Iceland’s Extensive COVID-19 Screenings Indicate Virus Is Not Yet Widespread

Screening of the general population in Iceland suggests that well under 1% have the virus that causes COVID-19. “This indicates that the virus is not moving at high speed through the society,” stated Þóra Kristín Ásgeirsdóttir, deCODE genetics’s communications officer. The Reykajvík-based company started screening for the virus that causes COVID-19 among the general population on Friday, March 13.

The screening carried out at deCODE genetics is on a voluntary basis, and there has been no shortage of individuals signing up to be tested. So far, out of 2,640 samples taken at deCODE genetics, 22 have tested positive for the virus. The Chief Epidemiologist is notified of all samples that test positive and follows up with contact tracing and further measures.

The screening carried out by deCODE is largely of individuals who are asymptomatic and have not been quarantined. The Icelandic healthcare system is carrying out testing on symptomatic individuals or others who are considered at high risk. Up to date statistics on the results of testing within the healthcare system are available on the Directorate of Health’s official COVID-19 website.

Iceland tests highest proportion of population

In the near future, deCODE is expected to screen around 1,000 individuals per day, and the Icelandic healthcare system at least 100. “In the coming days more results from testing in the general population will continue to elicit a much clearer picture of the actual spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Iceland,” a government press release states.

According to the press release, 3,787 individuals in Iceland had been tested for the virus out of a population of 364,000 as of yesterday. This is a higher proportion of the population than has been tested in any other country.

Screening could contribute to global response

Thorolfur Gudnason, Chief Epidemiologist, says that the data being collected provides valuable information. “There are strong indications that our efforts to contain the spread of the virus have been effective. About half of the diagnosed cases are from individuals who had been quarantined. Our focus is to protect those must vulnerable from contracting the virus, while trying to ensure that the overall spread of the virus remains slow. We are optimistic that the combined efforts to test a large part of the population will provide insights that can contribute to the world’s response to this pandemic.”

“It is amazing to see how the community is coming together as one to deal with this threat. Here at deCode people are working 24/7 to screen for and to sequence the virus. The screening tells us where the virus is and the sequencing how it differs between the places where it is and how it continues to mutate,” said Kári Stefánsson, CEO of deCode.

 

Foreign Tourist With Coronavirus Dies in North Iceland

Húsavík

An Australian tourist in his 30s who sought medical attention in Húsavík, North Iceland for serious illness turned out to be infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, RÚV reports. The man died shortly after arriving at the Húsavík health clinic. His cause of death has not been determined, but despite testing positive for the novel coronavirus, his symptoms were not typical of COVID-19.

In a press conference today, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason confirmed that the man was showing no symptoms of COVID-19 and it is unlikely that it was his cause of death. His wife, who was also travelling with him, also tested positive for coronavirus and has been set in isolation.

An investigation is underway to determine the man’s cause of death. The Husavík health clinic staff who came in contact with the man are being quarantined and the clinic itself will be disinfected. The clinic will scale back operation in the coming days, making every effort to ensure important services are maintained.

Men of the Cloth

Steps above the crowded Laugavegur street, the workshop of Kormákur and Skjöldur Men’s Boutique provides a cushy haven: hefty rolls of fabric rise in piles, and fine suit jackets in various stages of completion line the walls. Sounds are dampened, but there’s plenty to see – and touch. In the middle of the room, tailors Birna Sigurjónsdóttir and Rakel Ýr Leifsdóttir share a high table. They’re making a bespoke suit for artist Ragnar Kjartansson.

Herrafataverzlun Kormáks og Skjaldar, as it is known in Icelandic, has only been dressing men in Iceland since 1996, but their timeless selection of menswear suggests a much longer tradition. Pick up any one item – a wool suit, a Barbour jacket, or a plaid accessory (there is no shortage of plaid on offer) – and the first adjective that comes to mind is “classic.” Yet the suit lying on the table in this workshop is the first fruit of a remarkably innovative project – a quest to make high-quality tweed out of Icelandic wool.

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Homes Evacuated Due to Avalanche Risk

Buildings in two Westfjords towns have been evacuated due to avalanche risk, the Icelandic Met Office reports. Severe weather in the region and heavy snowfall on the mountains led to the decision to evacuate homes and other buildings in the towns of Flateyri and Patreksfjörður and nearby areas. The Icelandic Met Office is monitoring the situation closely in consultation with the Department of Civil Protection.

Recent Flateyri avalanches

Two avalanches fell in the town of Flateyri this past January. While no serious injuries were sustained, the town’s harbour was decimated and many fishing boats destroyed. Three avalanches fell outside the town in late February as well. This year marks the 25th anniversary of two fatal avalanches in Flateyri and nearby Súðavík.

Blizzard in Northwest Iceland throughout today

A Northeasterly blizzard is currently underway in the Westfjords and Northwest Iceland. Extreme weather conditions are expected to continue in the region until this evening. Considerable snowfall and gale-force winds are expected in the region, particularly in the Westfjords. The storm will move east this evening, affecting North Iceland.