The Covid law was passed by the government with a small majority on Monday morning. The law will enter into force at midnight on Tuesday and remain in place until 18 December.
"It's about striking the right balance and pursuing the justified demand for freedom", said rapporteur Mars Di Bartolomeo in the Chamber on Monday morning. According to the LSAP politician, vaccinations should not split societies but offer more freedom. It were also about showing respect towards health workers, who worked around the clock these last 18 months, and preventing another wave with hospitalisations, said Di Bartolomeo.
The text of the bill seeks to apply the CovidCheck to general use. It will no longer just cover hospitals and care facilities, but will also cover the whole hospitality sector. Self-administered rapid tests will be dropped from 1 November in favour of PCR or certified rapid tests.
In addition, the new law will allow the CovidCheck to be introduced within the workplace, meaning employees could be made to prove their vaccine or recovery status, or provide a negative test result in order to work. However, this decision has drawn criticism from the major trade unions in Luxembourg, both for the government's approach as well as concerns over data protection.
Criticism from trade unions and opposition
The Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (LCGB), the Independent Luxembourg Trade Union Confederation (OGBL) and the General Confederation of the Civil Service (CGFP) said the bill could lead to abuse of power and negative consequences for employees and civil servants. They added it would potentially create a toxic workplace atmosphere if used incorrectly.
The unions have collaborated to issue the government with an ultimatum, requesting the text be amended and demanding MPs vote against it if it is not changed. If the government does not show willing to compromise by the end of the month, the unions say they will take strike action and plan to initiate legal recourse.
While the CSV voted for the previous three Covid laws, the main opposition party has no stated a clear "no". This were not because the CSV is against CovidCheck at the workplace, but because the text were unclear. Party leader Claude Wiseler also raised legal questions on what an employer can do, and what not. And what would happen to employees who refuse to get tested or show their certificate, he asked in the debate.
Nathalie Oberweis from The Left and Sven Clement of the Pirate Party even described it as blackmailing, as most non-vaccinated must pay for tests out of their own pockets. That would lead to social inequality.
Health Minister Paulette Lenert underlined that more people have to get vaccinated, but this will never be made mandatory, and the government will also not implement a "2G" regime (access only by vaccination or recovery).
Gilles Baum of the DP applauded the recent vaccination campaign, saying that those that have not yet been vaccinated are not necessarily against vaccinations, but just need to be further informed. The Democratic Party would respect the choice of everyone, but the rights of those who from the beginning adhered to the regulations and hygiene rules should also be rewarded and respected with freedoms.
The new law would not be a vaccination obligation, but a motivation. The aim would be to reach a goal of 80% vaccination in Luxembourg by mid-December, according to the DP.
Problematic visitor and demonstration outside
A visitor in the stand made certain gestures following Baum's speech that required the individual to be escorted out. The speaker was shocked and Chamber President Fernand Etgen reminded visitors of the rules within Parliament.
During Monday morning's session, a number of people had gathered in front of the Chamber of Deputies to protest against the new Covid law. Some entered the building via the security checkpoint to listen to the debate.
The Chamber was reinforced with security personnel, ensuring that scenarios such as those in the Bundestag in Berlin or in the Capitol in Washington, where protestors gained access, could be prevented in a worst case scenario.
Despite RTL asking protestors what they were protesting against, nobody wanted to say speak to journalists.