Health minister Paulette Lenert, pictured at a 12 March media briefing, has been a model of calm and level-headedness as she leads the call for common sense to prevail during the coronavirus crisis.
Photo: Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne
During the coronavirus crisis Delano will be singling out individuals, groups of people and associations or businesses who are going beyond the call of duty to help the situation. Up first, health minister Paulette Lenert.
At the end of his coronavirus media briefing on Wednesday 18 March, prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) spoke in praise of health minister Paulette Lenert (LSAP), who he said was working 23 hours a day to coordinate efforts to tackle the crisis. We can only echo that praise.
Lenert, who only took over the health portfolio when Étienne Schneider stepped down from government on 4 February, has been a model of calm and level-headedness in what is, make no mistake, one of Luxembourg’s darkest hours since WWII.
Even before Luxembourg was faced with the immediacy of the current crisis, Lenert had spoken of the need to make smart public money investments and her desire to help foster innovation and research to make Luxembourg a leader in health. Her former role as minister for development cooperation and humanitarian affairs undoubtedly has helped her prepare for the crisis, as her mandate included assisting vulnerable communities in the developing world through intelligent leap-frogging and innovation.
“What I found so fascinating about the development policy,” Lenert said at one of her first engagements as health minister, at a BCC luncheon in February, is that it is "key to bring in new technologies, think about what we can do once we have connectivity in a country, what does it allow to ease up in terms of health services, digital education, digital health.”
She seemed a step ahead of the game, and this sort of thinking is reassuring as she and her colleagues work tirelessly to find solutions not only for the immediate demands of the health crisis, but also the digital infrastructure to support it.
Her public sector career, which includes a five-year spell as first councillor in the ministry in charge of the civil service, has undoubtedly given Lenert valuable insight into the inner workings of government.
Lenert has a typical background for a Luxembourg politician. She graduated from the Athénée (the Luxembourg lycée that has produced more cabinet ministers than any other school) and studied law in France (at the Paul Cézanne University - Aix-Marseille III). But she obtained her masters from the University of London, which may account for her more relaxed, anglophone style of communicating.
Indeed, whether through social media or her regular press briefings, Lenert has been at the forefront of the call for the need for common sense to prevail. She has also made numerous appeals to combat fake news during the crisis. Her team has been responsive to media questions as well. And, unlike leaders in several other countries, she has never tried to hide the seriousness of the crisis or the fact that things are probably going to get a lot worse before they get better.
In any other country the media would be talking of her as a future prime minister (as the UK press has done after impressive performances from another newbie politician to step up to the mark, chancellor Rishi Sunak). But, apart from the fact that she is in the downward trending LSAP, the Luxembourg media is showing excellent comradeship in supporting each other and not politicising the crisis--but that’s a subject for a future “In praise of…” column.