Minister of Health Paulette Lenert, Minister of Higher Education and Research Claude Meisch, LIH director Ulf Nehrbrass and professor Paul Wilmes (representative from the Covid-19 Research Luxembourg task force) held a press briefing about Luxembourg's testing strategy earlier this Friday.
- Extensive testing was and remains a key weapon in the battle against coronavirus, Minister of Health Paulette Lenert stressed. Luxembourg has one of the highest rates of testing for the novel virus in the world: according to OECD statistics, only Iceland has tested a higher percentage of its population. Massive testing, Lenert added, allows the government to ease restrictions or, if need be, implement restrictions.
- There are two main types of tests. The first type is the so-called PCR test, which relies on nasopharyngeal swab samples. This kind of test is used to directly detect the presence of an antigen and consequently establishes whether or not an individual has contracted the virus. The second kind of tests are antibody tests (also known as serology tests). The antibody test does not check for the virus itself but analyses whether an individual's immune system has responded to the infection. In Luxembourg, this type of test is for instance being used in the context of the large-scale Convince study.
- PCR tests are being used extensively in at-risk sectors (such as care homes and hospitals). They also form part of "cluster prevalence testing," which is used to investigate the spreading of the virus in a specific sector. Pauletter Lenert cited the example of the construction sector, in which extensive testing was carried out when construction sites were reopened. Discussions to carry out cluster prevalence tests at Luxairport are ongoing, Lenert added.
- Luxembourg is set to roll out large-scale testing. 17 drive-through centres in different locations across the country will open on 25 May. Officials estimate that around 20,000 tests can be carried out on a daily basis, and the Ministry of Health will invite people to get tested. The tests are voluntary but Claude Meich stressed that a willingness to get tested forms part of collective solidarity and responsibility. It is not possible to get tested at one of the new testing stations without an official invitation (sent by post). Professor Nehrbass underlined that one of the goals of large-scale testing is to identify asymptomatic patients and get a clearer idea of virus spreading by sector. If one sector for instance records rising infection rates, the government will be able to implement new restrictions tailored for that specific sector.
- Residents and cross-border workers are split into different groups.
- Group A: Individuals who still have a lot of social interaction (police officers, hairdressers, nursing staff, etc). They will be able to get tested every two weeks.
- Group B: Employees who returned to their workplace. A random sample of employees will be tested to find out if infections are rising in a specific sector.
- Group C: the entire population. Random samples will be taken. The idea is to find out if some regions of the country are for example worse affected than others.
- In case a pupil tests positive, the normal contact tracing procedure will take place, Minister of Education Claude Meisch explained. It is unlikely that an entire class will be placed in quarantine.