Categories
About Luxembourg Covid-19 taskforce Latest news

Research Luxembourg and government together during the pandemic

Navigating the COVID-19 crisis through science and policy collaboration.

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked an unprecedented mobilisation and collaboration of Research Luxembourg and the government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. In record time, public research institutes and the government launched a series of newly funded research initiatives to respond to the Covid crisis.

On 5 October 2021, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel and Research Luxembourg COVID-19 Taskforce met to discuss the milestones of their collaboration while looking at the actions carried out and to come.

Mobilising research towards the same objective

Between March and May 2020, Research Luxembourg managed to bring together the best of research in order to come up with a plan and a strategy that allowed to test up to 10% of the population every week. This was a critical measure to keep the pandemic under control.

Among the actions taken, large-scale testing yielded effective outcomes.

“Now we know that it was the only way to deal with the pandemic. Non-symptomatic people were infectious and we had to test everybody to have a complete overview. In phase 1, large-scale testing halved the number of severe cases. We actually reduced 43% of the overall number of cases.”

Prof Ulf Nehrbass, Chief Executive Officer of Luxembourg Institute of Health.

Picture copyrights: @ME

One team to find answers and formulate answers

The pandemic has shown that Research Luxembourg has the capacity to mobilise, structure and respond at any time. This attitude is the result of a team spirit developed in a small country with excellent researchers and infrastructures.

“We went from numerous questions to providing data as well as empirical evidence to come up with answers that formulated solutions. This was all achieved in record time.”

Prof. Dr. Paul Wilmes

Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Prof Dr Paul Wilmes in Biotech lab

Picture copyrights: @ME

Scientists and policy makers working together

Research Luxembourg has endeavoured to gather and disseminate as much information as possible relevant to COVID in the policy-making process.

Luxembourg is one of the countries where the relationship between the scientific community and policy makers during the pandemic has been effective.

Indeed, the government called on and took into account the advice of scientists in many disciplines.

“Mutual respect and listening was the best way to approach this crisis, as both the government and Research Luxembourg were engaged in the same mission.”

Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

Picture copyrights: @ME

Explore the picture report

Similar articles

Luxembourg allocates largest R&D budget per person in the EU

How much does Luxembourg government allocate for R&D? How does it compare with other EU countries? According to Eurostat, Luxembourg devoted the highest allocations in the EU with €648 per person in 2020. In comparison, government budget allocations for R&D at an EU level stood at €225 per person. Research & Development a priority for Luxembourg…

Keep reading

Luxembourg a leader in the EU for internet quality

What’s the digital quality of life like in Luxembourg? Where does the country stand in Europe and globally? The 2021 Digital Quality Life index assesses 110 countries on the quality of a digital well-being. The global research, which covers 90% of the global population, is calculated by looking at the impact of five core pillars:…

Keep reading

The University of Luxembourg reached its highest ever score in research

The University of Luxembourg achieved its highest ever score in the categories of research and industrial income. In terms of international outlook, it scored an astounding 99.5. A research-oriented university With a score of 39.2 in the research category, The University of Luxembourg achieved its best performance ever. In comparison, it is on a par…

Keep reading
Categories
Covid-19 taskforce Latest news

How should Europe deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in the future?

A European perspective.

In spring, many European countries relaxed or even completely lifted their containment measures following a significant drop in the incidence of COVID-19. Yet, the number of infections has increased as a result of the spread of the new delta variant.

While vaccination turns out to be very effective in protecting against a severe course of infection, people who have already been vaccinated can still transmit the virus.

How should Europe act, what strategies should it adopt, and what specific risks should it consider moving forward?

Prof. Rudi Balling, director of the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB), and Assistant Prof. Enrico Glab, head of the Biomedical Data Science group at the LCSB contributed to a detailed situation analysis for the coming months and years along. The initiative stems from researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organisation which brought together more than two dozen experts from all over Europe.

Together, they derived various possible scenarios for the future and explained what conditions would have to precede each of them

Scenario 01

Countries continue to rapidly lift restrictions

In the first case scenario, countries continue to rapidly lift restrictions, assuming the combination of past natural exposure and current vaccination coverage would allow a high incidence to continue, without overburdening health-care systems.

Given immunisation levels as of August 2021, this strategy can lead to an incidence of several hundred cases per million per day.

Scenario 02

Countries only lift restrictions at the pace of vaccination progress

In the second case scenario, countries lift restrictions at the pace of vaccination progress with the core aim to keep incidence low, given this effectively and efficiently controls the pandemic via test-trace-isolate (TTI) programmes.

This strategy would require an incidence of well below one hundred cases per million per day.

We are all in this together

In the absence of a common strategy, such a discrepancy could cause considerable friction between EU Member States, hampering cooperation, the economy and international trade: a high incidence in one country jeopardises the low incidence strategy in a neighbouring country.

