetable for completion of this reorganisation.
TUESDAY 16 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 39 new resident cases derived from 968 tests. The positivity rate was 4.03%. There have been 4 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 611. 60 individuals are in hospital, with 13 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.00.
Firefighters were called to a fire in a building on the Place d’Armes yesterday evening. Reports state two people were taken to hospital.
16 year old Isabelle Morby has been missing since Friday, and was last seen on Avenue Victor Hugo in the Limpertsberg area of Luxembourg City. She is 155cm tall, with shoulder-length blonde hair, and a nose piercing, she speaks Luxembourgish. She was wearing dark tracksuit bottoms and white sneakers. Anyone with information is asked to call 244-401000
Yesterday, Minister for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Lex Delles gave more details on the government subsidies for companies affected by the current sanitary crisis. The aids are designed for businesses that were legally obliged to close because of pandemic regulations. .Delles stated that businesses established in the year 2020 can benefit from aid for costs not covered. He also confirmed that the subsidies will cover the period between February and June this year. Up to a quarter of the companies’ turnovers will not be taken into account, and owners of cafés, bars and restaurants are the expected beneficiaries of the government’s financial support.
Luxembourg’s military will be looking to improve its cyber defence capabilities. As a result of that, a new ten-year strategy has been introduced by the government. Its main objectives are the upskilling of military staff in cyber defence, enhancing national and international cyber cooperation, integrating cyber defence in all areas of Luxembourg’s military, and exploring cyber defence in the military’s research projects. The government will also invest in a cyber range, which is a testing ground designed for the training of operatives against potential cyber threats.
Luxembourg launched its campaign aimed at improving mental health support for younger residents. The initiative, dubbed #act4support, includes teacher training and a best practice guide. The campaign will also take place on social media. Young people will be encouraged to share examples of being supportive of one another. Last year saw a spike of requests for help from young people experiencing psychological distress. And the campaign is in a way aimed at addressing this. A helpline offering psychological support has been set up and is reachable at 8002-9393.
The Representation of the European Commission in Luxembourg is organising an online Fundamental Rights Dialogue. The talk will include topics like racism, hate speech, equal access to education and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s rights. The event will be held in French and English, allowing for interventions in both languages. It will take place on the 23rd of February and participants need to register at eu.eventscloud.com.
MONDAY 15 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Over the weekend the Ministry of Health reported 345 new resident cases derived from 23,749 tests. The positivity rate was 1.56%. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 607. 58 individuals are in hospital, with 11 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.00.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel announced on Friday the extension of the current COVID-19 restrictions until the 14th of March. He stated that the current measures have helped improve the situation in Luxembourg’s hospitals. Nevertheless, the number of daily infections continues to increase and the government is wary of the newly discovered strains of the virus. He added that a second phase of Luxembourg’s vaccination roll out is expected to start in the next weeks. This stage covers those aged over 75 and highly vulnerable individuals.
Furthermore, Mr Bettel also confirmed that further financial assistance will be introduced for companies. Further details will be announced by Lex Delles, the minister for small and medium-sized enterprises, later today.
Luxembourg will send medical teams to Portugal to help the country deal with the increase in COVID-19 cases. The first team of doctors and nurses left this weekend, and a second one will be sent this week.
Luxembourg’s second COVID-19 vaccination center opens today in Esch-Belval at the Maison des Matériaux. The procedures and opening hours are the same as for the Vaccination Centre at the Hall Victor Hugo in Luxembourg city. Invitations will be sent by post and people can choose which center they prefer to go to. According to Luxembourg’s Minister of Health Paulette Lenert three additional vaccination centers are scheduled to open in Esch-sur-Alzette, Ettelbruck and Mondorf-les-Bains.
Schools will reopen under stricter health measures after the Carnival holidays on the 22nd of February. That was announced by Luxembourg’s Minister of Education Claude Meisch. Mandatory mask wearing will be introduced as well as testing for staff and students alike. Rapid tests will be available for students in all classes. A negative COVID-19 test will be required for those who have been in quarantine in order for them to return to school. Meisch also addressed the negative psychological impact of the pandemic on young people and called on teachers to actively check on their students.
This year’s celebrations of the traditional festival of “Buergbrennen” will be allowed but only when in strict compliance with the current sanitary measures. Any gathering exceeding 100 people will still be prohibited and those in groups of more than 4 will need to wear a mask. Activities and accessories for catering and drinking establishments will also be forbidden. This year, the event takes place the week-end after Carnival which is the 20th of February.
FRIDAY 12 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 200 new resident cases derived from 11,449 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 604. 63 individuals are in hospital, with 13 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.00. 15, 052 people have received the first vaccine dose, while 4,871 have received the second.
Minister of Education Claude Meisch is to hold a press briefing at 11am today (Friday). It is expected to focus on changes to sanitary measures in the educational sector and schools.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert will also hold a press conference later this afternoon. The briefing will follow a meeting of the Government Council, but no further details have yet been released.
Labour minister Dan Kersch said yesterday that self-employed workers who cannot work because of decisions made by the government to combat the coronavirus crisis would receive a salary to replace lost earnings. Speaking to RTL, Kersch said the subsidy, starting in March, will equal 80% of normal earnings, but be capped at 2.5 times the minimum wage. This is similar to the amount contributed to salaries for company employees under the partial unemployment scheme. Talks are set to be held on 23 February between government officials, the Union of Enterprises (UEL), and the Chamber of Labour to discuss who will pay for the replacement salary. UEL president Michel Reckinger said he was surprised by the statements, adding that a salary scheme for the self-employed should be funded via the existing employment fund.
Yesterday afternoon, nearly 600 restaurant and bar owners braved the cold to gather on Place d’Armes to protest against the ongoing closure of the hospitality sector, which was forced into a second shutdown on 26 November last year. The organisers founded the Don’t forget us association in October 2020 to unite members of the hospitality sector that have suffered under the pandemic. At the start of the event, Frank Rollinger, attorney for the “don’t forget us” association, addressed the crowd and proposed a law for the hospitality sector which would provide assistance in covering fixed costs, as well as retroactive aid dating back to 1 March 2020. The European Union has already approved the measure, which also includes a reduction of the loss rate to become eligible for support from 40% to 30%.
Following 2020’s successful event, the International Women’s Day organisation yesterday announced their plans for this year’s Women’s Strike march. Taking place on 8 March – International Women’s Rights Day – the march will once again proceed between the city’s train station and the Place d’Armes, with changes made to comply with current covid health regulations. The International Women’s Day organisation, which brings together numerous women’s rights and equality movements, is fighting for better salaries in particular as recent reports have shown that women are on average still paid 5.5% less than men .
THURSDAY 11 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 225 new resident cases derived from 11,697 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 602. 66 individuals are in hospital, with 12 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 0.95. 14,427 people have received the first vaccine dose, while 4,426 have received the second.
A new law that tackles incitement of hate, violence and terrorism was passed yesterday requiring television, streaming and video platforms to have safeguards in place to check for violent and discriminatory content. PM and Minister for Media, Xavier Bettel, announced that the media watchdog – Alia – responsible for monitoring the application of the new law, will have its budget increased by 70%. The CSV party did not support the new legislation saying there had not been enough time to adequately discuss the law proposal and demanded, along with The Left and the Pirate Party, that the new legislation should be examined again.
At the “City Breakfast” meeting yesterday, mayor Lydie Polfer claimed that squatters and drug trafficking in the area surrounding the city’s train station is leaving residents and local shop owners feeling insecure, frustrated and let down by authorities. Polfer said that local residents approve of private security patrols, carried out since December, but stressed that not enough has been done by the government to support the City council. She called for joint cooperation between law enforcement agencies, charities and health services and for the police to be given the powers to remove squatters. The City council intends to carry out a poll to ask residents what they think regarding the issues at hand with the results expected at the end of February.
The Mayor also confirmed the intention of the alderman college to extend the private security patrols, called “At your side”, to the Bonnevoie district starting sometime in May 2021.
Patrick Goldschmidt, the councillor in charge of mobility, announced yesterday that buses operated by the Ville de Luxembourg are to be fitted with security cameras. He stressed that these were not for surveillance purposes but for protection, claiming that footage would only be analysed following an incident. However, he did not comment about how long recorded footage would be stored.
Furthermore, Luxtram S.A. will be carrying out tram network and road works as part of the redevelopment of Place de Paris in Luxembourg-Ville from today until Wednesday 23 June 2021.
As more and more people purchase bicycles, thanks to the pandemic and government aid, the Ministry of the Environment announced yesterday that it is extending the grant for a new bicycle beyond 31 March. The scheme, set up in May 2020, offers buyers grants of up to €600 for a regular or electric bicycle.No information was provided as to whether payments will remain as high nor when the scheme will end
Wednesday 10 February
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 142 new resident cases derived from 10,526 tests. There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 600. 68 individuals are in hospital, with 15 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.04. To date, a total of 18,139 vaccinations have been carried out in Luxembourg.
Luxembourg politicians basically closed rank and supported the government in defending the country’s financial sector, which once again came under fire in the new OpenLux revelations this week. Pierre Gremenga said the government had worked to clean up the industry, and was now transparent, open and attractive, while only déi Lénk and the Pirate Party argued against the finance minister’s assurances.
As predicted by many, despite her resignation from the Democtaric Party, Luxembourg MEP Monica Semedo has returned to the European Parliament following her two-week suspension. The former DP politician was suspended on 18th January over allegations that she psychologically harassed her former assistants. Ms Semedo subsequently resigned from the DP and will now continue as an independent member of the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament.
Film Fund Luxembourg decided to allocate over €8.5 million in financial aid to 12 film projects in its first session of the year. Funding has been awarded to four live-action films, one animated feature film, three live-action series, one animated series, two virtual reality works and one live action short film. Among the selected projects are the Luxembourgish short film “Chevalier”, the popular Luxembourg-Belgian series “Capitani” and the Luxembourgish series “W.”.
In other film news, Luxembourg co-production and Golden Globe nominee “Deux”, or “Two of Us”, is returning to cinemas in the Grand Duchy today. Italian director Filippo Meneghetti’s lesbian romance film was selected for more than 70 international film festivals and received nearly 25 awards. It was chosen recently to represent France at the 2021 Oscars and nominated at the Golden Globes for Best Foreign Language Film. “Two of Us” is now being shown again in Luxembourg, at Ciné Utopia and CDAC cinemas.
Tuesday 9 February
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 31 new resident cases derived from 630 tests. The positivity rate was 4.95%. There have been 4 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 597. 51 individuals are in hospital, with 14 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.06.
Health Minister Paulette Lenert yesterday gave some details on the recently recruited staff to support Luxembourg’s vaccination campaign. She stated that 51 nurses, 236 doctors and 270 specialists had responded to a recruitment announcement made by the government. Lenert was prompted by Pirate MP Sven Clement who had submitted a parliamentary question on the topic.
