1.2 Physical distancing
Deconfinement strategy in phases
On April 15, the Government Council fixed the guidelines for an exit strategy which foresees the resumption of activities in successive phases that are well thought out in terms of impact. The stepwise exit strategy is based on close monitoring of the evolution of the number of newly infected people in the population and an estimate of available hospital capacity in the short and medium term.
The deconfinement strategy consists of:
• protecting in particular vulnerable groups;
• implementing a gradual exit from confinement in phases sufficiently separated from each other;
• ensuring, at all times, sufficient hospital capacities in normal and intensive care to be able to handle serious cases in health care institutions;
• making the population aware of its responsibilities and to reduce as far as possible the risk of uncontrolled spread by maintaining, or even strengthening, the barrier measures to be observed in any place where people congregate;
• implementing preventive measures at work;
• ensuring the isolation and close follow-up of new cases of infection;
• developing testing capacities and support research in particular with regard to serological tests to measure the acquired immunity of the population.
The resumption of activities will be accompanied by very strict barrier gestures and complemented by the mandatory wearing of a mask or any other device that covers the nose and mouth for interpersonal contact situations if the safety distance of 2 metres cannot be guaranteed.
The exit strategy consists of three different phases:
Phase 1 covers the following activities to be resumed (20 April 2020)
• Reopening of construction sites;
• Educational aid and assistance activities (Services in child and family aid, Competence centres in special psycho-pedagogical care and measures to benefit children who are on the verge of dropping out of school);
• Activities of gardeners and landscapers;
• Businesses whose main activity is do-it-yourself;
• Reopening of recycling centres.
This list will be completed on 4 May by the resumption of senior classes, as well as internships and practical work at BTS and university level (see also Section 6.1 Transition measures).
In Phase 2 starting on May 11 May, secondary education will be resumed. The following activities will also be authorized:
• Visits of a private nature organized at home. Six people max., in addition to the people living in the same household
• Outdoor gatherings in a public place for a maximum number of twenty people
• Re-opening of shops including hairdressers and beauticians (with exceptions)
• Outdoor sports activities of noncompetitive nature without physical contact. Public swimming pools remain closed
•Re-opening of the National Archives, public libraries, museums and exhibition center. Cinemas remain closed.
Phase 3 - resumption of fundamental education as well as the reopening of crèches and childcare facilities (25 May 2020) (see also Section 6.1 Transition meaures). This will be followed - in later phases - by the resumption of commercial activities and the reopening of the HORECA sector.
Companies, businesses and administrations are generally encouraged to continue to promote teleworking throughout the transition period out of confinement. Gatherings will remain prohibited until 31 July, except for funerals and civil weddings, which will be allowed for a maximum of 20 people and provided that an interpersonal distance of 2 metres is respected. The prohibitions laid down in Article 2 of the amended Grand Ducal Regulation of 18 March introducing a series of measures in the context of the fight against COVID-19 will be maintained.
The confinement measures currently in place for vulnerable persons and persons over 65 years of age will continue to be in force at least until the end of the first phase. The gradual lifting of the current restrictions also entails the need to develop, in consultation with the Ministry of Family Affairs, Integration and the Greater Region a strategy for the protection of vulnerable persons in care centres and persons over 65 years of age. Workers belonging to the vulnerable category may consult their doctor to determine whether the severity of the illness prevents them from going to work. This assessment must be done on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the recommendations of the Health Directorate and the working environment of the person concerned.
As of April 20, protective measures will be implemented in public transport, buses, trains and trams in Luxembourg. Driving personnel, as well as other employees working in public transport, must compulsorily wear a mask, either a medical mask or a hand-made mask made of cloth, bandana (buff) or scarf. Passengers must also compulsorily wear a mask, either a medical mask or a hand-made mask made of cloth, bandana (buff) or scarf.
