KEY POINTS

  • Luxembourg begins testing everyone in its over 600,000 population for coronavirus
  • The tests are voluntary but healthcare workers and frontliners will be the priority
  • Experts recommend mass testing to effectively track the prevalence of the virus 

Luxembourg has rolled out its coronavirus mass testing program Wednesday and will check every person in its whole population, including its cross-border workers, for the next nine weeks.

The country with more than 600,000 people is the second-smallest nation in the European Union (EU) and is also one of the richest countries in the world. Luxembourg is roughly the same size as Rhode Island but with just 62% of Rhode Island’s population density.

Luxembourg's mass testing initiative means it could successfully prevent a second wave.

“The first aim is to break these infection chains throughout the whole population, to basically dampen a second potential wave that might ensue,” Paul Wilmes, the Grand Duchy's coronavirus task force spokesperson, said.

luxembourg-1164663_1920 Luxembourg started testing all of its residence for coronavirus. Photo: Pixabay

Luxembourg has established several walk-through, cycle-through and drive-through testing stations that will be able to process all of its citizens by the end of July. Healthcare workers, frontline staff, police workers and hairdressers are ideally going to be tested first.

The test results will be ready after two days. Those with positive results will be asked to self-isolate and undergo contact tracing. Those in the frontlines or whose work may pose more risks can retake tests every two weeks.

The tests are voluntary but the government hopes that citizens will see this as their civic responsibility.

As of May 28, Luxembourg’s case count is at 4,008 with 3,803 recoveries and 110 deaths.

According to health experts, large-scale testing may ease the pressure on healthcare workers, who will be able to identify which patient needs to receive immediate care. It will also help governments understand the prevalence of the virus, by tracking patients with positive results and carefully planning solutions to reduce the risks based on real data.

"Test every suspected case, if they test positive, isolate them and find out who they have been in contact with two days before they developed symptoms and test those people, too,” World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during the World Economic Forum briefing when the pandemic started. “All countries should be able to test all suspected cases. They cannot fight this pandemic blindfolded; they should know where the cases are.”