A joint investigation by journalists from international newspapers has resulted in publications regarding Luxembourg’s anti-money laundering arrangements. Le Monde, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and others report that “55,000 offshore companies” with no office or employees “whose value top 6.5 trillion euros” are registered in the Grand Duchy. Investigations revealed that some of these funds are of questionable origin, related to criminal activity. The investigation bases itself on Luxembourg’s Ultimate Beneficial Owner register which was initiated as part of the government’s efforts to promote transparency. Following the publications, the government released a press statement, refuting “the various allegations”. More details from the investigation are expected to be released in the next days.
Esch-sur-Alzette’s town council faced criticism after passing a controversial general development plan. The legislation limits renting properties to “domestic communities” that share a common budget. Therefore, flat shares in Luxembourg’s second largest city and student town will only be possible under a joint lease and home insurance. Former Esch mayor Vera Spautz criticised the action plan saying it made it impossible for students to form flat shares. While current mayor Georges Mischo defended the decision saying it served to stop landlords from cashing in on poorly maintained rooms.
Yesterday the Luxembourgish authorities presented the national strategy for a circular economy. Such an economic system aims at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. The strategy will focus on innovation, public research, education and cooperation between the involved ministries.
Luxembourg’s Ministry of Equality between Women and Men and non-profit association Art Attitudes announced a new theatre project focused on prevention of domestic violence. The objective of this project is to tackle the taboo around talking about domestic violence. Around half a dozen performances are planned for 2021. They will be available in Luxembourgish, French German and English.
Luxembourgish co-production “Mission Ulja Funk” has been selected for the 71st Berlin International Film Festival. The feature film for children was directed by Barbara Kronenberg and co-produced in Luxembourg by Samsa Film. It was shot in 21 days back in 2019 here in Luxembourg. The film festival will be held in two stages this year. The competition will take place partially online in March and public screenings will be held later in June.
Monday 8 February
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Over the weekend the Ministry of Health reported 177 new resident cases derived from 19,546 tests. The positivity rate was 1.81%. There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 593. 50 individuals are in hospital, with 14 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.10.
According to a recommendation by the High Council for Infectious Diseases, the AstraZeneca vaccine should not be used for people over 65. Minister of Health Paulette Lenert stated that this decision will not impact directly the vaccination campaign in Luxembourg. She explained that in the first phase, healthcare professionals and staff would be vaccinated, regardless of their age. This means that the AstraZeneca vaccine could be employed for them. Luxembourg has not yet received its first vaccine doses from the pharmaceutical company. As of right now, 11,700 doses are expected to arrive next week.
Only around a quarter of disinfectants for hands and surfaces sold in Luxembourg met official standards last year. That was declared by the government on Friday following an analysis by The environment administration. It analyzed 195 products and found that only 44 were fully compliant with EU rules. Shops have been ordered to stop selling the respective products, return them to their supplier or destroy the remaining stocks. Fines were issued to certain businesses and in one case was forwarded to the public prosecutor.
Luxembourg health chief Dr Jean-Claude Schmit stated that reports in German media of a coronavirus variant originating in the Grand Duchy are misleading. Confusion seems to have arisen with the naming of the variant. Although that variant is the most common in patients testing positive for Covid-19 in the grand duchy, its lineage is regarded as starting from the US, and Texas in particular. Scientists are increasingly warning against the nationalising of the virus.
Retail Rents in Luxembourg are expected to drop 10 to 15% compared to 2019, according to JLL retail agency director Dmitri Collignon at a press conference on Friday. He added that this could benefit retailers particularly in the upper town district, given how high rents were prior to the crisis.”
MeteoLux warns of the continued rise of water level in the South of Luxembourg from Sunday until Tuesday at midnight. Yesterday the Moselle region experienced heavy showers and floods. Luxembourg city has also been affected by the recent rain, and as a result of that water levels in the capital have risen as well. However this is not a cause for concern at the moment as the current levels are far below what is considered alarming.
Luxembourg’s General Directorate for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise confirmed that more than 1,000 cases have been processed and paid under the most recent financial aid scheme for the self-employed. On the 29th of January 2021, the General Directorate introduced a third non-repayable financial aid for the self-employed. Currently, 2050 requests have already been received.
FRIDAY 5 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 199 new resident cases derived from 9,304 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 588. 58 individuals are in hospital, with 12 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.05.
The Education Minister – Claude Meisch – announced yesterday that, following a recent spate of coronavirus clusters, primary schools would close from Monday and switch to remote learning until the February half term holiday. Meisch explained that the spread of the coronavirus had changed since the second wave of infections last year, and that clusters in schools were greater by up to 15%, and growing faster than last year. After School care facilities and activities will be suspended from this weekend, except for outdoor sports and individual exams scheduled at music schools. Although crèches will stay open, quarantine rules will be tightened, meaning in the case of an isolated infection, the affected group will now have to quarantine at home. Parents of children aged 4 to 13 who have no other childcare options can request special parental leave while their children are ordered to stay home.
The social security minister yesterday announced changes to social security contributions. Employers will not be charged interest on late social security contributions and forced collections may be suspended as part of new measures aimed at easing the financial burden on employers and self-employed workers during the economic crisis.
A bill that aims to criminalise voyeuristic behaviour, and close a loophole in the current law, will be voted on by Parliament in March. The proposal was prompted after a man was caught filming under a woman’s skirt on public transport in 2017, but not charged as no law prohibited him from doing it. Gilles Roth, of the CSV party, initially proposed the bill to ban so-called upskirting in February 2019, citing cases in France and Belgium where concrete political action had been taken to penalise similar behaviour. Once the bill has passed into law, anyone filming or taking pictures of the private parts or the underwear of another person without the latter’s knowledge and consent will be charged. The proposed maximum penalty for upskirting is up to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to €30,000.
Construction of a stainless steel footbridge that will link Luxembourg’s Mudam modern art museum to the Boulevard Kennedy has started near the Pont Rouge. Just three pillars will support the 87-meter long footbridge, which will be suspended 12 meters above the ground and wind through the vegetation of Trois Glands park. Construction of the bridge, which will make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to reach the museum, will cost €4 million and will be finished by spring 2023.
An Iranian diplomat was convicted by a Belgian court yesterday for plotting a thwarted 2018 bombing of an opposition rally outside Paris. He will be jailed for 20 years. Assadollah Assadi supplied explosives for the planned attack.Three accomplices, dual Iranian-Belgians, were given jail terms of between 15 and 18 years. It was reported that the accomplices met and planned the attacks at a restaurant in Luxembourg city centre in 2018.
Government data released last year showed that three quarters of the 70,800 tonnes of food wasted annually was generated by private households. Now, in a new initiative designed to combat unnecessary food waste, people are able to place unwanted food products they no longer intend to consume in a refrigerated Foodsharing Point at the organic grocery store Naturwelten, in Bonnevoie, where they can be picked up by those who can still use them.
THURSDAY 4 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 203 new resident cases derived from 10,577 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 587. 71individuals are in hospital, with 14 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.15.
While the Covid-19 continues to pick up pace in Luxembourg the vaccination programme continues at a steady rate… But is one of the slowest in Europe. A total of 1,012 people received the vaccine on Wednesday. The total number of doses that has been handed out stands at 14,252, this includes 2,327 people who have been given the required second dose. The rest have so far only received one shot. With 2.12 doses handed out per 100 people, Luxembourg’s vaccination rate is below the 3.05 average in the EU.
Figures released yesterday by STATEC – the government statistics service – show that there were 4,649 resident deaths last year. This represents the highest (absolute) number of deaths in 70 years but, when adjusted against Luxembourg’s population growth, deaths per capita have actually been in decline. STATEC further reports that 501 deaths in Luxembourg last year were due to Covid-19 – 11% of the total figure.
All sympathy could go to the media commission this week as they seem to have their hands full in a number of areas. Following yesterday’s meeting of all party leaders and last week’s heated debate in Parliament, Tageblatt have reported that MPs expect to have access to the controversial RTL concession contract as early as today (Friday). However, the exact conditions of access remain unclear and, when asked by the paper, the press spokesman could not confirm that PM Xavier Bettel would present the RTL concession contract on Friday.
Following a recent spate of violent incidents in the City, including a fatal stabbing in Bonnevoie by two under-age boys, the director of the Psychosocial and Scholastic Assistance Centre – Nathalie Keipes – yesterday urged parents to be vigilant of changes in their children’s behaviour and to gently encourage them to open up about any problems. The director said that Covid-related lockdowns, and the lack of real social interactions, have negatively impacted children as they spend more time on their phones and on social media. She further warned about the ease of access to violence and pornography via smartphones, and stressed the importance of not downplaying these experiences because of the lasting effects on what children perceive as normality.
Two Luxembourg co-produced films are among the many vying for awards at this year’s Golden Globes ceremony, scheduled for 28 February. “Wolfwalkers”, co-produced by Luxembourg’s Mélusine Productions, is currently showing in local cinemas and has already been named best animated feature by the New York and Los Angeles film critics’ awards. Luxembourg’s Film Fund said that approximately 60 people based in Luxembourg worked on the film during 15 months of production. Furthermore, “Deux (Two of Us)” is nominated in the Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language category. The film, co-produced by Tarantula Luxembourg, has won numerous prizes since its premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, including for best picture and best actress at the French Lumière Awards.
LOCAL WEDNESDAY 3 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 190 new resident cases derived from 10,979 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 586. 68 individuals are in hospital, with 13 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.08. To date, a total of 13,241 vaccinations have been carried out in Luxembourg.
Education minister Claude Meisch last year met opposition when he announced he would open directorships at four specialised high schools to applicants from the private sector. The education minister withdrew the bill and signed an agreement with the teachers unions that the posts would be reserved for people from the public sector who can show relevant education experience and speak Luxembourg’s three official languages.
According to the Justice Ministry, 9,389 people obtained Luxembourgish nationality last year. French nationals remained the largest group, with over 2,200 applicants having claimed citizenship. They were followed by Brazilians, with almost 1,800 successful applicants, Belgians, with just over 1,000, and Portuguese nationals, with just over 980 acquiring citizenship. Nearly half of all successful applicants recovered the Luxembourg nationality through their ancestry.
Champ Cargosystems, a Luxembourg-based tech solutions provider for the aviation sector, announced plans to cut ten jobs (around 10% of its workforce) to reduce costs. The LCGB trade union publicly opposed this decision, lamenting the company’s seeming unwillingness to consider its proposed job retention plan. According to the LCGB, the company’s management failed to present concrete evidence that these job cuts were really necessary.
Decathlon is opening its doors to the public today at Royal Hamilius in Luxembourg City. The new store is more of a boutique than a department store, aimed at “city” customers.
The POST eSports competition is returning next month for a second edition. The competition is back with a revisited format and new name: Post Esports Masters. Players will compete in the same three games as last year: FIFA, Clash Royale and League of Legends, but in a championship and cup for the first two games and a big tournament spanning several weeks for the latter. Everything will be online. A total of €20,000 is up for grabs. The qualifying phases start on 20th March, with registrations open from next Monday at 6pm on www.postesportsmasters.lu.
