COVID-19: Luxembourg's ambitious testing strategy to tackle the pandemic

Since the beginning of the sanitary crisis and, later on, as part as the deconfinement strategy, Luxembourg has adopted an ambitious testing strategy, composed of PCR diagnostic testing for those showing symptoms as well as large-scale testing aimed at identifying asymptomatic persons.

According to recent data published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), with 9,582.6 tests per 100,000 inhabitants over a period of 7 days, Luxembourg is the country that has by far the highest testing rate among the EU/EEA countries.

Luxembourg's increased number of new cases over the past two weeks has indeed to be read in conjunction with our efforts to ensure the best possible screening of the population, to break infection chains and to preserve the health system's capacities.

Luxembourg's testing strategy has been elaborated in accordance with international recommendations, such as those issued by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) according to which "an expanded testing capacity and harmonized testing methodologies for the purpose of epidemiological surveillance, early detection and isolation of cases, clinical management, contact tracing, protecting risk groups, assessing population immunity, return-to-work strategies. This includes alignment of testing methodologies, development and ramping up of sustainable COVID-19 diagnostic capacity, set-up of adequate testing schemes, validation and rollout of serological testing”.

By adopting large-scale testing capacities with a maximum of up to 20.000 tests per day, Luxembourg follows the guidelines of the European Commission's roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures. The Commission stresses that "managing successfully the gradual lifting of the existing confinement measures requires a combination of accompanying measures that are relevant for all Member States” and recommends to "expand testing capacity and harmonise testing methodologies: in the absence of a vaccine, the population must be protected as much as possible from the infection. Therefore, the availability of large-scale testing that can provide fast and reliable results is key to tackle the pandemic and also a precondition for lifting social distancing measures in the future (and is also important for the effectiveness of contact tracing apps….)”.

Luxembourg also systematically extends the testing to over 200.000 cross-border workers residing in its neighboring regions. Positive tests of non-residents account for up to 20% of the official total number of COVID cases in Luxembourg, with an average of 16%.

In combination with a very thorough and analog contact tracing system that extends beyond our borders, this strategy allows our country to break infection chains and to monitor very tightly if there are indicators for a possible second wave. Hence, proactive and preventive action is greatly facilitated.

The ECDC recognizes furthermore the importance of not limiting country comparisons to the total number of positive cases, without taking into account the important factor of testing and the number of tests effectively carried out for a given population. The ECDC also found that"available evidence does not support recommending border closures"as an effective measure to prevent a large upsurge of COVID-19.

In view of the above, and given the fact that the epidemic is largely under control in Luxembourg, the Luxembourg Government considers that there is no need to restrict the freedom of movement of its residents.

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