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On Wednesday 22 December 2021, Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert announced additional, rather last-minute COVID-19 restrictions.

Due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the government has decided to introduce new measures aimed at reducing contacts. The announcement came less than a week after MPs voted on the latest COVID law, with these new changes set to come into place this Saturday, i.e. Christmas Day.

Once again, the hospitality sector looks likely to be the hardest hit by the measures, with restaurants, bars and nightclubs being forced to close their doors by 23:00 once the revised law takes effect. Customers who have not (yet) had their booster shot will be required to carry out a rapid test at the door. Despite the government promising continued financial support for companies impacted by the new measures,

There are also additional limits on gatherings, with events bringing together more than 100 people only authorised to take place with prior authorisation of the Ministry of Health. This also means that some of the traditional “balls” (such as the popular “Zürcher Bal” on Christmas Day) that take place this time of year are now likely to be cancelled.

Since these measures are expected to come into force on 25 December, and last until 28 February 2022, anyone who planned to ring in the New Year in a restaurant or at a nightclub may need to rethink their celebrations.

Private gatherings are still allowed, although there are restrictions for groups of ten or more people and the government has urged the public to be extra vigilant, avoiding (or at least reducing) their contacts and regularly testing themselves when meeting other people (particularly vulnerable or elderly family members) over the Christmas period.

As the Health Minister herself said on Wednesday morning, we had surely all hoped for a different end to another difficult year. And whilst the newly announced restrictions are less severe than those in place during Christmas 2020 (non-essential retail and the hospitality sector were closed, a general curfew was in place from 21:00 to 06:00 and sporting activity was banned beyond the private sphere), the rise of Omicron and the introduction of tighter rules add to the feeling that this pandemic truly is a never-ending story…

However, as the Prime Minister and Health Minister recalled earlier, it is only by working together that we can get through these challenging times. The more people who get vaccinated or boosted and follow the rules in place, the more efficient our healthcare system should be (hopefully) during the Christmas holidays and in the new year.