Distribution of face masks
With the wearing of masks being obligatory as of April 20, each resident receives five disposable surgical masks supplied by the government. The Grand Ducal Fire and Rescue Corps is in charge of the delivery of the masks to the communal sector, while the distribution to the population will be carried out by the 102 municipalities. Municipalities are sending packs of five masks per person to households by post. Many municipalities also include letters in several languages explaining the use of the masks, but also warning that a mask alone is not protection against COVID-19 infections and that social distancing and hand washing, for example, should be maintained as good practice.
Luxembourg's 205,000 cross-border workers will also receive a letter containing a voucher that they can use to pick up 50 disposable surgical masks each. Between May 11 and 24 cross-border workers can pick up the face masks at twelve distribution sites set up by the army. In total 10 million face masks are available within the two weeks.
On May 5, the government announced that all persons aged 16 and above will receive a further 50 protective masks. Residents aged 16 years and over will receive a voucher from their commune with instructions on where to exchange it for the masks.
Opening of bars and restaurants
On May 25, the government announced that bars and restaurants will be allowed to reopen on May 29 if they follow a catalogue of safety measures. Terraces of restaurants will be allowed to reopen on May 27. The new rules it be will allowed that up to four people sit together, unless it's a larger family. There must be a distance of at least 1.5 meters between tables or plastic shields where they are closer together. Waiters will have to wear masks. Guests will not have to leave their contact details for tracing purposes. Fitness studios, swimming pools, cinemas, theatres and other businesses can also reopen. But indoor and outdoor playgrounds remain closed. Religious services can also resume and sports matches can host audiences. All reopening facilities will have to present a plan describing how they will maintain physical distancing.
Adoption of two COVID-19 laws
On June 22, the Parliament adopted two COVID-19 laws that define the legal framework, including for mandatory protective measures, to be applicable after the expiration of the state of emergency on June 24. The first law focuses on restricting mass gatherings, adopting protective measures like masks, and testing and isolating people who are infected:
• Wearing a mask is mandatory on public transport and for activities open to the public (shops, ticket offices, cultural activities, leisure activities, etc.)
• Mask exemptions apply to: children under 6 years of age, minors under 13 years of age for outdoor activities, people with disabilities who are in possession of a medical certificate justifying this exemption and who implement health measures to prevent the spread of the virus and, religious, cultural and sporting actors during the exercise of their activities.
• Distancing or wearing a mask is compulsory for gatherings of more than 20 people when events are held in a closed establishment or in an open place are authorised if assigned seating for the persons attending the event is provided and the distance of two metres between persons or the wearing of masks is respected.
The second law focuses on health restrictions related to economic, sports, cultural, and other activities open to the public:
• Restaurants, bars and cafés, dining rooms in accommodation establishments, consumer lounges, canteens and any other place where food is occasionally served are obliged to apply defined measures (customers shall be served only at seats; closing time must be at midnight at the latest, with no exceptions possible etc.)
• Fairs and exhibitions remain prohibited unless they are held outdoors.
• Discos must remain closed.
• Physical contact in the context of sports activities is forbidden except for “elite” sportsmen and women.
• The spa areas of an establishment may only be occupied by one person or by several people from the same household.
New surge of COVID-19 infections and adoption of new law regarding physical distancing
On 19 July 2020, in response to the upsurge in the number of people infected with the coronavirus that our country is facing, the Government Council adopted the draft law amending the law of 17 July 2020 introducing a series of measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last two weeks, the numbers of COVID-19 infections in Luxembourg increased. Although the situation is not comparable to the situation that the country faced in mid-March during the acute phase of the pandemic, it is still alarming. With the new law the Government aims to reduce the number of infected people in order not to lose control of the situation. The new law combines and replaces two previous bills from 25 June and is in effect until September 30, 2020.
