6. Measures in other sectors
6.1 Measures in other sectors
Many MEASURES IN OTHER SECTORS beyond the immediate scope of the health system are being taken to prevent further spread of the virus. This section contains information on many of these areas, including border and travel restrictions and economic and fiscal measures, among others.
With potentially more infectious mutation variants of SARS-CoV-2 having been detected during December 2020 and January 2021 throughout Europe, people flying to Luxembourg who have spent minimum 72 hours outside of the country, will have to present a test result showing they are covid-free as of 29 January until the end of March15 May 2021. Passengers must present results from a PCR or rapid test that are no older than 72 hours. Non-EU citizens, meanwhile, will be obliged to take a rapid test upon arrival at the airport. Third-country nationals coming from a third country can no longer enter the territory of the Grand Duchy until 31 March 2021 inclusive, except for certain categories of exempted. In addition, any person travelling by air from a third country, i.e. a country that is not a member of the European Union or the Schengen area, will have to undergo an additional viral rapid antigen test on arrival at Luxembourg airport. If the person refuses to submit to a test, he or she will remain in quarantine for 14 days. This quarantine may be terminated at any time, as soon as a negative test result is obtained. From 1 April 2021, persons traveling by air from a third country will however no longer have to undergo an additional rapid antigen test upon arrival at Luxembourg airport.
The Ministry of Health directed GPs not to grant PCR tests for people looking to go abroad. If they want to travel, they should go to a private lab and pay for a PCR test themselves and reserve PCR tests for people within the country suspected to have COVID-19.
On 4 February 2021, the Minister of Education, Children and Youth, announced the suspension of on-site classes and activities in the educational and school sector from 8 February until 21 February, the end of the school holiday.
Luxembourg's employment minister announced on April 19, 2021, that the short-term working support schemes given to employees that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic will be extended throughout summer 2021.
On 16 April 2020, the Minister of Education, Children and Youth, explained the phased resumption of activities in schools and childcare facilities. Classes will first be reopened to high school students. From 4 May, students in the senior classes will resume courses, followed on 11 May by all other classes in secondary education and vocational training, as well as the Advanced Technician's Certificate (Brevet de technicien supérieur - BTS). Trainees will be able to return to their apprenticeship positions in companies in sectors that have been deconfined. From 25 May, the children will once again be able to attend elementary education and the childcare facilities and parental assistants will be able to resume their work. For the most vulnerable pupils, the skills centres, the psycho-socio-educational teams and the services of the National Office for Children will be able to continue their care from 20 April.
The government has opted for a return to the classroom on a rotating basis. Specifically, each class will be divided into two groups, both in elementary and secondary education and in vocational training. Each group will have a week of classes and learning at school or high school, followed by a week of revision at home or in a childcare facility. The teacher will hold the same course two weeks in a row.
On September 4, the Minister of Education outlined the government’s strategy for the school year beginning on September 15. Included in the strategy is more targeted testing, in which all students and teachers are invited to be tested, while also planning to incorporate more mobile testing sites (pop-up sites or in buses near schools). Schools will also map out routes to ensure the safe passage and circulation of students, while masks will be required in common areas (high schools can decide themselves whether masks will be required during courses). There will be a maximum of students per table during eat times, and masks should be kept on until eating (mirroring rules which apply at restaurants). Physical education will also continue, with students being required to wear masks when entering sports halls or swimming facilities, but they are permitted to remove the masks while exercising. Hand washing before and after sports lessons are mandatory.
On May 16, the Foreign Ministers of Luxembourg and Germany celebrated the reopening of the border between the two countries in a symbolic meeting on the Schengen Bridge. Checks at the border with Luxembourg which had been put in place at the outbreak of the pandemic end at midnight on May 15.
On July 15, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute has added Luxembourg to the risk list for countries as Luxembourg records the highest number of infections compared to size of the population in the EU. Countries are added to this list when infection levels reach 50 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days. Visitors from Luxembourg must quarantine for 14 days upon entry.
