Exit strategy: a scenario for the gradual lifting of the confinement measures introduced to deal with COVID-19
On 15 April 2020, the Government Council fixed the guidelines for a deconfinement strategy balanced between public health imperatives and the psycho-social and economic aspects of the current confinement.
As a reminder, the amended Grand Ducal Regulation of 18 March introducing a series of measures in the context of the fight against COVID-19 introduced restrictions or even prohibitions on commerce and artisanal activitiesincluding the closure of construction sites, to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Beyond these regulatory prohibitions, educational activities and the activity of the recycling centres have been suspended.
In the Grand Duchy, the rate of new infections shows a downward trend and thus reflects the effect sought by the confinement measures put in place on 16 March 2020. However, the government has decided to proceed only with a cautious lifting of the confinement measures.
Thus, 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 can therefore only take place in successive phases that are well thought out in terms of impact. The decision to launch a phase is taken by the Government on the recommendation of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health, and it 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.
It is also clear that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health may submit to the Government Council at any time a proposal to reintroduce stricter confinement measures when, on the basis of the monitoring of the evolution of the situation, it appears that hospital capacities are likely to reach a critical level which could jeopardise the proper care of patients.
At its meeting of 15 April 2020, the Government Council set up an ad hoc group to accompany the measures decided as part of the fight against the virus and to assess on a regular basis the side effects of these measures and the confinement. The group will be composed of the following people:
Nora Back – President of the Chamber of Employees
Alexa Ballmann - President of the JHL (Jonk Handwierk)
Luc Frieden - President of the Chamber of Commerce
Erny Gillen - Expert in ethics
Claudia Monti - Ombudsman of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
Gilbert Pregno - Psychologist and President of the Human Rights Consultative Commission
René Schlechter - President of the Ombuds Committee for the Rights of the Child (ORK)
Prof. Claus Vögele - Professor of health psychology at the University of Luxembourg
It is important to note that any 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.
Deconfinement strategy in phases
Phase 1 - Reopening of construction sites (tentative date 20 April 2020)
The first phase thus covers the following activities:
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.
Phase 2 - resumption of secondary education (tentative date 11 May 2020)
Phase 3 - resumption of fundamental education as well as the reopening of crèches and childcare facilities (tentative date 25 May 2020)
This will be followed - in later phases - by the resumption of commercial activities and the reopening of the HORECA sector. At this stage, however, it is premature to give a detailed assessment of the lifting of restrictions in this sector. A final decision will be taken in due course by the Government Council on the basis of an analysis of the situation.
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.
Press release by the Ministry of State