Thirty Hospital Employees with COVID In Isolation

Thirty employees of Iceland’s National University Hospital have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are in isolation, Vísir reports. One hundred and seventy-six employees are in quarantine, including hospital CEO Páll Matthíasson and Assistant CEO Anna Sigrún Baldursdóttir.

Around sixty operations have had to be postponed due to the situation, although all urgent operations, such as cancer-related procedures, are being prioritized and going forth as scheduled.

In addition to those in quarantine, about 40 other hospital staff members were called in for COVID-19 testing on Thursday. Two outpatient wards will operate at a minimal level so as to redirect resources into the hospital’s COVID ward. This reconfiguration is expected to be in place through the weekend.

Police Hope to Train Corona Dogs in Iceland

The Chief of Police in Northwest Iceland hopes to bring specially trained COVID sniffer dogs to the country, RÚV reports. Police in Iceland have been in regular contact with organizations in the UK that train dogs and are investigating whether they can be trained to sniff out the coronavirus on individuals. Preliminary findings show that the dogs are able to detect positive COVID-19 samples with about 90% accuracy and only this week, so-called ‘corona dogs’ started working as part of a pilot project at the Helsinki airport.

Per The New York Times, COVID test-by-dog seems far less uncomfortable than the nose swab method: travellers in Helsinki, for instance, are having their sweat tested. First, they wipe their necks, then drop the sample into a container, and pass it to a corona dog’s handler, who allows the dog to sniff it alongside other containers with different scents. The dogs are able to detect coronavirus-positive samples in roughly ten seconds; the whole process takes less than a minute. According to Finnish researchers, the dogs have also been successful detecting the virus in asymptomatic carriers.

“The British have experience training malaria dogs”

Police in Northwest Iceland oversees the training and assessment of all police dogs in the country. Chief of Police Stefán Vagn Stefánsson says that he’s been closely monitoring the progress of tests with COVID sniffer dogs abroad, and most particularly those taking place in the UK, as the British began training corona dogs quite early.

“The British have experience training malaria dogs in The Gambia in 2016, which yielded good results,” he noted. “They’ve put us in touch with the scientific institutes that are leading this work in the UK [the London School and Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Bernham University] and we’ve been able to follow along with their research.”

Once the British dogs have achieved a high enough success rate, Stefán hopes to be able to start a similar project in Iceland.

Two dogs, one hour, 500 samples

“We’ve got all the knowledge we need here to train these dogs,” he said. “We’ve located dogs abroad that have yet to be fully trained and can be brought to the country. It would probably be about a two-month process for the dogs to be able to sniff and detect skin swabs.”

In the British studies, the corona dogs are able to smell up to 250 samples an hour, which means, Stefán pointed out, that two dogs could sniff up to 500 samples an hour. “And, of course, to maximize accuracy,” he continued, “you could have two dogs smell the same samples.”

While Stefán is undoubtedly excited about the project’s potential and its applications in Iceland, he emphasized that it will be important to see how the pilot projects in Finland, Britain, and Germany progress. “And then, of course, it will be up to people other than us to make a decision about whether this becomes a reality here.”

Residence Permit Granted to Egyptian Family on Humanitarian Grounds

Iceland’s Immigration Appeals Board has rereviewed the asylum application filed by the Khedrs, an Egyptian family of six whose planned deportation this month provoked extensive protests and a broader discussion of the government’s asylum review process. RÚV reports that the Khedrs will receive residence permits on humanitarian grounds, although the appeals board maintains that this is due to an unacceptable delay in the processing of their case, not because the family risks persecution if they are sent back to Egypt.

See Also: “They’re With Me”: Icelanders Campaign for Asylum Seeker Family on Social Media

The Khedrs were scheduled to be deported on September 16, but when the police arrived to escort the family to the airport, Ibrahim Khedr, his wife Dooa, and their four children were not at their place of residence. They went into hiding, with Icelanders showing their support for the family’s situation through protests, both in person and via the social media campaign #þaueruhjámér (they’re with me). The family has been in Iceland since August 2018, when they requested asylum on the grounds of political persecution due to the father’s involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood. As they have been in Iceland for more than two years, their case is controversial, in part because regulations state that families with children should be granted asylum on humanitarian grounds if they have to wait more than 16 months for an asylum application verdict.

See Also: Egyptian Family Not Deported, Whereabouts Unknown

“They can come out of hiding, we won this case,” the family’s lawyer, Magnús Davíð Norðdahl told reporters on Thursday. “The children can go back to school. This is fantastic news and now they can carry on with their lives.”

“This is a great victory for the family and, in my estimation, no less for Icelandic society, for the power of the collective, which often comes into play here. The family extends its many, many thanks to all of those who have supported them in this matter.”

Appeals board says family not at risk, but waiting period too long

Magnús petitioned for the immigration appeals board to reopen the family’s case after their deportation did not take place, stating that authorities had not done an independent and comprehensive assessment of the children’s best interest. He also said the Directorate of Immigration never investigated whether the mother and ten-year-old daughter were in a particularly sensitive position as over 90% of women in Egypt had suffered genital mutilation.

In its reinvestigation of the family’s situation, the appeals board stated that there had been no mention of the risk of genital mutilation in the original application, but that there were enough grounds to reinvestigate the family’s situation. They ultimately decided that the girl was not at risk of degrading or inhumane treatment upon return to Egypt. Nevertheless, the time period that the family had had to wait for their case to be adjudicated had extended beyond the allowable 16 months and as such, the Khedrs will receive residence permits on humanitarian grounds.

“It’s what any parents in the same situation would do”

Magnús says that he believes that public outcry against the family’s scheduled deportation played an important role in the decision to reopen their case and rereview their application for asylum. He also said that their decision to go into hiding was a desperate measure, and understandable given the circumstances.

“It’s entirely understandable. It’s what any parents in the same situation would do, but I believed that this situation would work out and so it has today.”

Ísold Fönn First Icelandic Figure Skater to Complete Triple Flip

Ísold Fönn Vilhjálmsdóttir is the first Icelander to complete a triple flip during a figure skating competition and have it judged valid. RÚV reports that the 14-year-old skater achieved the jump during the Deitannen Cup competition in Switzerland last weekend, where she was awarded a silver medal in the junior ladies category.

Ísold completed the triple flip in a combination with a double toeloop and received a 7.13 from the judges. In training for the tournament, she successfully completed seven triples in practice.

The talented young skater moved to Champérey, Switzerland earlier this year, where she trains under the guidance of Stéphane Lambiel, a former world champion and Olympic silver medalist.