L-R: Philippe Schrantz, Director general of the Grand Ducal Police; Deputy Prime Minister François Bausch; Credit: SIP

On Thursday morning, Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence and for Internal Security, François Bausch, held a press conference explaining the new restrictions put in place by the government yesterday.

Like yesterday’s press conference with Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, and indeed future conferences, the press conference was held via livestream in order to avoid having too many people present in one room during the current coronavirus crisis.

Deputy Prime Minister François Bausch was joined on this occasion by Philippe Schrantz, director general of the Grand Ducal Police, and Martine Solovieff, prosecutor general of Luxembourg.

François Bausch began by thanking the police and the army for their efforts and commitment at this time. He added that this was indeed a difficult situation but one which we should be able to overcome when everyone follows the rules.

Regarding the new sanctions, announced by the government yesterday, Minister Bausch stressed that these stricter restrictions were necessary to save lives. He recalled that people are not completely house-bound (not a “shutdown”); they can still go out for certain things, namely travelling to/from work, grocery shopping and going to the pharmacy, albeit only for the essentials and only when absolutely necessary. He added that older and vulnerable people should avoid going out altogether and instead ask family members or neighbours to do their shopping for them. People are still allowed to go for walks (alone, with people with whom they live or with their dogs, for example), but larger group outings are not permitted. Individuals found to not respect these restrictions risk receiving a fine of up to €145, as announced yesterday. Prosecutor General Martine Solovieff later added that unpaid fines would double after 30 days.

Minister Bausch went on to stress that the police will be particularly strict with restaurants, cafes, bars and other establishments found of non-compliance (i.e. staying open or organising activities despite the ban). These establishments face fines of up to €4,000, which could eventually be doubled to €8,000 according to Martine Solovieff. Philippe Schrantz confirmed that a handful of establishments had already been fined for non-compliance.

Regarding the role of the Luxembourg Army, François Bausch reiterated the commitment of the army, which is primarily helping with logistics at present (i.e. medical supplies). He added that they could later carry out different tasks, within the limits of their authority, depending on the development of the situation.

On transport, the Deputy Prime Minister stated that Luxembourg Airport would operate as normal until the end of this week. From next Monday, commercial passenger flights will be suspended, although Luxair may still repatriate Luxembourg residents who are abroad. Later, during the Q&A session, François Bausch stressed that people should not travel unless absolutely necessary, i.e. to return home. Even then, staying abroad may be the better option (if possible), according to the minister. He recalled that Luxembourg residents wishing to return home should contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Although Cargolux still has many flights bringing in medical supplies, Minister Bausch explained that public transport has been reduced, with plans for 40% fewer train services to run in the coming weeks. He added that this reduced service was linked to lower demand for public transport in light of the current crisis.

For his part, Philippe Schrantz noted that the opposite message of “stay home” applied to the police, whose presence will be increased on the streets. On the other hand, its administrative services have been reduced. He also stressed that the police would do all they can to ensure these restrictions are respected and appealed that everyone follows the rules. In response to a later question on police numbers, Philippe Schrantz explained that there were currently around 1,500 police officers, supported by 40 customs officers, on duty.

Martine Solvieff added that the Luxembourg courts will make an example of those who fail to adhere to these restrictions. In addition, she assured that the justice sector would remain operational although service and physical presence had been reduced.

In the Q&A session that followed, Minister Bausch reiterated that this is not yet a complete shutdown. Nevertheless, he confirmed that the authorities would continue to monitor the situation and take further measures if needed.