By Hortense de Roffignac
LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) – Luxembourg began mass testing for COVID-19 this week with the goal of covering all of its 600,000 people as soon as possible to stave off a second wave of infections following the easing of lockdown measures.
The diagnostic tests are voluntary, building up from around 1,500 daily tests to 20,000 a day next month. The aim is to test everyone in the Grand Duchy, in contingents and in some cases several times.
Ulf Nehrbass, CEO of the Luxembourg Institute of Health and spokesman of the COVID-19 Task Force, said it was important to check whether the IT system was able to handle the workload.
“Of course it is clear that everything has to go into a test run and this has to be done in the coming days with a capacity of about 1,500 per day. That is enough to see if the IT system is stable,” he said.
He said more laboratories had been added to the project, allowing authorities to obtain results from four tests simultaneously through the “pooling” method: a positive result means the tests are re-checked individually.
Mass testing also aims to enable the isolation of asymptomatic people with COVID-19, to reduce the spread of the virus. Nehrbass estimated around 1,500 people in the Grand Duchy are asymptomatic.
Luxembourg plans to set up to 17 stations to test both citizens and cross-border commuters from Belgium, Germany and France. The country, which has to date reported 109 COVID-19 deaths and 3,958 confirmed cases, does not have any border controls related to the disease.
(Writing by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Philippa Fletcher)