Volunteers Prepare to Pitch In On COVID-Affected Farms

Almost 100 people have signed up to provide relief assistance on farms across the country, Vísir reports. The initiative, launched by the Farmers Association of Iceland (BÍ), will send temporary workers to help farmers who have fallen ill with COVID-19 and are unable to maintain their farms. At the time of writing, six farmers in the Vestur-Húnvatnssýsla district in Northwest Iceland have contracted the virus.

“Almost a hundred people are on our list,” remarked Guðbjörg Jónsdóttir, the BÍ project manager. “I’m really touched at how the country is thinking about farmers and is ready to help. There are people who have experience and knowledge and have an education in agriculture and then also those who have lost their jobs in the tourism sector and then working consultants – all really decent folk from all over the country.”

At this time, the infected farmers in Northwest Iceland have been able to continue maintaining their farms with the help of family members or workers from nearby farms. It’s not yet known what other farms have been affected by COVID-19, but by having a list of volunteers in place, BÍ is hoping to circumvent further disruptions in the agricultural sector as the virus continues to spread.

“The virus is obviously just starting to run its course,” said Guðbjörg, “and the lambing season is going to start in a month – that’s the biggest concern, how we’re going to deal with that.”

Plenty of Swabs for COVID-19 Testing

Fears last week that COVID-19 testing would need to slow in Iceland due to an anticipated shortage of testing swabs have turned out to be unfounded. As of Monday, in fact, it’s expected that the local supply of testing swabs will amount to 89,000.

Unexpected windfall

On Thursday afternoon, RÚV reported that the National University Hospital had found a stock of 6,000 testing swabs that were suitable for COVID-19 testing. “These are a different kind of swab that we didn’t actually know we could use,” explained Karl G. Kristinsson, head of the hospital’s virology ward. The swabs expire next month, but Karl said that there was nothing preventing them from being used in the meantime. This discovery brought the local supply of swabs to 9,000 and testing increased.

Later that day, it was concluded that 20,000 swabs donated by Reykjavík-based prosthetics company Össur are also suitable for testing. Össur had previously offered up the possibility of donating 100,000 swabs that it produced in-house, but ultimately, it was a different set of swabs – produced by a different company and used in Össur’s manufacturing division – that proved to be useable for COVID-19 testing. The swabs were tested extensively at the hospital and by deCODE Genetics before being put into use.

“The swabs from Össur are usable,” deCode Genetics posted on Facebook. “The first results yesterday didn’t give us cause to be optimistic, but after further investigation, we discovered there were errors in the test. After the tests were repeated today, the results were significant…Obviously, these 20,000 swabs will solve the shortage problem…and testing will resume in full force in the coming days.”

More swabs on the way

Thursday evening also brought the news that deCode Genetics was expecting a total of 60,000 swabs to arrive from China in the next few days. “I’m expecting that we’ll receive 10,000 swabs tomorrow and then 50,000 on Monday,” deCode CEO Kári Stefánsson told reporters. This means, plain and simple, that the swabs won’t be in short supply.”

“We’d like to take a random sampling in order to see what’s really going on in society,” Kári continued, explaining that he thinks it’s possible that deCode’s findings thus far might be exaggerated because the people who are the most likely to get tested are those who are already symptomatic of the virus or have other reason to believe they’ve been infected. deCode would like to make testing more widely available, however, said Kári, “to give people the opportunity to come and find out whether they have the virus or not.”