“Either strategy can only work effectively if Europe agrees on a common approach. We know very well that no country will be able to stop the pandemic on its own, so it is high time for a coordinated response.” 

Enrico Glaab, Head of the Biomedical Data Science group at the LCSB

Why scenario 2 of keeping incidence low is an act of solidarity

Favouring a low incidence strategy brings many advantages:

  • Fewer mortality, morbidity, and long COVID
  • Solidarity with those not yet protected
  • Lower risk of new variants of concern emerging and spreading
  • Increased feasibility of comprehensive test-trace-isolate progammes
  • Fewer workforce in quarantine and isolation
  • Ensuring schools and childcare remain open in the coming autumn-winter season

In light of the clear benefits of keeping incidence low, the lack of vaccination coverage in many European countries, the uncertainties about vaccinating children, and the time needed to fully vaccinate adolescents, all European countries will need to work together to achieve low incidence.

“A high incidence in one country challenges the pandemic response for others, in Europe and across the world.”

Rudi Balling, director of the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB), and the two dozen experts who collaborated for this article

Maintaining a low incidence is an act of solidarity and becomes easier with the benefit of increasing vaccination coverage.

Challenges to improve measure effectiveness

Three other challenges need to be addressed to improve the effectiveness of measures.

Three challenges

01

Availability, access and reluctance to vaccinate.

02

The widespread misconception that freedom would be maximised by ignoring high incidence, whereas it has been recognised that low incidence facilitates containment and preserves freedom for all, including the most vulnerable.

03

The lack of a coherent pandemic response and communication strategy. .Risk perception, motivation and health literacy are important predictors of health-seeking behaviour and adherence to measures. Public confidence is a priority. As such, it is critical to maintain it through timely, consistent and persistent communications. This includes systematically developing a counter-speech in the event of misinformation.

The pandemic is not yet over, but an end is within reach. Restrictions can be lifted when high vaccination coverage is achieved, and if vaccines remain highly effective against VOCs.

Maintaining and communicating a clear strategy is essential, and pan-European coordination and common goals between countries are becoming increasingly critical.

Read the publication “Towards a European strategy to address the COVID-19 pandemic”, published The Lancet and The Lancet Regional Health – Europe.

Similar articles

How Covid-19 affects our mental health?

The first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak resulted in strict pandemic control measures in Luxembourg and other countries. While these measures expectedly had an impact on the mental health of Luxembourg residents, little data is available on the longitudinal evolution of population mental health measures during lockdown and during the gradual relaxation of the lockdown…

Keep reading

Luxembourg comes second in dealing with COVID-19

The analysis was based on a series of factors comprising the Stringency Index. Other aspects include excess mortality, restrictions on personal freedom, impact on the gross domestic product and vaccination progress. Luxembourg brings Covid-19 pandemic under control Based on these factors, Luxembourg holds the second position in the international ranking among the 154 countries analysed.…

Keep reading

How to make large-scale, voluntary COVID-19 testing work?

Testing is widely seen as one core element of a successful strategy to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic and many countries have increased their efforts to provide testing at large scale. As most democratic governments refrain from enacting mandatory testing, a key emerging challenge is to increase voluntary participation.  Researchers from the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic…

Keep reading
Categories
Covid-19 taskforce Inside Research Luxembourg Latest news Sustainable & Responsible Development

In conversation with our young researchers: Dr. Fabiana Ribeiro

Neuropsychology and inequalities.

Social distancing, quarantine, and self-isolation are some of the measures to contain the pandemic. How much of a challenge are these policies to the psychological well-being of the population? To what extent do they increase inequalities?

Did social isolation measures widen the inequality gap? Are women more likely to present severe symptoms of anxiety compared to men?

Fabiana Ribeiro, a postdoc researcher at the Institute for Research on Socio-Economic Inequality (IRSEI) within the Department of Social Sciences in University of Luxembourg, works on gender inequalities in cognitive ageing. She also investigates differences in the prevalence of memory impairment in Latin America and the Caribbean, focusing on temporal changes and the prevalence of associated risk factors.

Understanding the effects of social distance measures and bridging the inequality gap

The Brazilian neuropsychologist was involved in examining the effects of social distance measures. In a study involving professors from both Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and the University College Dublin, she explored the frequency of anxiety and depression symptoms in a Brazilian sample during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Along with Prof. Anja Leist, she analysed the effects of COVID-19 restrictions on mental health in a Luxembourgish nationally representative sample (CON-VINCE study), in which Prof. Rejko Krüger is the principal investigator.

“The results of our studies can inform public policies with the aim to reduce the inequalities between men and women, as well as among those who are in a less favorable economic situation. Specifically, public policies that can lead these individuals to a higher quality of life, even in the face of possible cognitive or social limitations.”

Dr. Fabiana Ribeiro

Research was music to her ears

After receiving her master’s degree in developmental psychology and learning from the São Paulo State University, Fabiana Ribeiro completed a Ph.D. in Basic Psychology in 2019, at the University of Minho, Portugal, more specifically in Human cognition.