LOCAL TUESDAY 2 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 34 new resident cases derived from 545 tests. The positivity rate was 6.24%. There have been 4 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 584. 54 individuals are in hospital, with 11 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.1.
Yesterday health minister Paulette Lenert revealed more details about Luxembourg’s vaccine campaign. The first phase, currently underway has seen hospital staff and those working and living in care homes vaccinated. 86% of care home residents have been vaccinated. While only 50% of the invited healthcare staff took the jab. The second phase of vaccinations is expected to start in March and will see those aged 75 and over get inoculated. The third phase will cover those aged between 70 and 74, the fourth phase is aimed at those between 65 and 69 and the fifth at those between 55 and 64. And finally, phase 6 will cover 16 to 54 year olds. Children younger than 16 will not be vaccinated. A total of 23,000 vaccines were delivered to Luxembourg as of last weekend, which covers 11,500 people. The government expects a further 11,700 doses from AstraZeneca to arrive next week. As of Thursday, 9,890 people had received the first vaccine, and 1,483 the second, with the second dose reserved for patients.
A report by Statec states that Luxembourg’s households accumulated an additional 1.2bn euros in savings in 2020. This is a result of the limited spending options during the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, customer spending fell by 9% compared to a non-crisis scenario. In spite of the accumulated savings in 2020, the report predicts that spending may not bounce back that quickly. Low income households haven’t been able to save. For the more wealthy on the other hand, there is less urgency to spend.
Water levels reach 6m36 in Stadtbredimus on Monday morning which lead to an orange alert being issued by MeteoLux. A yellow weather warning for possible risk of flooding is in place for the south of Luxembourg from noon until midnight for today.
Luxembourg’s ministry of Equality between Women and Men announced that the government has achieved its target of 40% of women representing the state on the boards of directors of public establishments. The efforts started during the last administration were continued by the current government. The authorities have called on social partners to continue to support gender equality in economic decision-making.
Volunteers and staff from Radio ARA took to the streets yesterday evening in an effort to enlighten Luxembourg’s politicians. And the pressure seemed to have worked, as in a hastily organised meeting the Media Ministry offered a basic compromise that will give some financial security for the radio station – the details of which are yet to be clarified. The immediate reaction at the station is of course relief. Ultimately, however, Radio ARA’s survival also relates to the question of what tomorrow’s media landscape in Luxembourg should look, and this question has not been adequately addressed in any of the current discussions. The EU’s Media Pluralism Monitor 2020 once again pointed out that media in Luxembourg (in particular radio) is concentrated in the hands of a few organizations and that minorities have very limited access to the media. In a statement, Lisa McLean said: the fact that public pressure such as ours can bring politics to a standstill is a sign of hope.
LOCAL MONDAY 1 FEBRUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Over the weekend the Ministry of Health reported 311 new resident cases derived from 15,213 tests. The positivity rate was 2.1% There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 580. 55 individuals are in hospital, with 11 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.08.
Water levels will continue to rise throughout today in areas along the Mosel river. Heavy snow fall and bad weather have created significant swelling in the country’s rivers, especially true in the southern half of the country. Since Friday, the Moselle has been overflowing and rainwater run off has caused rivers to burst their banks.
On Saturday 350 demonstrators assembled in Luxembourg city to once again protest against the shutdown of the Horesca sector. The hotel, restaurant and café owners and employees have now voiced their discontent with the government’s measures for the third weekend in a row.
The Covid-19 task force, a group of researchers that advises the government has indicated that there could be a potential increase of infections. The number of daily infections has been relatively stable recently. But the experts say an increase in detected cases related to the UK strains as a cause for concern. The reproductive number has risen steadily from 0.98 on 21 January to 1.07 this week. The Covid-19 task force has warned against relaxation of measures, as predictions indicate that cases could again top 500 new daily infections by May, similar to the situation in November.
Last week, during a wider debate on integration policy CSV Member of Parliament Paul Galles tabled a motion calling for greater powers to be granted to the the national foreigner’s council, the CNE. There are 179 different nationalities living in Luxembourg, and those foreigners have no voting rights in legislative elections. Foreign nationals make up almost half of the country’s resident population and three quarters of its workforce. Paul Galles pointed to this fact to argue the importance of the CNE, and the need for the council to take on a role of greater importance and responsibility. According to foreign worker’s rights association, Asti, schools and housing are still the main challenges facing foreign residents, followed by voting rights.
Moody’s credit rating agency has given a positive assessment of Luxembourg’s environmental, social and governance performance. This is a recently introduced criteria in the agency’s evaluation methodology. The Grand Duchy will continue to benefit from the highest credit rating, AAA.
Luxembourg’s institute of science and technology announced on Friday the introduction of a new technology on the market. The software patented under the name HASARD enables the generation of flood maps on a global scale from satellite data. The tool is being used by different organisations such as NASA’s Earth Science Disaster Programme and the United Nations World Food Programme. Based on this technology the Luxembourg’s Institute of Science and Technology will develop a wider range of applications, in collaboration with other partners. Notable are forest fire mapping, ship movements monitoring and urban change mapping.
This evening will see staff and volunteers from Radio ARA assemble at the studio at 6.30pm and proceed together, carrying lights to parliament. The walk is a symbolic protest and reminder to Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of his promise, as yet unfulfilled, to financially support Radio ARA, as the largest community media in Luxembourg.
LOCAL FRIDAY 29 JANUARY
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 138 new resident cases derived from 7,692 tests. There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 574. 63 individuals are in hospital, with 14 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.05. To date, a total of 10,449 vaccinations have been carried out in Luxembourg.
The courts this week ruled that parliamentarians must now be given access to a secret contract between the government and media giant RTL, stating that Luxembourg, as a parliamentary democracy, should allow parliamentarians the right of access to documents held by the administration. The contract provides RTL – a private owned by the Bert-el-smann company headquartered in Germany – with €10 million in taxpayer money each year to provide programming in Luxembourgish. Despite this, in August 2019, RTL controversially axed half of its staff in its corporate centre citing reduced advertising spending as the cause, even though the company hit record revenues in that year. In December 2019, Sven Clement, of the Pirate Party, took the government to court to get access to the text of the contract to find out what the agreement had to say about restructurings. Luxembourg’s transparency lags behind the rest of the European Union regarding public access to government documents with the government currently facing a similar controversy regarding a Memorandum of Understanding with US tech giant Google.
Greenpeace Luxembourg yesterday published an independent analysis which reportedly shows that the climate impact of the 100 largest equity investment funds based in Luxembourg contributes significantly to the global climate emergency via the financing of unsustainable companies. The report revealed that these Luxembourg-based funds emit 10% more greenhouse gases than the MSCI World Index causing more emissions than peer companies from around the world. Furthermore, It warned that carbon-intensive assets expose funds to considerable financial risks. The environmental NGO added that this revealed a discrepancy between Luxembourg’s image campaign as a world-leading centre for sustainable finance, and its failure to adhere to the stipulations of its international commitments.
This week the governmental family commission decided that from January 2022 Family Child Support would again be linked to the country’s cost of living index. Both the OGBL and LCGB unions welcomed the decision, but expressed concerns that the deficit, which families suffered over the course of the past 14 years, will not be reimbursed. The OGBL demanded the child support amount be raised by 7.7%, while the LCGB suggested an increase from €256 to €285, paired with an indexation of all other benefits.
This year’s Relais Pour la Vie 24-hour fund-raising run will be held online instead of at the Coque in Luxembourg-Kirchberg due to COVID-19 restrictions. Because of this, the event – taking place on the last week-end in March – will have no limit on the number of teams participating. Teams consist of 24 or more members, each of whom are required to do an hour of running, walking, jogging or cycling, either outdoors or indoors.
LOCAL THURSDAY 28 JANUARY
Coronavirus update: The Ministry of Health reported 237 new resident cases derived from 9,978 tests. There has been 1 additional death, bringing the death toll to 571. 70 individuals are in hospital, with 15 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.05. To date, a total of 9,525 vaccinations have been carried out in Luxembourg.
The Ministry of Education announced on Wednesday that staff and pupils at Michel Rodange primary school in Waldbillig have tested positive for coronavirus and the put the entire school and day centre is in quarantine until 1 February. All students and teachers will be quarantined and tested in the coming days.
Delano also reported that a number of staff have tested positive for covid-19 at St George’s International School. For this reason there will be large-scale mobile testing on school premises on Thursday, 28 January (day 6 following the positive test result last Friday) in order to test all students and staff in attendance.
Figures released yesterday by LUX-Airport for passenger traffic passing through the airport in 2020 showed a drop in numbers to 1.4 million – a decrease of 68% from 2019.The air transport sector has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis with passenger air traffic in Luxembourg completely halted during March until the end of May last year. However, cargo traffic, due to transportation of medical equipment, increased by 6% compared to 2019 with goods handled at Luxembourg Airport in 2020 totalling 947.000 tonnes.
Yesterday, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Luxembourg government and the Jewish community reached an agreement “on unresolved issues relating to Holocaust-related expropriations” during the occupation. The government pledged to offer 1 million euros to Holocaust survivors from Luxembourg. It will also purchase (for a total budget of 25 million euros) the Cinqfontaines site, used by the Gestapo between 1941 to 1943 as a sorting and assembly house for Luxembourg Jews before transportation to death camps. The site will be renovated to become a place of memory and education for future generations. Luxembourg also committed 120,000 euros per year for 30 years to fund the Foundation for the memory of the Shoah.
Following Monica Semedo’s two week suspension by the European Parliament after complaints of bullying, and her subsequent resignation from the Democratic Party, the party president, Corinne Cahen, has condemned Semedo’s behaviour claiming that bullying went against the party’s values. Cahen also called for Semedo to give up her seat at the European Parliament and stressed that, although legally Semedo could see out the remainder of her term as an independent, it would be right to give up the seat.
Following the fatal stabbing on Tuesday evening of an 18-year-old in Bonnevoie, the public prosecutor announced yesterday that 2 minors, aged 15 and 17, had been arrested. They have been brought to a pre-trial detention facility in Dreiborn. No further information was released by authorities due to the age of the suspects.
LOCAL WEDNESDAY 27 JANUARY
Coronavirus update: The Ministry of Health reported 119 new resident cases derived from 9,210 tests. There have been 4 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 570. 76 individuals are in hospital, with 15 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 1.01. To date, a total of 8,554 vaccinations have been carried out in Luxembourg.
When the Parliamentary Commission on Health met yesterday it was revealed that the number of people infected with the British variant of Covid had tripled, bringing the number to 36. The information was provided by the National Health Directorate to Martine Hansen, head of the Christian Social People’s Party, who expressed concern in parliament that the variant appeared to be spreading at an alarming rate in Luxembourg.
While all agreed with the government’s decision not to lift any restrictions for the time being, Hansen reiterated the CSV’s criticism of the government’s apparent lack of a concrete long-term strategy and the continuing struggles faced by the Horesca sector. Hansen also stated that although deliveries of the coronavirus vaccine were satisfactory, there was a concern the vaccination roll out was too slow.
