Luxembourg is implementing a variety of new measures in an attempt to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert presented the set of drastic measures at a press conference after the exceptional state council meeting. In their words, "coronavirus has definitely arrived in Luxembourg."
26 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Luxembourg as of Thursday evening. More than 90 people are quarantined. A 94-year-old is in critical condition, according to Minister of Health Paulette Lenert. Luxembourg is ramping up testing.
New measures at a glance
All schools will shut down on Monday and remain closed until 27 March. It possible that this time period will be extended depending on future developments. Creches, nursery schools, and the University of Luxembourg will also be closed. The shutting down of schools is a precautionary measure and not synonymous with mass quarantine of pupils and teachers. Minister of Education Claude Meisch will present the details on Friday morning. Teachers will still be in contact with their pupils to assign homework via email. Parents will be able to benefit from additional leave to look after their young ones.
Lenert stressed that children and adolescents are not necessarily at risk themselves. They can, however, easily contract the virus without displaying severe symptoms and proceed to infect the elderly or other vulnerable members of society.
The government also decided to ban all visits to care homes and hospitals until 27 March at the earliest. Xavier Bettel underlined that it could be "fatal" for grandparents to look after grandchildren. The risk of infection is too high.
People aged 65 and over, individuals suffering from autoimmune diseases, and other vulnerable citizens are encouraged to stay at home and avoid large gatherings of people. Trips to the supermarket should take place outside of peak hours.
All events taking place inside and attracting more than 100 people are cancelled - this follows a similar measure being implemented in the Netherlands earlier today. Outside group events larger than 500 people are also banned. Cinemas or swimming pools will for example not be allowed to let more than 100 people inside a confined room. Supermarkets are not affected by the ban.
Public transport will continue to be operational. There will be more buses at peak hours to reduce the risk of large crowds in confined spaces. Passengers will have to enter the bus from the back door in order to protect bus drivers.
Only people displaying alarming symptoms or complications will be tested for the virus to prevent supply shortages. Lenert explained that it is not unlikely that 70% of the population will contract the virus.
The state coronavirus hotline is struggling to keep up with the high number of daily callers. Lenert urged the public to consult the government's website and determine the level of urgency before calling.
It is not an option to close the borders as this would trigger collapse. Bettel explained that Luxembourg heavily relies on the daily commuters. Around 70% of medical staff are non-residents.
Each individual is required to take responsibility and play his or her role in fighting against the virus. Regular hand washing and avoiding close physical contact with other people are key.
The government is working on facilitating teleworking of cross-border workers. Discussions with Luxembourg's neighbouring countries are ongoing.