Throughout her PhD, she investigated the influence of social and mental health aspects on memory capacity and also the effects of listening to music on cognitive performance.

“I think I have several vocations, and research is just one of them. All my vocations, like art and psychology, make me a better researcher.”

Dr. Fabiana Ribeiro

Why Luxembourg as a research destination?

Fabiana Ribeiro chose Luxembourg to work in the research project called “Cognitive Aging: From Educational Opportunities to Individual Risk Profiles” (CRISP) led by Prof. Anja Leist. The prospect of making an impact was real: “I saw the possibility of using the project results to improve people’s quality of life”.

“I found in my work group strong work ethic, quality, methodological rigor, and an environment of respect and collaboration among researchers, which for me, are essential standards in doing science.”


Dr. Fabiana Ribeiro

The young researcher praises research infrastructure: “As researchers, we have access to modern infrastructures and equipment, as well as the technologies needed to perform our work on a daily basis.”

A member of the ERC CRISP research project

Dementia, which manifests itself through deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities, affects roughly 50 million people worldwide and almost ten million people in Europe. Pathologies of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, have devastating effects on people and families. They represent a great challenge and cost for caregivers and health systems. Despite this, there is currently no treatment to reverse or cure cognitive impairment.

Fabiana Ribeiro is part of the “Cognitive Aging: From Educational Opportunities to Individual Risk Profiles” (CRISP) research project funded by the European Research Council, of which Prof. Anja Leist is the Principal Investigator.

CRISP aims to provide comprehensive knowledge and techniques to identify risk factors and people at risk of dementia, in order for them to benefit as early as possible from behavioural interventions.

“In the CRISP project, we work with professors from the University of Sao Paulo, namely Professors Yeda Duarte and Jair Santos, investigating the recent trends in cognitive impairment across four waves of the Health, Well-being and Aging survey (SABE) with data collected in representative samples of São Paulo, Brazil, in 2000, 2006, 2010, and 2015.”

Dr. Fabiana Ribeiro

In addition, the team is also exploring through a systematic review the prevalence rates of dementia in Latin America and the Caribbean and its association with sex/gender, area (rural/urban), educational levels, and year of data collection, which allows to capture secular trends. This work has been carried out with the collaboration of Dr. Ana Carolina Teixeira-Santos and Professor Paulo Caramelli.

More about the project

About living in Luxembourg

The researcher likes the multicultural environment of the university and the country. The care to insert different languages in essential documents, the respect and interest for the place people come from “make me not feel like a foreigner in Luxembourg”.

Luxembourg is a country full of history, natural beauty, as well as multicultural and multilingual. In addition, Luxembourg is a really peaceful place in comparison to other countries of Europe. All factors that I like and admire about it.”

Dr. Fabiana Ribeiro

More about Fabiana Ribeiro

Explore related topics

In conversation with our young researchers: Dr Matthew Flood

How can technological solutions provide clinicians and patients with effective treatment outcomes for orthopaedic injuries and diseases? What role can motion capture technology play in delivering quantitative clinical diagnoses […]

Categories
Covid-19 taskforce Latest news Personalised Healthcare

How Covid-19 affects our mental health?

New longitudinal study analysed the mental health of the Luxembourgish population during first lockdown.

A new Research Luxembourg study found female and younger respondents reported higher rates of severe depression and anxiety symptoms, suggesting higher vulnerability to the pandemic control measures.

The first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak resulted in strict pandemic control measures in Luxembourg and other countries. While these measures expectedly had an impact on the mental health of Luxembourg residents, little data is available on the longitudinal evolution of population mental health measures during lockdown and during the gradual relaxation of the lockdown measures in spring 2020.

The new study conducted by the CON-VINCE consortium explored whether differential effects of COVID-19 restrictions on mental health could be observed by sex and age in a Luxembourgish nationally representative sample during the initial outbreak of COVID-19. The analysis assessed whether there are differences in risk and protective factors longitudinally at two assessment times.

A total of 1,756 respondents aged 18 years and older (50.74% women) reported sociodemographic and socio-economic characteristics, depression, anxiety, stress, and loneliness.

Women more vulnerable to depression

This study examined mental health during the initial COVID-19 containment measures in Luxembourg residents at baseline (one month after the start of the containment measures) and at follow-up (two weeks after baseline, at the start of the relaxation of the containment measures).

Overall, levels of stress, depression and anxiety were higher in women, indicating that the psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may be greater for women. In fact, women were more likely to have part-time jobs, to be homemakers or family caregivers, to work in the health sector and to have lower incomes.

While Luxembourg has taken several steps to bring about equality between men and women, there were still visible gender-related socio-economic differences in the study. For instance, women reported on average a lower income than men. In addition, women reported a higher rate of caring tasks.