MEP Monica Semedo announced yesterday evening via facebook that she has resigned from the Democratic Party. The politician has been in the spotlight this past week after being suspended by the leader of the European Parliament for two weeks after claims she had bullied her assistants.
The Ministry of Economy announced that 4,393 companies had applied to the government for partial (un)employment for February 2021. 4,243 company requests were granted in respect of 34,117 employees.
Minister of Tourism, Lex Delles, told L’essential yesterday that he believed the stringent covid restrictions were justified to fight the arrival in Luxembourg of the different variants of the virus. Delles said all residents should question the necessity of traveling to a country for a holiday where there is a higher risk of infection. Repeating the official advice of last year, he recommended taking holidays within Luxembourg to avoid travel restrictions and reduce the spread of the virus.
The government has announced that the subsidy programme to fund environmentally friendly home refurbishments has been extended until the end of this year. The scheme was first launched in May last year as part of Neistart Lëtzebuerg programme to reboot the economy after lockdown. The Prime House subsidy is awarded for better insulation of roofs, walls and windows and was increased in this programme by up to 50%. There are also more funds to install renewable fuel heating systems in homes. The government has said a new programme of financial aid for construction will be put in place to start on 1 January 2022, when the current aid scheme expires.
Following Luxembourg city’s recent water troubles, the municipal executive of Echternach warned residents yesterday on Facebook not to drink the tap water after analyses revealed a bacterial contamination.
LOCAL TUESDAY 26 JANUARY
Coronavirus update: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 29 new resident cases derived from 272 tests. The positivity rate was 10.66%. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 566. 71 individuals are in hospital, with 14 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.04.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert announced yesterday that starting this Friday all travelers arriving at Luxembourg airport who have been out of the country for 72 hours will be required to present a negative test for Covid-19. Arrivals by road or by rail will be exempt, as will those who can prove that they have previously contracted COVID-19. Travelers from non-EU Member States will be required to undertake a rapid test at Findel airport. Those refusing to do so will be placed in quarantine for 14 days. Prime Minister Bettel explained that the new rules are a reaction to the spread of various strains of the coronavirus. Further clarification on the second phase of Luxembourg’s vaccination strategy was given, saying people aged over 75 will now receive invitations to be vaccinated.
Last week, MEP Monica Semedo of the Democratic Party was suspended by the European Parliament after three of her former parliamentary assistants were harassed and resigned. This is a politically sensitive issue because the DP has always had a strict approach to harassment in all its forms. However, many now feel that the Prime Minister and the party has been slow to react. In a rather brief statement, the DP executive office, said it would refer the matter to the broader DP executive committee. However, the party’s president, Corinne Cahen, and its general secretary, Claude Lamberty, issued a video statement that recalled the extent to which harassment is banned from the party’s values in all circumstances.
The national teacher’s union SNE-CGFP criticized Minister of Education Claude Meisch in a recent press release. Educators are unhappy with the low supply of FFP2 masks. The union states also that the demand for the masks was made several months ago. And they have just recently started to receive them. Teachers are satisfied that the ministry now acknowledges that the coronavirus spreads easily in schools but need authorities to do more.
Last December an agreement was reached between the State, trade unions and the management of Arcelor Mittal to avoid a redundancy plan. That agreement was signed yesterday morning. The company will receive 20 million euros in state aid. As a result of that 237 people will be able to take early retirement and adjustment leave. A reclassification unit has been opened for another 280 employees. The agreement avoids the elimination of 570 jobs initially announced by Arcelor Mittal in September.
The Luxembourgish company IEE specialising in car sensors is working on a system, that could help prevent drivers from accidentally leaving children behind in their cars. The technology is intended to detect body movements caused by breathing. The project is currently in its testing phase. And it could also potentially detect pets left behind in locked vehicles. The company aims to have the system integrated in all cars in the future.
LOCAL MONDAY 25 JANUARY
Coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Over the weekend the Ministry of Health reported 266 new resident cases derived from 15,156 tests. The positivity rate was 1,76%. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 564. 58 individuals are in hospital, with 15 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.98.
On Friday afternoon, Prime Minister Xavier Better and Health Minister Paulette Lenert announced that the current measures regarding the coronavirus will be extended until the 21st of February, this includes restaurant closures. The current restrictions have shown results but, due to uncertainty brought by the spread of new strains of the virus, the government has decided that now is not the time to end the partial lockdown. Prime Minister Bettel also confirmed that the government considers introducing new measures for people coming back into Luxembourg. More details are expected later this week.
At a protest on Saturday, hotel, restaurant and café owners and employees voiced their frustration with the current measures and their recent extension. These businesses are struggling financially, and they point to the high rental costs in the city as a major issue; the owners feel let down by the government. The demonstrators marched through the capital and protested in front of the city hall on Place Guillaume II.
Luxembourg’s Minister of Internal Security, Henri Kox this wekend made an unofficial visit to Luxembourg-Gare and Bonnevoie districts. Some of these parts of the Luxembourgish capital are regarded as drug sale hotspots. The Minister’s visit was aimed to better understand the difficulties encountered by police officers in the field. Last November 30 additional police officers were assigned to the train station district to reinforce the presence of the Police.
At 7.30pm Sunday evening two masked men robbed the petrol station in Rollingergrund of cigarettes and cash. They fled on foot in the direction of Eech. Both men wore dark clothing and were slim built and 1m 70 in height. Both spoke French. One wore a blue facemask, the other a black face covering. Police are asking for information on 113.
Five socially distanced concerts will be held in Rockhal in February. This project is regarded as a trial and will be supervised by the Ministry of Health. The series of concerts, labelled ‘Because Music Matters’ will be held in front of an audience of one hundred people. Those in attendance will have to take a free Covid-19 test a week before and after the concert. If this new format proves to be a success it could lead to a return of regular live music performances.
LOCAL FRIDAY 22 JANUARY
The Ministry of Health reported 115 new resident cases derived from 6,981 tests. There have been no additional deaths, leaving the death toll at 562. 72 individuals are in hospital, with 14 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 0.97. To date, a total of 6,193 vaccinations have been carried out in Luxembourg.
A press conference will be hosted by the government at 3pm this afternoon. It is expected that the PM and Health Minister will announce adjustments to Covid measures going forward.
The Patient Representatives Association expressed concern yesterday at the disorganisation of the vaccination process, and urged the government to publish a clear and transparent timetable showing when each group of people would receive invitations, and to more clearly define who was classed as vulnerable. They also proposed prioritising those who are actually in favour of being vaccinated.
As the embezzlement and money laundering case against real estate magnate Flavio Becca entered its final day, the public prosecutor demanded a 42-month prison sentence, confiscation of 324 luxury watches and a fine of €250,000. This case dates back to a lawsuit tax authorities filed in 2011.Mr Becca claims his companies bought approximately 850 luxury watches, as a personal investment. A verdict is expected to be announced on 4 March. It is possible that any prison sentence could be suspended as Mr Becca has no prior convictions.
Luxembourg Mayor Lydia Polfer this week presented recent figures that showed Luxembourg City’s population has increased by more than 30% in a decade and is set to pass the 125,000 mark in the coming weeks. A number of major infrastructure projects, such as the tram, the new stadium and the Porte de Hollerich have been planned to keep pace with the explosion in the capital’s population. Moreover, 2020 saw the highest number of building permits since 2016, over 3.5 times more registered births than deaths, and foreign workers attracted by a buoyant job market. 124,832 people are currently living in the city, 70% are not Luxembourgers.
The Red Cross has announced its intention to sell Birtrange castle in the commune of Schieren. The property, and it’s 85 hectares of land, were bequeathed to the NGO by Baroness Claudine de Broqueville. Bidding starts at €5.2m, the Red Cross will receive two thirds of the sale proceeds. The remaining third will go to Claudine de Broqueville’s legal heirs.
LOCAL NEWS 21 JANUARY
The Ministry of Health yesterday reported 229 new resident covid 19 cases derived from 8,487 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 562. 84individuals are in hospital, with 17 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 0.84. To date, a total of 5,249 vaccinations have been carried out in Luxembourg.
In a move to improve user access, The Ministry of Health announced yesterday that a new large-scale testing centre will open in Mersch on Monday 25 January.This will replace the existing centre in Roost, which ceases operation on Saturday 23 January.
Health Minister Paulette Lenert said in parliament yesterday that the response by front-line personnel to coronavirus vaccination invitations has been poor. Of the 5,230 people invited, only one-third (approximately 1,650) have signed up so far.The deadline for this first cohort to make an appointment expires this coming Sunday.
The Luxembourgish labour market continues to be hit by the coronavirus crisis, with the Employment Development Agency reporting that there were 19,918 available resident job seekers in December 2020 – an increase from December 2019 of 20.5%.There were actually fewer new registrations in December, but equally fewer people entering employment than would normally be expected.
Police have reported that a 12-year-old boy has been missing since Sunday. Rodrigo Ferreira Correia was last seen in Schifflange, in south-western Luxembourg, around noon on Sunday.He is described as being about 1.73m tall, weighing 65kg and was wearing light grey jeans and a dark jacket when last seen.Anyone with information should contact the police by telephone on: 244-501000 or via email: email@example.com.
The City of Luxembourg declared yesterday that tap water is safe to drink again after rinsing out the pipes on Monday evening and analysing the water for traces of Manganese on Tuesday.
Hit Luxembourg series “Capitani”, which was seen last year on RTL by 1.5 million viewers, will get a global release on American streaming platform Netflix on 11 February. This will considerably increase the series’ exposure as Netflix streams to 190 countries and 200 million subscribers worldwide.
LOCAL Wednesday 20 January
A coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 85 new resident cases derived from 7,115 tests. There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 560. 88 individuals are in hospital, with 20 in intensive care. The effective reproductive rate is 0.94. To date, a total of 4,569 vaccinations have been carried out in Luxembourg.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo by phone about the COVID-19 situation. Mr Bettel emphasised the need to keep borders open and ensure the free movement of people, especially cross-border workers, and goods. Regular exchanges are set to continue.
Luxembourg and Belgium’s transport ministries have urged the European Commission to invest in the Brussels-Luxembourg railway connection as part of the Green Deal. Minister François Bausch and his Belgian counterpart George Gilkinet made this appeal in a joint letter to Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans. The railway link is considered an important axis for both international and cross-border rail traffic, although the journey currently takes around three hours with frequent stops along the way.
DP MEP Monica Semedo has been suspended for two weeks following allegations that she psychologically harassed her former assistants. European Parliament President David Sassoli confirmed that Ms Semedo would not be allowed to take part in parliamentary activities and would not receive her daily allowance during this period. Whilst she can appeal the suspension, the Luxembourg MEP said in a press release that she accepted the decision and apologised for her actions.
Luxembourg’s police reported that a pedestrian suffered serious injuries following a road accident in Grevenmacher. On Monday evening, a car hit a pedestrian on a zebra crossing below the bridge on the Luxembourg-German border. The victim was unresponsive to first aid at the scene of the accident and was taken to hospital.