On July 22. the Luxembourg Foreign Ministry confirmed Switzerland has put Luxembourg on the list of countries with entry restrictions requiring visitors to comply with a ten-day quarantine. Negative COVID-19 testing will not allow visitors to avoid the quarantine rule. In addition, Luxembourgers traveling to the Saarland region must quarantine for 14 days and if one does not have a negative COVID-19 test that is less than two days old, they must quarantine when entering the Rhineland-Palatinate area.
Since July 17, Luxembourg’s government is providing citizens the option to get a “Corona” certificate, which can be printed and shown at a testing center for citizens to guarantee a clean bill of health when traveling to countries that require a negative COVID-19 test until August 2. Germany, for example, is one of the European nations to consider Luxembourg a risky area and requires a 14 days quarantine or a negative test result (no older than 48 hours) (see also Section 6.1). However, it remains unclear if this policy is also required from children entering Germany, although that may differ per German federal state.
Germany officially removed Luxembourg from its list of COVID-19 risk areas on August 19. The previous classification had impacted residents on both sides of the border, which included university students and medical patients not being able to access services. While individual German states worked with Luxembourg on pragmatic solutions, the official designation took time to lift for the approximately 200,000 cross-border commuters. Those commuting into Luxembourg also now have the opportunity to test there, as Luxembourg’s wide-scale program has made it the country with the highest test rate in the EU.
Borders and mobility
No border restrictions from Luxembourg have been implemented as Luxembourg’s health care system strongly relies on cross border workers. Germany has closed borders, but cross border workers are allowed to enter Luxembourg with an administrative certificate.
On March 19, the Government decided to regularise the stay for third country nationals, holding the short-term and long-term visas; temporary residence permits; residence card and residence permit and which would expire as from 1 March 2020. Similarly, third country nationals who are not subject to visa requirements and who have overstayed the 90 days can remain in Luxembourg legally for the duration of the state of crisis. The certificates concerning the registration of an application for international protection which have expired, are extended for the duration of the state of crisis.
The Government has decided to introduce several tax measures in favour of legal and natural persons. The main objective of these measures is to alleviate the financing and liquidity needs of corporations and self-employed persons strongly impacted by the current economic environment.
Key measures in the fiscal package adopted by Parliament include: (i) covering employees’ leave for family reasons (EUR 226 million, 0.4% of 2019 GDP) and sick leave (EUR 106 million, 0.2% of 2019 GDP) ; (ii) paying partial-unemployment benefits (EUR 1 billion, 1.6% of GDP); and (iii) providing non-repayable financial aid to micro enterprises eligible self-employed (EUR 250 million, 0.4% of 2019 GDP) ; (iv) granting capital advances to cover companies’ operating costs (EUR 400 million, 0.6% of 2019 GDP).
With regard to direct taxes, the modalities of the advance tax payments and payment deadlines will be adapted for corporations and self-employed persons. More specifically, legal persons and natural persons carrying out an activity generating trade and business income, agriculture and forestry income, or income from independent professional services, who are experiencing liquidity problems due to the Covid-19 pandemic, can apply for a cancellation of the two first quarterly advance tax payments of the year 2020 (due in March and June 2020). Covered by this measure are (corporate) income and municipal business taxes.
In addition, these same persons may request, for taxes due after 29 February 2020, a payment extension of four months. On this deferral, no interest on late payment will be due and it covers (corporate) income, municipal business, and net wealth taxes. About EUR 4.6 billion (corresponding to 7.2% of 2019 GDP) have been allocated for these liquidity support measures of postponing tax and social-security contribution payments. Further liquidity support measures include extending credit guarantees for new bank loans and special anti-crisis financing for SMEs and large companies (EUR 3.6 billion, 5.6% of 2019 GDP).
On March 19, the European Commission approved EUR 300 million scheme to support companies and liberal professions affected by the coronavirus outbreak in Luxembourg. The funding was approved under the ‘State aid Temporary Framework to support the economy in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak’.
