Proposes Stricter Guidelines for Appointing Ambassadors

Foreign Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson.

Ambassador positions will be advertised more publicly and criteria for their appointment tightened if amendments proposed by the Foreign Affairs Minister are implemented. The proposed changes include capping the number of ambassadors at 30, outlining the jobs’ requirements in law, and making advertising of the positions mandatory.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson says the proposed changes to the Foreign Service Act would rectify the shortcomings of the current process used to appoint Iceland’s ambassadors. “These changes ensure the necessary balance between firmness and flexibility within the foreign service, as knowledge and experience of international affairs form the core without missing the opportunity to also utilise the talents and experience of individuals from other areas of society,” Guðlaugur stated in an interview with Morgunblaðið. He added that the amendments would also promote equal rights, increasing opportunities for women within the foreign service.

Guðlaugur has not appointed any new ambassadors since he took office as Foreign Minister in January of 2017. In that time, their number has decreased from 40 to 36.

In November 2018, the recorded conversation of six MPs at a bar in downtown Reykjavík, which later became known as the Klaustur scandal, revealed that Former Prime Minister Geir Haarde was appointed to an ambassadorial position as a political favour. Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, who appointed Geir to the position, also stated that he appointed his cousin Árni Þór Sigurðsson as a distraction from the former appointment.

Currently, the Minister for Foreign Affairs is permitted to appoint ambassadors without advertising their positions publicly. That would change in most cases if the amendments are passed.

Garbage Collection Resumes, Strike Ongoing

Garbage collection resumed in Reykjavík this morning despite an ongoing strike among City of Reykjavík staff who are members of Efling Union. Garbage collection was suspended when a general strike began on February 17. The service has now been temporarily exempted from the strike due to public health concerns connected to COVID-19. Three cases of the virus have been confirmed in Iceland.

Garbage collection began in the neighbourhood of Breiðholt this morning, and the neighbourhood of Árbær will follow later in the week. City workers did not manage to collect garbage from these two neighbourhoods before the strike began.

Only mixed household waste will be collected from private residences this week, not paper or plastic. Residents of Reykjavík can bring sorted paper and plastic recycling to Sorpa’s drop-off centres

The strike exemption for garbage collection will stand until March 6.

COVID-19: Information for Travellers to Iceland

Keflavík airport Icelandair

The Directorate of Health has published a health alert notice for travellers regarding COVID-19 in Icelandic, English, and Chinese. Hotels, guesthouses and other accommodations, as well as tour operators and information centres, are encouraged to print out the information and have it visible in their reception. Three cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Iceland, all Icelanders who had recently returned from ski trips in Northern Italy.

The Directorate has also published guidance for frontline service staff in EnglishPolish, and Spanish.

China, Italy, South Korea and Iran defined as high-risk areas

Icelandic authorities have defined China, Italy (as of Saturday, February 29), South Korea, and Iran as areas with a high risk of infection and have advised against travelling to those countries. Individuals who have been in those countries in the past few days and are in Iceland are advised to stay at home for 14 days as a precaution. Foreign travellers are not being directed to stay in quarantine at this time as they are considered less likely to spread the infection to the general population.

Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Tenerife have been defined as areas with a low risk of infection. Individuals that are in these areas or have been in these areas for the past few days are advised to pay close attention to personal hygiene. That involves frequent hand washing, using a paper towel/cloth when sneezing/coughing, and using hand sanitizers. Hand washing, avoiding touching of eyes, nose, and mouth, and avoiding handshaking are key factors in reducing the risk of infection.

Individuals located in Iceland are asked to report symptoms (cough, fever, and muscle aches) that arise 14 days after visiting the abovementioned areas to 1700 (+354 544-4113 for foreign numbers) and review travel history.

For the most up to date information on COVID-19 in Iceland, visit the website of the Directorate of Health.

Iceland Confirms Third COVID-19 Case, 300 in Quarantine

officials covid-19 almannavarnadeild ríkislögreglustjóra

Iceland confirmed its third COVID-19 case yesterday evening. Some 300 individuals are in home-based quarantine in the country, according to a notice from authorities. All three cases of COVID-19 in the country are Icelanders who recently returned from skiing trips in Northern Italy. All three live in the capital area.

Iceland’s first COVID-19 case was confirmed last Friday, and the individual set in quarantine at the National University Hospital’s Infectious Diseases ward in Reykjavík. Two further cases were confirmed yesterday: a man in his fifties and a woman in her forties, both of whom had returned to Iceland yesterday on Icelandair flights. The airline has decided to distribute flyers to all passengers with information on the virus.

The Icelandic man who tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday was flying from Verona, Italy, which has been defined as a high-risk zone. All of his fellow passengers have been recommended to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days. The woman, on the other hand, was flying from Munich, which is not defines as a high-risk zone. Only passengers sitting close to her in the aeroplane, and those who were also travelling from Italy, have been recommended to take further precautions as regards to the risk of contagion.

As of the time of writing, Icelandic authorities have defined China, Italy (as of Saturday, February 29), South Korea, and Iran as areas with a high risk of infection and have advised against travelling to the countries. Individuals who have been in the countries in the past few days and are in Iceland are advised to stay at home for 14 days as a precaution.

For the most up to date information on COVID-19 in Iceland, visit the website of the Directorate of Health.