The UK recently introduced new COVID-19 testing requirements for entry. According to the latest government guidance, test results must be in English, French or Spanish. No other languages will be accepted. Whilst most results in Luxembourg are issued in French, travellers to the UK should make sure that their test result is in French rather than German. The British in Europe coalition has asked the British authorities to review this policy.
LOCAL NEWS Tuesday 19 January
Coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported Monday, 37 new resident cases derived from 653 tests. The positivity rate was 5.67%.There have been 5 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 557. 68 individuals are in hospital, with 20 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.92. The vaccination center at Victor Hugo Hall in Limpertsberg is in full operation. While another one, in Mondorf, is expected to open in order to cover most of the population living in the Eastern part of the country.
The Police continues to carry out checks across Luxembourg in order to ensure compliance with Covid-19 rules. Last week 380 such checks were carried out, particularly concerning the curfew, measures in shopping centers and restrictions on gatherings. This resulted in police officers issuing fines to around 140 people. The majority of which was due to people being out after curfew which is between 11pm and 6am.
The train connection between Bettembourg logistics hub and Chengdu in South Western China has hit a stumbling block. In spite of much publicised trial runs earlier, China now appears to have lost interest. Luxembourg is pushing to play a bigger role in the transport sector and connections to Scandinavia through the German port of Rostock will deepen from this month. The Grand Duchy is also looking at further connections to Hungary and Poland within the next two years
Local authorities have announced that tap water in certain areas of Luxembourg city is currently unsafe to drink. Due to technical issues water Manganese, a chemical element, had leaked into the drinking water around Cloche d’Or, or “new” Gasperich. Water should be boiled for at least 10 minutes according to the authorities. The tap water should not be used to wash fruit or vegetables. But it is okay for showering and washing in. Some of the issues have been fixed and tap water is now safe to consume in the previously affected municipality of Hesperange.
The best photos from World Press Photo Exhibition 2020 will be displayed in Luxembourg for the first time. This edition will represent the most significant events of 201. The collection of photos will be displayed at Neimënster in Luxembourg city, from the 23rd January to the 21st of February. The exhibition will be open to the public every day, from 10am to 6pm. Entry is free of charge.
The national car dealership federation has decided to extend the annual Autofestival. This decision comes as a result of the imposed Sunday closures of shops, including car dealerships.
Rockhal is scheduled to reopen its door in February. The Esch-Belval venue has not hosted a concert since the 7th of March last year. The organisers are preparing a series of live music events which will accommodate up to 100 people.
LOCAL NEWS Monday 18 January
Coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Over the weekend the Ministry of Health reported 222 new resident cases derived from 14,197 tests. The positivity rate was 1.26% There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 552. 72 individuals are in hospital, with 18 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.86.
The Luxembourgish authorities unveiled details of the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines in the Grand Duchy. To the stock of Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines will be added more from four other manufacturers. AstraZaneca, Johnson & Johnson, Curevac and Sanofi-GSK will be the newest suppliers according the plan. With the Sanofi contract still being negotiated by the European Commission. Full details of the purchasing plan can be found at chronicle.lu.
Business owners from the Horesca sector protested on Place d’Armes last Saturday. They feel they have been forgotten by the Luxembourgish government during the pandemic. Many of the protesters consider that the subsidies are not enough to cover their establishments’ expenses, in particular the high rents in Luxembourg. And, they say that the government’s support is coming too late. Many business owners from the sector are losing their livelihood. Minister for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Lex Delles responded by saying he understood the people’s concerns. He highlighted the newly introduced support for the so called “non-covered costs”. Delles also encouraged business owners to apply for the relaunch aid and pointed towards the number of subsidies offered by the government.
Stëmm vun der Stross, the organisation, which supports rough sleepers, made an appeal for more good quality winter clothes for the homeless they serve. Director Alexandra Oxacelay emphasised that she hopes that the organisation would only receive washed and undamaged clothes, saying that the shelves of the charity’s clothes centres empty quickly during the winter months, but this was no reason to send damaged and unwashed clothes. The Kleederstuff, clothes store, in Esch-sur-Alzette and Luxembourg City collects, washes and organises second-hand clothes and hands them out free of charge to people in need. They provide seasonal essentials but also business attire, for example for people invited to a job interview who cannot afford a new wardrobe. The scheme employs ten people as part of a programme to reintegrate jobseekers into the workplace
LOCAL NEWS Friday 15th January
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg:
The Ministry of Health reported 114 new resident cases derived from 8,875 tests. There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 545. Of the 91 individuals in hospital, 23 are in intensive care.The effective reproductive number is down from yesterday at 0.87.
Luxembourg’s wastewater has been examined for traces of the coronavirus, which means that the course of the pandemic can be estimated a few days in advance. The latest measurements point slightly upwards, but it is not yet clear whether these fluctuations are enough to indicate a new trend. Nine of the eleven considered Sewage treatment plants show an increase in values.
And in an unfortunate mix up, despite the fact that they were not priority healthcare staff, 93 people received an invitation for a Covid 19 vaccination due to a technical error with the automatic invitation programme.
HORESCA, the organisation representing the hospitality industry, issued a press release yesterday criticising the lack of financial support from the government throughout the current coronavirus restrictions. COVID 19 restrictions will continue to apply to restaurants, cafes and bars until 31 January 2021,
Horesca is demanding Prime Minister Bettel overturn the discriminatory decision. Whilst recognising that financial support received by the sector is greater than in other countries, they say businesses also have to face much higher rent costs.
Meanwhile, The General Directorate for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises announced yesterday that shops will not be allowed to open on Sundays throughout the imminent winter sales period “In order to protect the health of citizens and stem the spread of COVID-19”.
The Federation of taxis, rental cars and ambulances are protesting the proposed reforms to the taxi sector unveiled last week by the government which will come into force in 2022.
The federation worries that plans to include rental cars with Uber-style drivers will not help a sector that is already “almost at a complete standstill”
Furthermore, the federation claims that he proposed elimination of existing taxi zones which carve out the national territory runs the risk of providers being unwilling to serve areas outside of the capital “where customers are easier to reach”
In news that will surprise absolutely no one, Eurostat published a study yesterday revealing that the highest annual increases in EU house prices for the third quarter of 2020 were recorded in Luxembourg, with a price hike of 13.6%.
Poland (+10.9%) and Austria (+8.9%) came second and third.
While prices fell in Cyprus(-1.4%) and Ireland(-0.8%) , overall the EU saw an average rise in house prices of 5.2%.
LOCAL NEWS Thursday 14th January
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg:
The Ministry of Health reported 190 new resident cases derived from 9,766 tests. There have been 4 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 542. Of the 92 individuals in hospital, 21 are in intensive care.The effective reproductive number is 1.00.
The National Health Laboratory confirmed yesterday that a total of six cases of the British coronavirus variant have been detected in the Grand Duchy to date. As yet however, no cases of the South African or Japanese coronavirus variants have been detected.
Changes to Luxembourg’s child benefits are imminent after a court ruled that the current legislation is indirectly discriminatory. In future benefits will be linked to workers as opposed to the child. Currently, a child can benefit from the scheme only if a birth parent works in Luxembourg or they live here. A stepparent or partner of the parent working in Luxembourg is also denied benefit. Last year, the European Court of Justice found the system did not conform with European law.On Tuesday, Minister of family Corinne Cahen said, the reform should guarantee equality between residents and cross-border workers.
US ambassador Randy Evans yesterday issued a farewell video message to Luxembourg. Mr Evans said, “The grand duchy is a treasure, hidden away, but with a light that shines for all to see”. Mr Evans arrived in Luxembourg as President Trump’s representative in June 2018. The USA’s ambassador is a political appointment, and is typically someone who has been a significant financial donor to the party. The next representative will be chosen by Joe Biden.
Yesterday morning, two workers were hit by a falling steel bar at a construction site in Mondercange. Scaffolding, which was erected using a crane, collapsed during assembly. Both men were taken to hospital but only one of the two had to remain in hospital.
The Prison Administration announced yesterday that a prisoner was found dead in his cell at Schrassig . Prison at approximately 9.15 pm on Tuesday evening.Immediate attempts to resuscitate the man proved unsuccessful.Judicial authorities were informed and an autopsy has been ordered.
LOCAL NEWS Wednesday 13th January
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 153 new resident cases derived from 10,406 tests. There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 538. 92 individuals are in hospital, with 24 in intensive care. The effective reproductive number is 1.01.
Vaccination against COVID-19 commenced in Luxembourg’s hospitals yesterday. Over 200 frontline medical workers already received the vaccine at the end of December, but the campaign now includes vaccination for all other hospital staff. The Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg confirmed it would be vaccinating at least 60 people per day over the next weeks and Hôpitaux Robert Schuman said that 3,700 of its staff would receive the vaccine in a first stage.
South Korean company INFINIQ has established its European headquarters in Luxembourg, with the support of the Luxembourg Trade and Investment Office in Seoul and Luxinnovation. The artificial intelligence and machine learning data specialist will use this new branch as a base for expanding its business beyond South Korea into the global autonomous driving data market.
As reported by other local media, Luxembourg’s Court of Auditors has concluded that the Economy Ministry’s FAGE yoghurt factory plans lacked transparency. According to the report, the Economy Ministry failed to inform the Finance Ministry of its plans and offered no explanation as to why the land was sold rather than leased out back in 2016. The plans were scrapped when FAGE pulled out of the project after more than four years of trying unsuccessfully to secure planning permission.
Both the Cinémathèque and Kinepolis unveiled their programmes for the coming weeks as cinemas reopen this week. Kinepolis cinemas open again today, with new releases including George Clooney’s “The Midnight Sky” and Luxembourg co-production “Wolfwalkers”. The Cinémathèque will welcome spectators again from Saturday, with classics such as Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” and Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” on this month’s agenda.
Luxembourg was trending on Twitter yesterday evening after Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn declined to meet with the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The snub came days after the storming of the US Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump and reportedly contributed to Mr Pompeo’s decision to cancel his Europe trip at the last minute.
Local News 12th January
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 42 new resident cases derived from 637 tests. The positivity rate was 6.59%. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 529. 92 individuals are in hospital, with 23 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.06.
Luxembourg has received 1,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine. The Grand Duchy is the first EU country to have this particular vaccine delivered. Luxembourg now has two anti-Coronavirus vaccines. The advantage that the Moderna vaccine has over the BioNTech/Pfizer one is that it can be stored at -20 degrees Celsius. While the latter requires storage at -70 degrees Celsius. An additional delivery of 4,875 doses of the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine also arrived as planned yesterday.
A study by a team of Luxembourg based researchers has published a positive assessment of the large scale testing in the country. The study shows that mass testing has resulted in having up to 39% less Covid-19 cases. These numbers come as a result of a simulation. The paper also states that the Intensive care unit would have been 45% fuller than it is now.
The Ministry for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development issued a press release regarding its Action plan for better air quality. They announced that citizens and municipalities may review and comment on the action plan. This government initiative comes in light of the discovery of several violations of emission limits in 2020. The published document proposes measures to improve the situation regarding air quality in the short term.