On May 6, the government announced to strengthen the support mechanism for the self-employed affected by the financial consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new regulation is setting up a new, single flat-rate, non-repayable financial aid for the self-employed. The amount of the new aid varies depending on the income bracket of the person concerned, these amounts being set at EUR 3,000, EUR 3,500 and EUR 4,000. The aid is in addition to the certified emergency fund which was created on 8 April 2020 in favour of self-employed workers. It will also benefit insurance brokers and agents who were excluded from the scope of the first aid. In addition, the aid may be granted irrespective of the number of staff employed by the self-employed person. The condition of not receiving a professional income exceeding the threshold of 2.5 times the social minimum wage is maintained.
The Government has decided to set up a "force majeure / coronavirus" short-time working scheme with an accelerated procedure for all businesses that have had to completely or partially cease their activities. It applies in principle to businesses in all economic sectors where the causes invoked are directly linked to the coronavirus.
The short-time working scheme may apply to employees (under a permanent or fixed-term contract in force at the time of the event of force majeure) who are not covered by a certificate of incapacity for work and who can no longer be employed at all or can no longer be employed on a full-time basis when the company can no longer ensure the normal operation of its activity. Apprentices are also eligible with respect to the share of the salary to be borne by the employer. Temporary work agencies are also eligible with regard to their employees whose assignment contract is ongoing but who can no longer carry out their activity.
On March 19, the Joint Social Security Centre (CCSS) and the Minister for Social Security have taken a series of measures to support companies and the self-employed by offering them greater flexibility in their management of the payment of social security contributions without having to fear administrative sanctions. As of 1 April 2020, the CCSS is going to put the following temporary measures into place: (1) suspension of the calculation of default interest for late payments; (2) suspension of the initiation of proceedings for the forced collection of contributions; (3) suspension of the enforcement of constraints by bailiff; and (4) suspension of fines to be pronounced against employers who are late in making declarations to the CCSS.
Parents who have to look after their child(ren) under 13 years of age with no other childcare options available are able to benefit from leave for family reasons. The CCSS will pay an advance on the financial compensation for extraordinary leave for family reasons granted to the parents of children affected by the temporary closure of basic and secondary education, vocational training and childcare facilities, etc. The purpose of this measure is to advance a substantial part of the reimbursement of salaries that employers must continue to pay to the parents concerned.
As of end of March, tenants and landlords whose incomes have fallen substantially as a result of the current crisis can now enquire at the Single point of contact for housing assistance (Guichet unique des aides au logement) to check whether they are eligible for housing assistance. This applies to (1) individuals who were not eligible for housing assistance so far because their income was too high and (2) individuals who already receive housing assistance and who will be able to benefit from an upward adjustment of the rent subsidy (for tenants) and/or the interest subsidy (for landlords).
On March 20, the Ministry of Education, Children and Youth has just set up a new system of assistance and support for students, teachers and parents during the suspension of classes. The helpline 8002 9090 of the Ministry of Education answers all questions related to the needs and concerns of children and young people: well-being, learning and guidance. Over a hundred teachers and experts are available to answer their questions related to distance learning in the different disciplines. This telephone service is available in about 15 languages. The schouldoheem.lu website aims to support home-based learning and distance education provided by teachers. The teaching materials made available on this platform are a complementary and optional offer to the work that teachers ask their students to do. To motivate pupils in their learning, national challenges are offered to them every day on www.schouldoheem.lu in the form of small competitions. This may include problem solving, spelling exercises, mental arithmetic, etc. Prizes will be awarded to the winners.
Since March 23, the new website covid19.lu gathers all official information for citizens and companies, news, FAQ, useful forms and certificates etc. in four languages (LU, FR, DE EN).
Since April 14, self-employed may apply for the aid of EUR 2,500 upon the establishment of a certified emergency allowance for the self-employed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The applicants must thus encounter temporary financial difficulties due to the consequences of COVID-19, employ less than 10 people and the professional income serving as a basis for calculating social contributions must not exceed the amount of two and a half times the minimum social wage.
The Grand Ducal Regulation of 18 March introducing a series of measures. As a consequence, the state of crisis has been declared on the national territory, in accordance with article 32(4) of the Constitution.