Since the first wave of the pandemic, policy measures have been implemented in Luxembourg to buffer the impact of childcare closures, family leave and other measures that could aim to reduce the impact of the pandemic. Other measures could contribute to ensure a more equal use of family leave to increase work-family balance for mothers. A follow-up analysis one year into the pandemic will help to understand whether the existing measures were effective.

Younger groups more likely to present severe depression

In Luxembourg, younger respondents reported more symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety than older respondents. This could be explained by the fact that younger study participants are more vulnerable because they are exposed to a greater uncertainty about their future in terms of careers in a changing world, employment and a possible economic crisis.

Given the impact of the pandemic on social contacts, daily routines, employment and mobility prospects, the higher degrees of depression, anxiety, stress and loneliness reported by young respondents may reflect the suddenly changed conditions and prospects of today’s younger generation.

This study contributes to the investigation of mental health consequences of the pandemic and the pandemic control measures. In particular, it stresses out shifts in care task responsibilities and gender and socio-economic inequalities. It also highlights younger groups’ uncertainty about the future.

Meet the authors

Fabiana Ribeiro Fabiana Ribeiro is a postdoctoral Research Assistant at University of Luxembourg. She completed a Ph.D. in Basic Psychology in 2019, in which she investigated the effects of emotions evoked by music in the mnesic capacity.

At the moment, she works as a postdoctoral research under supervision of Professor Anja Leist, in which she investigates gender inequalities in cognitive ageing and differences in prevalence of memory impairment in Latin America and the Caribbeans, with a focus on temporal changes and prevalence of associated risk factors.

Valerie E. Schröder is a clinical neuropsychologist/research and development specialist, who has worked in different health care institutions in Luxembourg, Germany and Belgium with the aim to diagnose and treat cognitive dysfunctions in patients suffering from neurological disorders (e.g. neurodegenerative diseases, strokes, traumatic brain injury, etc) and to provide psychological support for patients and their caregivers.

She is currently working as a research and development specialist in the Translational Neuroscience group at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine in the “programme dementia prevention (pdp), a nation-wide integrated care concept coordinated by  Prof. Dr. med. Rejko Krüger.

Rejko Krüger is Professor for Clinical and Experimental Neuroscience at the University of Luxembourg and Director of Transversal Translational Medicine at the Luxembourg Institute of Health. He is coordinating the CON-VINCE study.

Since June 2019, he links between the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) and the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) to contribute to personalised medicine by implementing translational research programmes involving partners from different fields within a joint scientific strategy. Furthermore, he sees patients with Movement Disorders at the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg. Since 2017, the Ministry of Health is supporting Prof. Krüger to lead integrated healthcare concepts for neurodegenerative diseases in Luxembourg: the “Programme Démence Prévention” (an initiative to prevent dementia) and ParkinsonNet Luxembourg (a care network of health care professionals for Parkinson’s disease).

Anja Leist is Associate Professor in Public Health and Ageing and Vice-head of the Institute for Research on Socio-Economic Inequality in the Department of Social Sciences of University of Luxembourg. 

She is an expert on the topics of health inequalities, ageing, and cognitive ageing, with a social epidemiological and life course perspective. She had research stays at the universities of Luxembourg, Zurich/Switzerland, and Rotterdam/Netherlands, and was funded by several national and European funders, among them the European Research Council on the topic of cognitive ageing.

This work was supported by the Fonds National de la Recherche (FNR) and the André Losch Foundation.

Read complete study The evolution and social determinants of mental health during the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in Luxembourg

Similar articles

How should Europe deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in the future?

How should Europe act, what strategies should it adopt, and what specific risks should it consider moving forward? Prof. Rudi Balling, director of the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB), and Assistant Prof. Enrico Glab, head of the Biomedical Data Science group at the LCSB contributed to a detailed situation analysis for the coming months […]

Covid-19: Health/Wealth trade-off

Saving lives or saving the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic? Efforts to combat the COVID-19 crisis were subject to a difficult trade-off. The stringency of the lockdowns decreased the spread of the virus, but amplified the damage to the economy. Then, how to balance health/wealth concerns during a pandemic? A study conducted by Dr Christophe […]

Categories
About Luxembourg Covid-19 taskforce Latest news

Luxembourg comes second in dealing with COVID-19

Successful pandemic strategy.

German news site “Der Spiegel” compared and assessed the pandemic control strategies of 154 countries across the globe. Luxembourg is one of the front-runners and ranks 2nd, just behind Finland and ahead of Norway.

The analysis was based on a series of factors comprising the Stringency Index. Other aspects include excess mortality, restrictions on personal freedom, impact on the gross domestic product and vaccination progress.

Luxembourg brings Covid-19 pandemic under control

Based on these factors, Luxembourg holds the second position in the international ranking among the 154 countries analysed. Finland ranks first. Following Luxembourg are Norway, Denmark, Taiwan, and Singapore.