Since November last year Caritas Luxemboug’s Street Nurses project has helped over 100 people on the street. The NGO is aiding homeless people who are in need of medical attention. Their aim is to provide immediate help to those often suffering of more than one condition. But also helping those without a home to regain trust in the healthcare system. Such initiatives exist in neighboring countries but are only just beginning to develop here.
Local News 11th January
First a Corona Virus update for Luxembourg: Over the weekend the government reported 240 new cases of corona virus from 20,097 tests. 6 new deaths were reported from COVID-19, bringing the total death toll in the Grand Duchy to 527. The positivity rate was 1.16%.%. The reproduction rate is currently 1.09.
Luxembourg will receive its first 1,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine today. This was announced by Health Minister Paulette Lenert on Friday evening.
The new Covid-19 law was passed in Luxembourg’s Chamber. Starting today, it will see measures relaxed in the sport and cultural sectors. Shops and services such as hairdressers, beauty salons and gyms are now allowed to reopen. However restaurants will remain closed. Schools also return to school today. The new law was met with criticism by the opposition parties: CSV, ADR, The Left and the Pirate Party. For them the measures are not coherent with the government’s strategy. They also consider that the current measures should have been kept for at least two more weeks.
Meanwhile some citizens consider the government’s measures too much. Around 200 protested the restrictions by gathering in Luxembourg city on Saturday. The event had been promoted on social media during the week. The event took place between the Glacis and Place Guillaume II. Demonstrators voiced their opposition to the wearing of masks, large-scale testing, the restrictions introduced by the government as well as the vaccine and 5G.
Non-profit organisations “Catch a smile” and “Diddeleng Hëlleft” joined efforts to support refugees in Sarajevo, Bosnia. The NGOs called for people to donate winter clothes for those in need. About 6,000 refugees are stuck in Bosnia currently and are living in poor conditions. The Luxembourg based initiative was a big success. Lots of people showed up donating bags full of warm clothes, blankets, and shoes. Those will be transported to the Balkan country and distributed appropriately.
The Luxembourg City market will have its location changed. From the 13th of January on, the market will take place at Place Hamilius. This decision has been taken as a result of construction work at Place Guillaume II, the market’s traditional location. Around 40 street vendors usually gather to sell their goods every Wednesday and Saturday.
Local News 8th Januray
First a Corona Virus update for Luxembourg: There were 161 new cases of coronavirus from 10 114 tests. 4 new deaths were reported from COVID-19, bringing the total death toll in the Grand Duchy to 521. The positivity rate was 1.59%. The R rate has dropped again to 0.87. Dan Kersch, the Minister for Sport, also announced that rapid covid testing is to be rolled out for elite sports in Luxembourg so that they can recommence as soon as possible.
Coronovirus has had an impact on the total number of deaths in Luxembourg. November saw the highest death count since March 1976. However, although seemingly alarming, it is emphasised that the population of the Duchy has grown significantly since then, and people generally live longer. For example, the average age of people who died between January and October last year was 80.4 for women and 74 for men.
Sam Tanson, the Minister of Culture, last night announced that museums, cinemas, theatres, libraries and concert halls will be re-opening their doors from Monday, but only under strict conditions. Masks and distancing will of course be mandatory, and in places of performance audience participants will be capped at 100.
Elsewhere, bar, cafe and restaurant owners have been leaving their lights on in an attempt to grab people’s attention and highlight that they need financial help. Although they receive some assistance from the Government, they don’t receive cover for their rents and are complaining that this will force many establishments to close their doors for good. The campaign will run until the end of January
Statec has announced that it expects an economic rebound in 2021, after a miserable 2020. It believes that households have some cash to splash after spending opportunities dried up throughout the pandemic. It predicts that the economy could grow by up to 4% this year, although this is the most optimistic scenario. However, consumer confidence is still low, with many households unwilling to spend big when they have concerns about job security.
Separately, Statec also revealed the typical household in Luxembourg, as if there is one, spent €335 a month on energy bills, totalling an impressive €4020 a year. On average about 30% of this amount is spent on electricity.
And finally . . .
A 60 year old man faces five years in prison after causing a bomb scare at a cinema in Kirchberg and multiple supermarket branches. Prosecutors are seeking a strong sentence for the man, who, strangely, is already serving a prison sentence in Nancy in France, from where he presumably made the call.
Local News Thursday 7th January
First a Corona Virus update for Luxembourg: There were 281 new cases of coronavirus from 12 244 tests. 3 new deaths were reported from COVID-19 were reported, bringing the total death toll in the Grand Duchy to 517. The positivity rate was 2.3%. The R rate has dropped to 0.9.
Luxembourg government’s relaxation of covid-19 restrictions has been met with criticism from one of its closest neighbours. Speaking to Saarland Radio on Wednesday Saarlaand’s head of State, Tobias Hans criticized the decision, saying “To be honest, I consider it irresponsible to relax restrictions while there are such high infection rates. Mr Hans said the government should rethink the decision to lift lockdown. Stating the decision is “a real burden in the greater region”. Mr Hans warned of a possible spread of the latest virus mutation, since, in his words “it is known that there are close links between Luxembourg and Great Britain, where the new mutation is rampant”. Mr Bettel justified the easing of the restrictions with falling numbers of new corona infections. However, he conceded that the situation remains “tense”.
Meanwhile, gyms and swimming pools could reopen next week if the latest law concerning coronavirus measures passes on Friday. Sports Minster Dan Kersch said that the risk of being infected through sport was lower than during social activities.
A young pedestrian in Esch sur Alzette has been the victim of brutal robbery after being attacked by four men. After forcing him to hand over his mobile phone and money, the cowardly perpetrators them assaulted him, after which he managed to escape. Please contact the police if you have any information.
Arcelor Mittal, the Luxembourg steel company, has been handed a €150 000 fine and €10 000s worth of damages for polluting the Fensch river in France not once, but twice. The company pleaded against the fine, claiming that they are undergoing a “process of improvement” on environmental issues. However this was rejected by the local community and the French state, who pointed out that the company had done nothing despite repeated pollution episodes. The two directors of the site have since been released.
Roman Schneider, the Minister of Social Security confirmed yesterday that CNS repayments could be delayed by up to 8 weeks. Seasonal peaks as well as staff shortages are to blame, according to the minister, who added that additional temporary staff were now being hired to swiften the process.
Local News for 6th January 2020
First a corona Virus Update for Luxembourg:
Yesterday there were 163 new cases of coronavirus from 9,318 tests. Six further deaths from COVID-19 reported, bringing the total death toll in the Grand Duchy to 514. The positivity rate was 1.75%. The R rate is 1.01.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert announced a relaxation of some Covid-19 measure, but an extension of others. The Prime Minister stated that while Luxembourg’s infection numbers were “going in the right direction, numbers remain high. Last week, there was an average of 167 new cases per day and the positivity rate stood at 3.06%. Consequently, some measures have been extended until the end of the month: a household can still meet a maximum of two people from one other household; but restaurants, cafes and bars will remain closed until 31 January. On the other hand, schools and nurseries will reopen next week on Monday the 11th , as will shops, hairdressers, cinemas and theatres. However, shops may only allow a maximum of one customer per 10 square metres, regardless of the size of the establishment. Some sports will also be allowed to resume and the evening curfew will be pushed back to 11pm. Health Minister Lenert emphasised that both the physical and mental health of citizens was a major concern of the government, and changes had been made with this in mind. She added that January will be a “critical” month.
The Prime Minister answered questions about the vaccination roll out, stating that purchasing had been done with the EU, and he was not aware of other countries having different procurement procedures.
Luxembourg’s Parliament is set to vote on the legal text this week.
According to an internal document of the Ministry of Health, the government’s relaxation of covid restrictions may go against the advice of experts. The document assessed the last two weeks in December as marked by a significant decline in daily new infections, but also by a substantial decrease in testing. The incidence of infections remains too high – and it calls for a target of fewer than 150 new infections per day. The document expresses concern regarding the situation in hospitals, where staff shortages remain substantial. According to the document, the number of deaths due to Covid-19 risks remaining high for the foreseeable future. Luxembourg’s mortality rate is high on an international scale. In regard to the new Covid-19 strain first discovered in the UK, the document states that while it spreads more quickly, it is not more pathogenic, but there is a risk that this could lead to increased infections and hospitalisations. The report concluded that the measures against Covid-19 should not be relaxed as yet.
In an interview with local media, Professor Gilbert Massard said that Luxembourg could introduce a master of medicine as early as 2023. Luxembourg has offered the first-year bachelor of medicine since the 1960s, however a full bachelor’s degree was only recently added to the University of Luxembourg’s programme. Professor Massard, who helped launch the bachelor of medicine at the University of Luxembourg, stated that it would be possible to set up the programme within the next three years; in time to serve the first students graduating from the bachelor’s degree. The pandemic has highlighted a weakness in the country’s healthcare system, with an over reliance on staff from abroad. A survey conducted by Luxembourg’s association for medical students found that 30% of the country’s young doctors did not plan to return to Luxembourg after graduation. Besides organising bachelor’s and master’s courses in medicine, Professor Massard said, Luxembourg needs to show that there are good job opportunities here.
This year’s Vakanz travel fair has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic; The annual fair normally takes place across three days in late January at Luxexpo. Typically the Vakanz travel fair has brought together more than 200 stands and around 30,000 visitors annually in recent years. Every year, travel agencies, tour operators, family hotels and hotel chains, cruise lines and airlines are on hand to present current trends, classic holidays and unusual destinations….but all that will have to wait.
Local News Tuesday 5th January
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 66 new resident cases derived from 617 tests. There have been 2 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 508. 124 individuals are in hospital, with 34 in intensive care. The effective reproductive number is 0.93.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert will give an update of the COVID-19 situation and related restrictions this afternoon at 2pm. They are expected to address the prospect of extending current measures, which are due to expire next week.
Local non-profit organisation “Catch A Smile” has launched an appeal for donations of men’s winter clothing (in sizes small to large) for refugees in Bosnia. The organisation is looking for items such as winter coats, jumpers, boots, socks and thermal underwear, as well as backpacks, sleeping bags and blankets. Those wishing to help out should drop off their donations at Hall Fondoucq in Dudelange on Saturday 9th January, between 10am and 3pm.
The City of Luxembourg confirmed that it will pick up residents’ unwanted Christmas trees this month. Residents of the capital should place their Christmas tree on the pavement outside their residence before 6am on their usual rubbish collection day. Trees taller than 2 metres must be cut in half. Spray-painted or decorated trees will be disposed of with other rubbish, whilst “clean” trees will be collected separately and composted. Trees can also be dropped off at the recycling centre on Route d’Arlon.
Former princess Tessy Antony de Nassau, the ex-wife of Luxembourg’s Prince Louis, announced on social media her engagement to Swiss businessman Frank Floessel. Tessy and Prince Louis, who have two children together, officially divorced last year.
Local News Monday 4th January 2021
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Over the weekend, the Ministry of Health reported 102 new resident cases derived from 4,266 tests. There have been 5 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 506. 125 individuals are in hospital, with 30 in intensive care.
The Health Ministry also confirmed the detection in Luxembourg of a first case of the mutated coronavirus strain, variant B.1.1.7, which originated in the United Kingdom at the end of 2020. This concerns a test carried out between 19th and 29th December and the health inspectorate is currently investigating the origin of this case.
A new rapid test centre opened at Luxembourg Airport at the weekend. Travellers arriving at the airport can now choose to undergo either a rapid antigen test or a PCR test. Passengers will receive a voucher to get tested, with results for the antigen test being sent out via SMS within three hours.
Luxembourg Police carried out over 30 checks nationwide on New Year’s Eve aimed at ensuring compliance with the 9pm to 6am curfew and other COVID-19 restrictions. The checks were mostly in response to complaints of night-time disturbances or fireworks being let off. Officers also had to intervene at a hotel in Niederanven, where they found and confiscated drugs and a brass knuckle-duster from five individuals.
Police officers also intervened and issued fines in western Luxembourg on Saturday afternoon, in response to reports of many cars being parked on the road. The incident occurred in Grevels, where crowds had gathered to enjoy the snow.
It’s back to school for students in Luxembourg, although all classes are being held remotely this week due to the pandemic. Nurseries and daycare centres also remain closed until 10th January, with working parents permitted to take family leave during this period.
Local News Thursday 24th December
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 400 new resident cases derived from 15,372 tests. There have been 5 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 458. 192 individuals are in hospital, with 40 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.86.
COVID-19 cases were down 22% last week compared to the week before. The number of people in isolation and quarantine also dropped over one week, by 8% and 18% respectively. The number of weekly deaths fell from 44 to 38. The source of infection was not clearly attributable in almost 32% of cases, although the family circle remained the most frequent source of transmission, at over 40%.
640 cases were identified in schools last week, although there were no scenario 4 cases. Scenario 4 refers to a chain of infection within a school, concerning several classes or a class with more than five cases.
Great news for some this Christmas Eve as flights between the United Kingdom and Luxembourg resume today. The government had previously announced the suspension of flights between the two countries until 4th January. Passengers are now able to travel again provided they can show a negative coronavirus test result no older than 48 hours. If the test was carried out between 48-72 hours in advance, they can still fly but must get tested again at Luxembourg Airport and then self-isolate until they receive the result.
Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn inaugurated the new first reception centre for applicants for international protection in Luxembourg City. The centre has a maximum capacity of 251 people and is intended as a reception structure where applicants stay during their first weeks in Luxembourg. It will replace the current centre in Strassen and will welcome its first occupants in January. The premises also house the offices of the National Reception Office, the Health Inspectorate, the Directorate of Immigration and the Luxembourg Red Cross, as well as a medical area.
Local News Wednesday 23rd December
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 227 new resident cases derived from 10,503 tests. There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 453. 193 individuals are in hospital, with 39 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.88.
POST Luxembourg temporarily suspended its deliveries to the United Kingdom. The move follows the decision of the Luxembourg government to suspend flights between Luxembourg and the UK until 4th January and disruptions related to road and rail connections due to the detection of a new variant of COVID-19 in Great Britain.
Education Minister Claude Meisch confirmed at a press conference that schools will revert to remote learning for at least one week after the Christmas holidays. Attendance is mandatory. Final year exams in January have been pushed back a week for secondary school students. Childcare facilities will close from 28th December until 10th January, with the exception of the children of healthcare workers. From 11th January, school students and staff will be invited to get tested for coronavirus and classrooms will be equipped with CO2 measuring devices for ventilation purposes. The government is also considering whether to prioritise teachers after healthcare workers and vulnerable people for vaccination.
Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn urged the Turkish authorities to immediately release human rights activist Osman Kavala. Mr Kavala was arrested in Istanbul in 2017 on suspicion of an attempt to overthrow the Turkish government. Last December, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that his detention took place in the absence of sufficient evidence, in violation of his rights. Minister Asselborn regretted that he had still not been released, calling on Turkey to comply with their contractual obligations as a member of the Council of Europe.
The government has extended filing deadlines for tax returns in the context of the health crisis and related restrictions. The deadline for filing personal and corporate income tax returns as well as commercial tax returns for 2020 is now the end of June 2021 (instead of 31st March). The deadline for declarations for personal income and business tax for 2019 has been extended until 31st March 2021.
Local News Tuesday 22nd December
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 91 new resident cases derived from 1,018 tests. There have been 6 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 450. 207 individuals are in hospital, with 38 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.87.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel announced stricter COVID-19 measures at a press briefing. Whilst the number of new infections are decreasing, the government considered new restrictions necessary to reduce pressure on hospitals and optimise contact tracing. From this Saturday until 10th January 2021, teleworking is to be strongly encouraged and non-essential retail and services, including hairdressers, will be closed to the public. Pick up and delivery services remain authorised. In addition, the curfew will start two hours earlier, from 9pm until 6am. Alcohol may not be consumed outdoors. All sporting activity outside the private sphere will be prohibited and schools will follow distance learning for at least a week after the Christmas holidays. Fines for non-compliance with the measures in place will be doubled to €300. Bars and restaurants will remain closed until 15th January, as planned.
The Prime Minister also confirmed that the first coronavirus vaccinations will commence on 28th December following the EU’s approval of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine. Medical staff will be the first to get vaccinated.
Mobility Minister François Bausch confirmed that flights between the United Kingdom and Luxembourg have been cancelled until 4th January due to the detection of a new, more infectious variant of coronavirus. The British Embassy has asked anyone in the UK trying to return to Luxembourg at present to contact them as soon as possible via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. An announcement on travel between the UK and EU member states is expected today.
ADEM and STATEC reported that the number of resident jobseekers remained stable in November, up just 1% over one month. This corresponds to an increase of 188 individuals compared to October. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, calculated by STATEC, remained unchanged, at 6.3%.
A 38-year-old man passed away following a work accident at the Goodyear factory in Colmar-Berg yesterday. The forklift driver had an accident while manoeuvering his work machine and suffered fatal injuries.
In the context of the pandemic, the fee waiver for businesses present on the Letzshop.lu online sales platform has been extended to cover 2021. In addition, delivery costs will be capped at €2.99 for any standard national shipment. The move is aimed at promoting e-commerce and supporting local businesses.
Local News Monday 21st December
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Over the weekend, the Ministry of Health reported 763 new resident cases derived from 26,350 tests. There have been 10 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 444. 214 individuals are in hospital, with 38 in intensive care. As of Friday, the effective reproduction rate was 0.80. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel is no longer self-isolating after testing negative for COVID-19.
Luxembourg is one of several countries to have temporarily banned passenger flights from the United Kingdom in light of the detection of a new, more contagious variant of coronavirus. Since midnight, flights from the UK to Luxembourg have been banned for at least 24 hours, as a precautionary measure and pending new scientific knowledge.
The Government Council is set to meet today to assess the current COVID-19 situation. A decision is expected to be made on whether or not a hard lockdown will be introduced in Luxembourg. Last week, Health Minister Paulette Lenert warned that a full lockdown was increasingly likely. It is believed that stricter measures would see the reclosure of non-essential retail.
Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna confirmed that government expenditure increased by over 12% (i.e. €2 billion) in November compared to the year before. This increase is mainly the result of the government measures put in place to help businesses and to support employment during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, revenues fell by almost 6% (i.e. €1 billion) over one year, primarily due to an overall weakening of the economy in the context of the health crisis.
Local News Friday 18th December
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 434 new resident cases derived from 12,787 tests. There have been 7 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 428. 230 individuals are in hospital, with 47 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.89.
According to local media reports, a local resident in their 30s passed away from the disease recently – the youngest victim to date in Luxembourg. Health Director Jean-Claude Schmit told L’Essentiel that the victim had suffered from an underlying medical condition.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has gone into self-isolation after being in contact with French President Emmanuel Macron, who tested positive for COVID-19. The Luxembourg and French leaders attended the same 2-day European Council summit last week. Whilst Mr Bettel is not currently showing symptoms, he will get tested and remain in self-isolation until the results come back. He will continue to exercise his tasks and functions via teleworking.
Luxembourg and Switzerland are set to return illicitly acquired assets to Peru. The three countries signed an agreement for the return of assets seized and confiscated in connection with a corruption case involving a former senior Peruvian official. Luxembourg is returning a sum of nearly €10 million to Peru, on the condition that these funds benefit the Peruvian people.
The Luxembourg Police are looking for witnesses to a serious road accident which occurred near Niederfeulen on the N15 on Wednesday. The driver of a car with 4 occupants lost control of the vehicle whilst overtaking and collided head-on with a tractor. The accident resulted in the death of a 15-year-old girl. Anyone with information should contact the police via the emergency no. 113, tel. 244 85 1000 or email email@example.com.
Parliament approved the 2021 draft budget with the votes of the government majority parties. The opposition parties voted unanimously against it.
Local News Thursday 17th December
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 595 new resident cases derived from 13,900 tests. There have been 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 421. 235 individuals are in hospital, with 48 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.96.
Despite rising public debt and a greater budget deficit than initially planned, Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna expressed optimism for 2021. He noted the strong economic rebound observed in the 3rd quarter of 2020, adding that the prospect of approval of a coronavirus vaccine in the EU also gave cause for hope. As for next year’s budget, new measures amounting to €191 million will result in a deficit of €2.7 billion instead of €2.5 billion, as previously estimated. Luxembourg’s public debt is expected to increase by 7.4% between 2019 and 2021 – the lowest in the EU.
The Chamber of Commerce was less optimistic at its annual economic conference, recalling that the pandemic had not hit all sectors equally. It warned that the second wave had put an end to hopes of a quick economic recovery and urged for business aid measures to be maintained and even extended to ensure the survival of companies into next year and beyond. The chamber also called for a counter-cyclical budgetary policy based on high public investments and a pro-business and stimulating environment.
Luxembourg Air Rescue and its German counterpart, DRF-Luftrettung, received the 2020 De Gaulle-Adenauer award for their assistance in transporting and repatriating COVID-19 patients. The €10,000 prize rewards individuals or institutions that have made an exceptional contribution to the strengthening of the Franco-German relationship.
Fondation Cancer is launching the “Sober Buddy Challenge”, the Luxembourg equivalent to “Dry January”, next month. The public is invited to team up with a buddy and together abstain from drinking alcohol for one month. The challenge will run from 1st to 31st January, with registrations kicking off this month on sober-buddy.lu. The challenge can also be completed alone or with an assigned buddy through the website.
Local News Tuesday 15th December
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported 182 new resident cases derived from 1,313 tests. There have been 8 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 410. 189 individuals are in hospital, with 50 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.87.
Germany may have tightened restrictions due to a rise of coronavirus infections. But Luxembourgish authorities do not intend to do the same. Changes to the recently extended measures are not on the agenda. Although infection rates in the Grand Duchy remain high, the authorities consider that there has been improvement recently.
