New measures include aid for businesses and hotel vouchers to boost tourism industry.
Luxembourg will roll out between €700 and €800 million in fresh aid to help companies as part of the country’s economic recovery plan after businesses have suffered from a nation-wide lockdown put in place two months ago to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The newly announced package includes aid to make up for financial losses, vouchers to spend at hotels to boost the tourism industry, and a stop on rent increases.
“Today, we can’t say we have won the fight against the virus“, prime minister Xavier Bettel said during a press conference on Wednesday. “But we have reduced the effects of the virus. We have opted for the right strategy, I’m certain we took the right decision“.
Bettel put the country into lockdown on 16 March, closing shops apart from those selling food, and all restaurants and hotels. While most shops have now opened their doors again, restaurants, bars and hotels are mstill waiting for a further easing of the lockdown.
A new multi-million-euro plan – which comes on top of a rescue package that had already expected to reach a budget of €10.5 billion – aims to maintain jobs and keep companies in business despite the lack of revenue and a reduced need for staff over the past months.
Companies which have been heavily hit will receive €1,250 per month. People receiving cost-of-living allowance will get twice the amount for the rest of the year, while residents and cross-border workers will receive a voucher to spend a night at a hotel in Luxembourg to boost tourism. Landlords will not be able to increase rents until the end of this year.
The health crisis has meant fewer people already unemployed were able to find jobs last month. Unemployment agency ADEM said the high number of unemployed people in April was mainly due to fewer people finding jobs rather than more people signing up for unemployment benefits.
A total of 1,796 new people registered – 18% fewer than in April last year. But only 884 people ended their benefits after finding a new job last month, compared with 2,512 in April 2019. There were 1,895 vacancies last month, 43% less than in the same month of last year.
More measures to lift the lockdown could come out next week, Bettel said. He had previously said restaurants could reopen on 1 June if the spread of the disease remained in check, but he repeated the date is still uncertain.
“Foreign affairs minister Jean Asselborn has been in talks with France and Belgium to see when the borders will fully reopen“, Bettel said. No date has been agreed but Luxembourg had hopes Belgium would open before France, which will remain fully closed until 15 June.
“Looking back, this crisis has shown us to what point it’s difficult to take measures without knowing if they are right or not. We had to act quickly. Figures show us we have avoided a big catastrophe“, Health Minister Paulette Lenert, who was with Bettel, said at the press conference.
“We had one aim: pull the hand break. Now our aim is to reintroduce normalcy by gradually reducing these measures“.