Finland, Luxembourg, Denmark, and Estonia are the only EU countries among the 16 countries that have weathered the crisis best.

When it comes to the stringency of the measures to contain the virus, Luxembourg ranks about in the middle, achieving a score of 45. The Stringency Index go from 0 (no measures) to 100 (high restrictions).

Luxembourg also managed to keep its economy afloat compared to the rest of the world. According to the data of the International Monetary Fund, Luxembourg deviated by -4 percent from the original GDP forecast and thus occupies 22nd place in the country ranking.

©Diese Länder haben es bisher am besten durch die Pandemie geschafft, Der Spiegel

Covid-19 Task Force – Research Luxembourg harnesses knowledge as well as human and material capacities

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Luxembourg has implemented an extensive screening strategy including mass screening of its population and systematic screening of contacts.

With a population size of around 626,000 residents, on average every resident in Luxembourg has been tested at least 3.6 times. Luxembourg has had an overall positivity rate of 2.6% since the outbreak, while Belgium, France and Germany have had positivity rates of 8.1%, 7.4% and 5.6%, respectively.

In addition to mass screening and systematic contact tracing for SARS-CoV-2, Luxembourg has also conducted a representative serological sampling on a weekly basis among its residents since November 2020.

More about Research Luxembourg Covid-19 Task Force

Read Generalisation of COVID-19 incidences provides a biased view of the actual epidemiological situation by Paul Wilmes, Joël Mossong, Thomas G. Dentzer

Similar articles

Research Luxembourg and government together during the pandemic

On 5 October 2021, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel and Research Luxembourg COVID-19 Taskforce met to discuss the milestones of their collaboration while looking at the actions carried out and to come. Mobilising research towards the same objective Between March and May 2020, Research Luxembourg managed to bring together the best of research […]

In conversation with our young researchers: Dr. Fabiana Ribeiro

Did social isolation measures widen the inequality gap? Are women more likely to present severe symptoms of anxiety compared to men? Fabiana Ribeiro, a postdoc researcher at the Institute for Research on Socio-Economic Inequality (IRSEI) within the Department of Social Sciences in University of Luxembourg, works on gender inequalities in cognitive ageing. She also investigates […]

Launch of FNR COVID-19 funding instrument

Following the fast-track FNR COVID-19 Call in 2020, the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) has opened a new FNR COVID-19 funding instrument. There is no Call per se – projects can be submitted anytime from 21 April 2021 to 15 October 2021. Retained projects will be funded with up to 125,000 EUR for a maximum […]

Categories
Covid-19 taskforce Latest news Sustainable & Responsible Development

How to make large-scale, voluntary COVID-19 testing work?

New research from a behavioural economics perspective.

Using behavioural economics insights complemented with data from a novel survey in the US and a survey experiment in Luxembourg, new research paper examines behavioural factors associated with the individual willingness to get tested.

Testing is widely seen as one core element of a successful strategy to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic and many countries have increased their efforts to provide testing at large scale. As most democratic governments refrain from enacting mandatory testing, a key emerging challenge is to increase voluntary participation. 

Researchers from the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER) have recently published an article entitled “How to make universal, voluntary testing for COVID-19 work? A behavioural economics perspective” in the journal Health Policy. In the paper, co-authored by Francesco Fallucchi, Joël Machado, Marc Suhrcke of LISER, Luise Görges of Leuphana University of Lüneburg, and Arne Pieters, an independent researcher, the authors lay out the challenges and potential solutions to encourage voluntary testing.

Testing heavily

In the early summer of 2020 (and again in this summer), European countries have been gradually reducing lockdown measures, upon having achieved significant reductions in the number of registered infections with SARS-CoV-2, while also having ramped up their health care and testing capacity and improved vaccine rollout. This allowed them to enter a new phase, trying to control the spread of the virus by a combination of looser measures and active monitoring. Such a strategy will need to involve some version of large-scale testing.

Most democratic governments hitherto prefer to rely on the voluntary participation of the population. Yet, both for accurately monitoring the virus spread and for successfully identifying infected individuals, it is crucial that a large share of people – and in particular those most likely to carry (and hence spread) the virus – are willing to participate. This does pose some challenges.

Will people go for testing if they don’t have to?

Will people come forward for testing if they do not have to? If not, why not? And do compliers, those taking the test, differ systematically from non-compliers, in ways that could seriously limit the usefulness of the entire strategy?

To assess this, policymakers need to understand people’s incentives for taking or avoiding a test. A good starting point is to assume that people act “rationally”, which means that people act as if they weigh (consciously or unconsciously) their personal (monetary and non-monetary) costs and benefits of testing and ultimately go for the option with the highest expected net benefits.

The personal expected benefits will derive from knowing one’s current COVID-19 status, which allows individuals to:

  1. quickly eliminate uncertainty about their COVID-19-related health status and obtain a certificate in case of a negative result;
  2. improve their health status and odds of recovery by seeking healthcare if needed;
  3. prevent harming others in their immediate inter-personal environment, such as family and friends, as well as contacts in other relevant settings (work, school).