Luxembourg has extended its teleworking agreement with France, Germany and Belgium to June the 30th, 2021. The countries will thus maintain their exceptional tax agreement for cross-border workers. They will be able to pay tax as before and maintain social security in Luxembourg.
STATEC published its estimate of Luxembourg’s real Gross Domestic Product for the third quarter of this year. During this period the real GDP has increased by 9.8% compared to the second quarter. Which suffered largely due to the lockdown measures. Over one quarter, the added value of financial and insurance activities increased by 4.4%. The following sectors: trade, transport & accommodation, and catering rose 19.6%; While construction fell 3.3%
Yesterday the Luxembourg Stock Exchange and the International Finance Corporation marked the 10th anniversary of the Green Bond Program. During their partnership the IFC has issued in excess of $10.4 billion of Green Bonds, many of which are listed at LuxSE. The Green Bonds Program has been focused on providing financing for green projects in a number of developing countries. As well as contributing to the growth of sustainable finance.
A Luxembourg co-production was awarded best European documentary at the weekend. Alexander Nanau’s hard-hitting “Collective was praised by judges of the 2020 European Film Awards. The multi award-winning film follows a team of investigators at the Romanian newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor as they try to uncover a health-care fraud. The film was made with the support of Film Fund Luxembourg.
Local News Monday 14th December
Over the weekend the Ministry of Health reported 963 new resident cases derived from 22.056 tests. There have been 10 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 402. 179 individuals are in hospital, with 46 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 1.03.
According to recent statistics one third of new infections are due to spread of the virus within families.
The Covid Task Force released its latest evaluation of the handling of the pandemic in Luxembourg. It suggests that the partial lockdown hasn’t given the expected results. Infection numbers have stabilised but remain elevated altogether. Last week, Luxembourg 544 cases per day on average. The Task Force has described the current situation as volatile. The evaluation concludes with saying that additional measures need to be implemented.
This year the European Commission estimated Luxembourg’s pay gap between men and women at 1.4%, this is an improvement on the 2018 report and is now the lowest in the EU. However, issues regarding the disparities between the two genders at the workplace persist. Many positions traditionally filled by women, such as retail and cleaning, are less well paid. Low-paid jobs were also overrepresented on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly 20% of women work minimum wage jobs, while that number for men is 13.5%. Also 30% of women work part time jobs compared to just 5% for men. Luxembourg’s first women’s strike took place this year and one of its main demands was recognition of unpaid care work.An activity on which women spend twice as much time as men. The second edition of the Women’s Strike is scheduled for the 8th of March 2021.
This weekend, it was announced that in some municipalities in the Eastern region of Luxembourg tap water could be contaminated. The municipalities include: Betzdorf, Biwer, Flaxweiler, Grevenmacher, Manternach, Mertert, Rosport-Mompach and Wormeldange. Inhabitants are advised to not drink tap water and to not wash salads, vegetables or fruit. The authorities are currently working on finding a solution.
The extension of the tram in Luxembourg city was made official on Sunday. The tram now connects Kirchberg to the city centre and the train station. Travel time from LuxExpo in Kirchberg to the central train station is about 21 minutes. Trams will circulate approximately every 5 minutes during peak hours. Work has already started to extend the line to Howald and to the Cloche d’Or Business center. The final version of the project will see the tram reach Findel airport.
Local News Friday 11th of December
Starting with a corona virus update: The latest figures from the Ministry of Health show that 480 new cases of the virus were discovered on Wednesday from 8,336 tests. 9 new deaths were reported which brings the national death toll to 384. Due to a bug in the system which has since been fixed, daily figures or a little behind.
A construction worker fell five meters from a ladder on Thursday morning and was seriously injured. The accident occurred at a construction site in rue Mme Mayrisch de St Hubert in Dudelange.
The minimum wage will increase by 2.8% in Luxembourg from 1 January, following a unanimous vote in parliament. the new gross monthly salary for unskilled workers will be just over €2,200, and a little under €2,650 for employees with qualifications. Minister of Family and Integration Corinne Cahen said that the measures would help “the poorest and weakest” who “are also the most vulnerable in a crisis”, however business groups were less enthusiastic, The estimated total additional annual bill for all companies in Luxembourg as a result of the jump is around €54 million, when extra social security contributions are taken into account.
The “Inspection générale de la police” (IGP) is currently investigating how effective video surveillance is in Luxembourg City and are conducting a survey among residents of the neighborhoods and districts around the train station. The questions are in the seven languages most widely spoken in the affected districts: Luxembourgish, German, French, English, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian. Residents in the area, an estimated 16,057 households, have until December 18th to complete the survey.
And finally the parliamentary petitions commission met this week to review seven new applications. One of which was accepted. The motion to have the day of the miners, the “Bäerbelendag” designated as a National Day of Remembrance passed the 4500 signature threshold and will now be discussed in Parliament.
LOCAL NEWS THURSDAY 10th DECEMBER
First a slightly different coronavirus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health confirmed that a technical issue had resulted in inconsistencies in the official COVID-19 statistics for Tuesday. The daily report in question has been taken down and no report for either Tuesday or Wednesday will be published until the issue is resolved. As such, we do not know how many people tested positive or died from the virus over the last two days.
In a joint press conference with the Health Minister, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said that the number of new infections and hospitalisations remains too high. As such, restrictions will not be eased over Christmas. Instead, the COVID-19 restrictions currently in force and originally set to expire next week have been extended until 15th January 2021. This includes the closure of bars and restaurants, household restrictions (i.e. max. two guests from one household), limitations on sports and fitness and the curfew between 11pm and 6am. On top of this, the consumption of takeaway food and drinks in shopping centres will no longer be permitted.
According to STATEC, the annual inflation rate dropped from 0.7% to 0.4% between October and November. This was mainly due to price drops for package holidays, which were down 8.7%, and petroleum products, which were down 1.2% over one month. Food prices went up 0.2%, with jam and honey, pizza and quiche, dairy products and fresh vegetables experiencing price increases.
Three individuals were seriously injured in a work accident in Differdange yesterday. During assembly work in a hall, a beam carried by a crane came loose and a wall collapsed, causing two workers to fall and suffer serious injuries. A third worker was seriously injured by the collapsing wall. The victims received first aid on site before being taken to hospital.
MPs passed Luxembourg’s climate law by 54 votes to 4. Despite criticism that the bill does not go far enough, two of the opposition parties, CSV and the Pirate Party, voted for the bill, whilst the Left abstained and ADR voted against it. The bill has been designed according to the Paris Climate Agreement. It regulates the legalities of the national climate and energy plan and establishes a new climate fund.
LOCAL NEWS MONDAY 7th DECEMBER
First a coronavirus update for Luxembourg: Over the weekend, the Ministry of Health reported 1198 new resident cases derived from 23,016 tests. There have been 8 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 353. 190 individuals are in hospital, with 40 in intensive care. The effective reproduction rate is 0.91.
Luxembourg Minister of Internal Security, Henri Kox, is in quarantine after being in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. He is reportedly not presenting any symptoms.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel stated on Friday that he expects a covid vaccine to be available in Luxembourg in a matter of weeks. They will be provided free of charge and will not be obligatory. The first ones to receive the vaccination will be healthcare staff followed by care home residents and other vulnerable people. Later on, residents will receive invitations by post to register online, similarly to the large-scale PCR testing. Health Minister Paulette Lenert said the vaccine will complement other measures rather than replace them. It is understood that both residents and cross-border workers will be eligible for the vaccine. At the moment it is not certain which vaccine will be used. The Prime Minister stressed that the vaccine would be free of charge and voluntary.
The municipal syndicate FGFC-ASAM issued a press release addressing the controversial hiring of a private security firm to increase security in the capital. The association welcomed the position of Minister of Internal Security Henri Kox. He suggested that the money could be invested in advanced training for traffic wardens instead of hiring an external party. The wardens would take over the task of patrolling the central train station neighborhood. Henri Kox said he will discuss this alternative with Minister of the Interior Taina Bofferding.
The food safety authorities in Luxembourg have issued a statement regarding sesame seeds. This comes after numerous recalls of products containing sesame seeds. They have reportedly been contaminated with ethylene oxide which can cause health complications if consumed regularly. A list of products which have been affected has been posted on the website https://securite-alimentaire.public.lu/. The authorities urge consumers to consult the list which is updated regularly.
A special Drive In Kleeschen event has been set up for kids in Luxembourg. The municipalities of Lamadelaine, Rodange and Pétange organised this as a stand in for the traditional Christmas event. Meanwhile, Luxembourg City alderman Serge Wilmes, posted a picture of a special letterbox, for sending mail to Saint Nicolas. And POST have issued a special address for St Nicolas/Kleeschen where kids can send their letters and if you put your address on the back, St Nicolas will send them a personalized answer back!
The address is
Kleeschen (or St Nicolas)
L-3290 Am Himmelsland
no stamp is needed!
LOCAL NEWS FRIDAY 4th DECEMBER
First a Corona Virus update for Luxembourg: The Ministry of Health reported 625 new resident cases derived from 11,237 tests. There have been 5 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 339. 201 individuals are in hospital, with 41 in intensive care.The effective reproduction rate has slightly increased to 1.05.
Luxembourg, along with France has, indicated that it wants the European Union to gain more independence from the United States by pooling national armies. US President Donald Trump’s attitude toward international cooperation caused concern in Europe, exposing weaknesses in alliances. Speaking in parliament, Defence Minister François Bausch said in a debate about European autonomy said “An EU army is a slogan,” but what really matters is “more cooperation between EU national armies”.
It was a dramatic scene yesterday morning as a police tactical response operation closed off Cote d’Eich and the Grand Rue. Armed men were present and the Grand Ducal police confirmed that a Special Ops unit was operating in the City. However, it was later revealed that this is normal procedure when large sums of money are being physically transferred. The armed police are present to deter any would be bank robbers.
Over 100 firefighters were called to a major blaze at a metalworks in Medernach in the early hours of Thursday morning. The high number from 14 different stations was because of the known presence of explosive gas canisters at the site, coupled with a poor water supply. The fire crews were able control the blaze and prevent it from spreading to neighbouring premises.
An extensive study into racism in the Duchy has been announced by the Minister for Family Affairs and Integration, Corinne Cahen. The issue was raised in Parliament by the Pirate and CSV parties after the Black Lives Matter protests gathered 1500 people on the streets in July. Although the study has been welcomed, an MP for the Pirate Party criticised the fact that the results will be published in 12 months “We simply cannot wait an entire year to take action”, said Marc Goergen.
Luxembourg’s economy took a battering in 2020, but maybe not as much as anticipated. Statec yesterday announced that it expected the economy to shrink between 5 and 6%, which is a considerable improvement on the 6-12% forecast earlier in the year. Additionally, it was optimistic about the prospect of new jobs being created next year, especially in the public sector. It also predicted th Mat inflation will probably remain below the required rate to automatically trigger an increase in wage and pension payments.