The law foresees the following changes:
• limitation of the number of guests inside and outside a home to 10 people;
• adaptation of the number of people to 10, from which gatherings are subject to the conditions of seating and a minimum distance of two metres, otherwise the wearing of a mask is compulsory;
• customers can face fines for not wearing masks
• penalty of up to EUR 500 for failure to comply with isolation or quarantine measures;
• in the event of a repeat offence, failure to comply with preventive measures committed by bshopkeepers, craftsmen, managers or other persons responsible for HORECA activities shall be accompanied by the withdrawal of the establishment permit for a period of three months, fines up to EUR 8,000 and loss of state aid
• working from home is still recommended
On August 27, Luxembourg’s State Council approved an extension of the measures currently in place until the end of 2020. The original expiration date for these measures had been September 30, and the cabinet also decided that personal data collected in connection with the pandemic should be allowed to be kept for an additional three months and that data of air passengers arriving in Luxembourg can be forwarded immediately to the Ministry of Health to make contact tracing faster and more efficient. Further adjustments relate to the definition of mouth and nose protection and certain exemptions for people who are exempt from wearing a mask. Wearing of a mask in public places (such as on public transport or in shops) is still mandatory, but the new law also clarifies that a plastic face shield is not a nose and mouth covering.
In early March (09 March) the government released recommendations to call off large gatherings or public events with 1,000 people or more, as part of its efforts to stall the spread of the coronavirus. On March 12, the Government introduced several measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19. First, in dealing with serious cases and protecting vulnerable people the government recommends people aged over 65 and vulnerable people to go shopping outside of peak hours, if possible; delay non-necessary travels; avoid large events and gathering spaces, confined spaces, large crowds (at cinemas, concert halls, sports venues) and places where a security distance of at least 1 to 2 metres cannot be kept and avoid public transportation as much as possible. From March 13, all events in confined spaces with more than 100 people and events in non-confined spaces with more than 500 people have been prohibited.
On March 12, the Government also decided to suspend all activities in basic, secondary and higher education institutions. Since March 16, all schools, universities, training establishments and kindergartens are closed until April 19. The resumption of activities was initially planned for 30 March 2020, but on April 2, the Ministry of Education announced that this was extended until May 03. Businesses and public administrations are encouraged to continue activities as far as possible. However, the government recommends that home office should be promoted where possible and preferably among the vulnerable population. On March 19, the online sales platform corona.letzshop.lu was launched. It is dedicated to support vulnerable people who are not able to make their purchases themselves by taking advantage of the existing letzshop.lu infrastructure. The new platform offers a home delivery service for more than 40 basic necessities online or via telephone.
On March 15, the Government Council introduced further measures that entered into force on March 18. People aged over 65 and vulnerable people are strongly recommended to stay at home and only go out when strictly necessary. The general population was recommended to stay at home and isolate. Traffic on public roads is restricted to the following activities: purchase of food, pharmaceuticals and basic necessities, visit of health services, travel to the workplace of professional or commercial activity, assistance and care for the elderly, minors, dependent people, disabled people or particularly vulnerable people, travel to financial and insurance institutions in the event of an emergency, due to a case of force majeure or a situation of necessity. Short individual walks outside of the home are allowed provided that an interpersonal distance of 2 metres is respected. Gatherings are prohibited. Compliance with the rules will be monitored by the police. Failure to do so is punishable by fines and imprisonment.
Further, all commercial and artisanal activities which include direct contact to costumers remain closed. This measure does not apply to commercial premises selling mainly food products as well as chemist's shops, banks, pet shops, and all business that sell essential basic needs (pharmacies, opticians, stores selling mainly pet food, telecommunication shops, stores selling mainly hygiene and washing products and sanitary equipment, sale of fuel and petrol stations, distributors and specialized trade in medical-sanitary equipment, medical pedicure, kiosks, dry-cleaning and laundry services, financial and insurance institutions, funeral services, the sale of non-food products in drive-ins, the sale of non-food products between professionals).
Activities that are essential to maintain the vital interests of the population and the country must be maintained (e.g. production and distribution of energy and petroleum products; the food sector; water distribution; the collection and treatment of wastewater etc.). All non-essential activities are cancelled, such as activities of a cultural, social, festive, sporting and recreational nature and establishments in the cultural, recreational, sports and catering sectors remain closed. Hotels remain open. Hotel restaurants and bars, with the exception of room service, remain closed.
The Government will reduce the activities of public administrations and establishments to those tasks that are essential for its proper functioning and for crisis management.