Critically now, the most important benefit from testing accrues at the societal level – getting tested has a positive externality for society, by helping the government to control the pandemic. While individuals also obtain benefits from getting tested, those benefits may not outweigh the personal costs of getting tested, leading to a misalignment of incentives. Paradoxically, this problem intensifies as strategies to manage and contain the spread of the virus become more and more successful: If the chances of contracting an infection are relatively small, so are the expected personal benefits from knowing one’s health status, seeking healthcare, protecting others. (It is important to note that, in the very current context (June/July 2021) – several months after the time of writing the article – the perks of showing certified, positive test results have significantly increased.)

Early evidence from Luxembourg, which embarked on a large-scale testing strategy (Luxembourg), pointed to what may appear as limited take-up of the test (in May 2020). For instance, take-up among final grade secondary students and teachers was around 40% according to some media sources; another report announced a take-up of less than 40% among students before the Government made a weekly self-test as a mandatory condition for school attendance.

These numbers illustrate the importance of aligning the societal with the individual benefits to raise the number of tests taken closer to the socially optimal level. To achieve this, policy makers may consider to

  1. reduce personal costs and
  2. increase personal (expected) benefits of test-taking, using both monetary and/or non-monetary incentives.  

Potential solutions

Reducing individual costs

Convenience and safety

Making testing very convenient and safe possible for test-takers will undoubtedly reduce individual costs associated with testing.

Psychological costs

Psychological costs from a positive diagnosis can be addressed in two ways: Medical treatment including counselling upon a positive diagnosis, as well as de-stigmatisation of positive individuals at the society level.

Self-isolation upon testing positive

Need to consider the various ways in which self-isolation can induce costs to individuals and how compensation may best occur, while avoiding to incentivise individuals to actively seek infection.

Increasing benefits

Knowing one’s own health status

Testing reduces uncertainty regarding one’s own health status, allows to benefit from healthcare at an early stage if infected, and actively prevent infecting others in their immediate personal environment.

Prosocial benefits

Increasing the benefits derived from contributing to a good health status for loved ones and other members of society.

Social image benefits

People may also benefit from doing what is regarded by others as “the right thing to do”. Research has shown that social image concerns are an important motivator for individuals.

Monetary and non-monetary benefits

A straightforward way of increasing expected benefits of test-taking would be to set monetary rewards for compliers. Access to services, such as travelling or leisure activities, increasingly require proof of a negative test.

Meet LISER’s researchers

Francesco Fallucchi

Francesco Fallucchi is a researcher in the Behavioural and Experimental Economics platform. He joined LISER in 2017 after spending three years as a Research Fellow at the University of East Anglia and CBESS. He completed his Phd in Economics at the University of Nottingham in 2014.

Francesco uses experimental methods to explore individual behaviour in strategic settings as well as individual adaptation to social norms.

Joël Machado

Joël Machado completed his PhD in October 2014 at the Université catholique de Louvain under the supervision of Prof. Frédéric Docquier. From July 2015 to June 2017, he was a FNR AFR Postdoctoral researcher at CREA, University of Luxembourg.

His current research studies the impact of policies on immigration flows and immigrants’ behaviour.

Marc Suhrcke

Marc Suhrcke heads the cross-departmental Research Programme on ‘Health and Health Systems’ at LISER and is a Professor of Global Health Economics at the Centre for Health Economics (CHE) at the University of York, UK.

His research revolves around a wide range of health economic aspects, including the socio-economic determinants and consequences of health and health inequalities, as well as the evaluation of the impact of population- and system-level policies on health and related outcomes. Most of his work seeks to use observational data to uncover relevant, ideally causal relationships.

More about How to make universal, voluntary testing for COVID-19 work? A behavioural economics perspective

Similar articles

Categories
Covid-19 taskforce Latest news

Covid-19: Health/Wealth trade-off

Saving lives or saving the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic? Efforts to combat the COVID-19 crisis were subject to a difficult trade-off. The stringency of the lockdowns decreased the spread of the virus, but amplified the damage to the economy. Then, how to balance health/wealth concerns during a pandemic?

A study conducted by Dr Christophe Lesschaeve, Prof. Josip Glaurdić, and Dr Michal Mochtak from the Department of Social Sciences of University of Luxembourg looks into the public attitudes towards the difficult trade-off imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Are people willing to accept a higher death toll in an attempt to limit the damage of the economy, or is saving lives considered non-negotiable?

How does public opinion look at the Health/Wealth trade-off?

The coronavirus pandemic turns out to be the greatest public health crisis in over a century. For more than a year, the main instrument has been social distancing, which sought to limit contact between people by confining them to their homes and closing down businesses. Such measures have indeed been found to significantly reduce the spread of the virus and by extension its death toll, but at a steep economic cost. This has led many to conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic involves an inevitable trade-off between limiting the public health effects of the virus and preventing an economic collapse.


This unenviable choice has spurred on the development of policy models that balance the health and economic aspects of the crisis response. These models predominantly rely on the assumption of a utilitarian government, in which the economic cost of saving a person from COVID-19 should not outweigh the economic value of that person’s remaining life expectancy. Democratic governments, however, cannot realistically make policies based on those models. Eventually, they need to answer to their constituents for the actions taken during the COVID-19-pandemic, and public views on the trade-off between death tolls and economic performance seem to be guided by much more than economic calculation.


Given what we know about the role of emotion in people’s decision-making processes, it is highly doubtful that public opinion will conform to the utilitarian suppositions of economic models. This raises the question of how people look at this trade-off. We believe there are three recurring features of the health/wealth debate during the COVID-19 outbreak.

01

Framing of the dilemma

It became apparent that the health and economic consequences of lockdown policies differ between generations, a tendency emerged to recast the trade-off as not one between economic value and human lives, but as one between the young and the elderly.

02

Health versus wealth debate

The debate between health/wealth, especially in the UK and US, seems to be conducted alongside the classic left-right divide, with those on the right favoring the markets and those on the left prioritising saving lives. A similar ideological divide has been found with regards to adherence to social distancing measures.

03

Social distancing and lockdown policies

The health/wealth debate, and of social distancing and lockdown policies in general, has been the concern for the loss of civil liberties and an expansion of the surveillance state. After all, many social distance measures constitute levels of government control over society seen only in authoritarian regimes, and fears have emerged about whether governments will relinquish this control once the outbreak is over.

Are people willing to accept a higher death toll in an attempt to limit the damage to the economy? Or is saving lives considered non-negotiable? Can the public be swayed by how the choice is framed and formulated? Are preferences regarding this trade-off related to people’s ideological worldviews? And what is the role of trust in the government?

Putting health over economy generally had strong public support

The results show that public opinion generally favored saving lives even at a steep economic cost. However, the willingness to trade lives for the economy was greater when the different health and economic consequences of lockdown policies for the young and the elderly were emphasised. Free market views also make people more acceptant of higher casualties, as do fears that the instituted measures will lead to a permanent expansion of government control over society.


The results shed light on the drivers behind the variation in public reactions to social distance measures, especially between Europe and the United States. With attempts at reframing the trade-off, a greater reliance on the free market, and a cultural tradition of skepticism towards government control, it should come as no surprise that the public response to social distancing measures in the United States was so polarised. In contrast, public opinion in Europe was largely acceptant of efforts to stop the virus’ spread.

A year later, are people still willing to rejects any concession in the effort to save lives, even if it means economic harm? To understand the impact of time on the perception of the trade-off of heath versus wealth, the researchers are currently collecting a second wave of data.

For this study, a representative sample of over 7000 citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia answered a survey between 27 April and 16 May 2020. With their economies in flux and politics balancing between democracy and authoritarianism, the region shares many characteristics with other European societies in Central and Eastern Europe. Therefore, the three countries serve as excellent case study to the health versus wealth trade-off in a non-western context.

The study was recently accepted for publication in the journal Public Opinion Quarterly.

Meet the researchers

 Prof. Josip Glaurdić

Associate Professor Department of Social Sciences University of Luxembourg

Dr. Christophe Lesschaeve

Postdoctoral researcher Department of Social Sciences University of Luxembourg

Dr. Michal Mochtak

Postdoctoral researcher Department of Social Sciences University of Luxembourg

Categories
Covid-19 taskforce Latest news

Launch of FNR COVID-19 funding instrument

Following the fast-track FNR COVID-19 Call in 2020, the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) has opened a new FNR COVID-19 funding instrument. There is no Call per se – projects can be submitted anytime from 21 April 2021 to 15 October 2021. Retained projects will be funded with up to 125,000 EUR for a maximum of 12 months. 

In the past year, the global COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed our society, and has impacted humanity on individual, economic, and social levels. All countries have been affected by this crisis and are starting to band together in order to fight the spread of this disease and minimise its devastating effects.

This specific FNR instrument to address COVID-19 is based on a fast-track “mechanism” that allows the support of research projects requiring an immediate start, e.g. in view of data collection or other work during the current crisis.

Projects are expected to directly impact the management of the crisis in the coming months, e.g. in the area of public health or monitoring of the pandemic. Thereby, projects should result in new, tangible insights concerning the current status of the crisis and/or provide actionable means to deal with it in the short-term.

FNR project selection and funding are carried out within a short period of time but without deviating from the principles of peer review.

Categories
Covid-19 taskforce Latest news

COVID-19: Survey on the Socio-Economic impacts of the crisis

Phase 2 of the survey examines the long-term impacts on the experiences and expectations of residents and cross-border workers

Within the framework of the Task Force Research Luxembourg, Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER) and the University of Luxembourg have decided to join their efforts to study the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis in Luxembourg and in the Greater Region. This project, supported by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR), began to study in spring 2020 the short-term impacts suffered by individuals and families in the beginning of the lockdown and is now looking at their long-term expectations and concerns.

Similar to the Phase 1 previous survey launched, this large online survey is aimed at all residents in Luxembourg aged 16 and over, whether they are workers, students, retirees, high school students, …because all opinions count and all information is valuable.  The survey is also accessible to cross-border workers, who have also been affected by this crisis.

The survey covers health (physical and mental), employment and working patterns, daily activities, mobility, family interactions, etc.

The responses collected will provide a better understanding of the extent of the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, provide a portrait of the people hardest hit, and thus help to inform the important policy decisions that will still have to be taken in the coming weeks and months.

Copyright: LISER

This study is being conducted on a voluntary and anonymous basis, and is carried out in two phases:

The questionnaire, translated into French, German and English, takes about 20 minutes to complete. The more numerous and precise the answers, the more reliable the results of the analysis will be.

Categories
Covid-19 taskforce Latest news

COVID-19: CON-VINCE study enters homestretch

Originally launched in April 2020 under the aegis of the Research Luxembourg COVID-19 Taskforce, the CON-VINCE study aims to evaluate the prevalence and dynamics of the spread of COVID-19 within the Luxembourgish population, with a specific focus on asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic individuals. The last round of testing of the CON-VINCE participants is due to start in April 2021, approximately one year after the first set of visits upon inclusion in the study. The final wave will provide a comprehensive insight into the evolution and transmission of the disease over an extended timeframe, particularly from an immunity perspective.     

Under the leadership of Prof Rejko Krüger, Director of Transversal Translational Medicine (TTM) at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), CON-VINCE aims to detect asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic (oligosymptomatic) carriers by testing a panel of over 1,800 individuals, representative of the Luxembourgish population, for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and monitoring them over 12 months through a series of follow-up visits.

The annual follow-up testing phase under the project will begin on April 19th and is set to run over 5 to 6 weeks. As with the previous rounds of testing, all participants will be subjected once to a nasopharyngeal swab. Blood and stool samples will also be collected once as part of these follow-up visits, with the support of the laboratories Ketterthill, Laboratoires Réunis, BioneXt Lab, as well as of LIH and Laboratoire National de Santé (LNS) as associated partners for biospecimen collection. Biological sampling will be complemented by collecting additional information on confinement measures and vaccination through short follow-up questionnaires.

“From an operational perspective, participants will be asked to fill out the questionnaire provided through our partner TNS-Ilres. Upon completion, they will receive a voucher for sample collection at one of our partner laboratories. Collected samples will then be sent to the Integrated Biobank of Luxembourg (IBBL) for further analysis and storage”, explains Prof Rejko Krüger, coordinator of CON-VINCE.

Specifically, the collected nasopharyngeal swabs will undergo PCR testing to detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, while blood samples will be analysed for antibodies (serological testing) to assess whether the participants have mounted an immune response following exposure to the virus or after vaccination.

We are expecting to obtain crucial information from this annual follow-up, particularly as pertains to the persistence of the antibody response over a full year. Moreover, this last visit will also allow us to analyse cell-based immunity, thereby giving us a more complete picture of the global immune response against the novel SARS-CoV-2”, adds Prof Krüger.

“For this reason, we would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to our partners, and specifically to the diagnostic laboratories and TNS-Ilres, for their unfaltering support and seamless collaboration throughout the past year, as well as to all volunteers who agreed to participate in the study. I take this opportunity to stress again the importance of their renewed participation, particularly in the context of this final wave, without which we would not be able to generate meaningful data and research outcomes for patients and the population in general”, he concludes.

About CON-VINCE

CON-VINCE was launched in April 2020 as one of the several initiatives put in place under the aegis of the Research Luxembourg COVID-19 Taskforce to help contain the current pandemic. By screening a statistically representative panel of volunteers for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, CON-VINCE will identify asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic individuals and follow them up for a year. Ultimately, the study aims to generate accurate data on the prevalence and transmission of the disease within the Luxembourgish population.

CON-VINCE is led by a consortium of Luxembourgish research institutions, including LIH, its Integrated Biobank of Luxembourg (IBBL), the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg and the Laboratoire National de Santé (LNS), with the support of the market research company TNS-ILRES for the selection of participants and of the national diagnostic laboratories Ketterthill, Laboratoires Réunis and BioneXt Lab as associated partners for sample collection. The study is co-funded by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) with an amount of EUR 1.4 million and by the Fondation André Losch through a financial commitment of EUR 800,000.  

Learn more on the CON-VINCE study

Scientific Contact:
  • Prof Rejko Krüger
  • Luxembourg Institute of Health
  • Tel: +352 26970-800 (8am – 5pm)
  • con-vince@lih.lu
Press Contacts: