Prime Minister “Wonderfully Unflappable” When Earthquake Occurs During Live Interview

Katrín Jakobsdóttir during an Earthquake

An earthquake occurred during Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s live interview with the Washington Post’s David Ignatius. The topic of the interview was leadership during a crisis. 

Katrín was startled by the earthquake, exclaiming, “Oh my god, there’s an earthquake!” but quickly regained her composure and finished her answer to the question posed by Ignatius. Ignatius praised her for her composure, calling the Prime Minister “wonderfully unflappable” before asking her for further information on the 

No injuries have been reported following the 5.6M earthquake and Katrín’s office was not disturbed by the earth shaking. 

The earthquake occurs shortly after the 13.35-minute mark. 

5.6M Earthquake occurs close to Reykjavík

Map showing recent earthquakes in Iceland

A large earthquake occurred at 1.43 pm, originating about 7 km (4.35m) west of Kleifarvatn lake on the Reykjanes peninsula. First numbers suggested the quake measured 5.7 but Iceland Meteorological office now puts it at 5.6M. Several smaller aftershocks occurred but so far, no injuries have been reported. 

The earthquake was felt in the capital area and as far as Ísafjörður in the west fjords and the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago off the south coast. The halls of Parliament were no exception and Pirate Party MP Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson, speaking at the time of the quake was startled. Speaker of Alþingi Steingrímur J. Sigfússon told members of Parliament to stay calm and seated.

Updated: Iceland’s Met office had put the earthquake at 4.9 but after reviewing the data, they state the earthquake was 5.6M. 

Petition for New Constitution Closes With 43,423 Signatures

new constitution graffiti

A petition demanding Iceland’s government adopt the 2012 “crowdsourced constitution” closed yesterday after gathering 43,423 signatures. A movement in support of the constitution has been gathering steam. Meanwhile, Iceland’s Parliament has put together a cross-party committee currently working to revise the constitution with little public input.

Constitutional reform has been on Iceland’s agenda for years. Following the banking collapse, the country “crowdsourced” a new constitution which was handed over to Parliament. A national referendum followed, where a majority voted for the document to be used as a foundation for constitutional reform. Yet it was never adopted. Eight years later, a movement in support of that constitution is growing.

Read More: Where is Iceland’s Updated Constitution?

A recent survey showed that nearly 60% of Icelanders considered it important that the government passes a new constitution this term. Last week, graffiti in downtown Reykjavík reading “Where is the new constitution?” was removed by government authorities. The graffiti has since been repainted on a different surface at the same location. The removal may have had the opposite effect of that intended – as there was an uptick in signatures on the petition following the incident. A second mural in support of the new constitution, pictured above, has since been painted on Skólavörðustígur street.

Icelandic Police Struggle to Reach Marginalised Group Exposed to COVID-19

Police officers in masks

A group of active drug users gathered in a house that later caught fire last week, Vísir reports. Two in the group tested positive for COVID-19 after the incident and police are working to find others in the group who may have been exposed. It’s proved a challenging task, as some of the individuals are homeless.

Capital area police have been working to find and contact nearly 20 individuals who could have been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the apartment. “We’ve been contacting their groups and trying to meet them, invite them to get tested and try to explain to them what resources are available and then also try to inform them if they have been exposed and should be in quarantine, what that means and so on,” stated Ásgeir Þór Ásgeirsson, Chief Superintendent of the Capital Area Police.

Police have offered housing to those who must quarantine in a newly-opened government quarantine facility, the third to be established in the capital area. The new facility is specifically intended to house marginalised groups such as homeless individuals and those struggling with addiction. Ásgeir stated that police are doing everything they can to reach members of the group and ensure they receive the same service as others.

Healthcare Limited for Marginalised Groups

Guðmundur Ingi Þóroddsson, chairman of prisoner’s association Afstaða is concerned about the situation of active drug users, homeless people, and former prisoners in Iceland, particularly in light of the pandemic. “They have limited access to general health services and there are no treatments available for this group,” he stated, adding that there are indications that drug use has increased, illegal drugs have become more expensive and it has become more difficult for those using drugs to access healthcare. Though he says the opening of the quarantine facility for marginalised groups is a step in the right direction, the state and other municipalities need to follow suit.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Gyms Reopen Amid “Unclear” Guidelines

Júlían J. K. Jóhannsson heimsmethafi í kraftlyftingum

In a briefing yesterday, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason expressed his opposition to the reopening of gyms in Iceland, as they have been the source of several group outbreaks in the current COVID-19 wave. Several gyms are reopening today, however, in line with updated guidelines from the Health Ministry that permit group classes with distancing. Many have criticised the updated COVID-19 regulations, which took effect today, as unclear.

New Regulations Change Little

Tighter COVID-19 regulations took effect in Iceland today, though they present only minor changes from the rules previously in effect. A two-metre distancing rule has been implemented across the country. (Previously one-metre distancing was in effect, except in the Reykjavík area where two-metre distancing was mandated.) Bars and clubs will remain closed as per previous regulations. The rules are in effect until November 10.

Stricter rules are in place for the Reykjavík capital area than the rest of the country until November 3. These include closure of all swimming pools and all businesses that require contact (hair and beauty salons and massage parlours, for example). Restaurants in the Reykjavík area must close by 9.00pm while in the countryside they may remain open until 11.00pm. Masks are required across the country in all situations where two-metre distancing cannot be maintained, such as on public transportation.

Health Minister Modified Chief Epidemiologist’s Suggestions

In a memorandum he sent to the Health Minister last week, Þórólfur suggested that gyms remain closed. The Health Minister, however, who has the final say on regulations, decided to allow gyms to reopen exclusively for group classes. According to a notice from the Health Ministry, the Chief Epidemiologist’s October 15 memorandum suggested the continued closure of gyms but allowed “contactless sports activities be allowed with a maximum of 20 participants, where the two-metre rule is followed, disinfection is carried out, and no audience is present. The Ministry’s conclusion was that it was not possible to ban physical activity in gyms where the same conditions could be met as apply to sports activities.” The decision was therefore made on the basis of ensuring non-discrimination.

While many gyms reopen for group classes today, school boards in the capital area have unanimously decided to cancel all indoor athletics for children as well as swimming lessons for the next two weeks. The decision was made based on guidelines from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.

Offer to Convert Unused Hotel into Temporary Nursing Home

tourism industry iceland

Sóltún Elderly Care, an associate company of Sóltún Nursing Home, has made an offer to the Ministry of Health to run a temporary nursing facility for the elderly in the premises of Oddsson hotel. The National University of Iceland is under great strain at the moment to accommodate COVID-19 patients. Hospital CEO Páll Matthíasson has stated that discharging all patients who no longer need hospital care would solve many of their problems, but a lack of rehabilitation facilities and nursing home spaces is a hindrance.

A press release from the company states that they would be able to receive people who are ready to be discharged but aren’t able the leave the hospital due to a lack of facilities to receive them. “This would greatly alleviate the strain on the National University Hospital, as Oddsson could receive up to 77 people and accommodate them in individual rooms,” the statement reads.

Sóltún Elderly care further state that this is a response to an appeal from the Ministry of Health, which recently asked nursing homes to find ways to increase nursing spaces. The company offers to run the facility at Oddsson while society resolves the difficult situation caused by the global pandemic. The press release further states that the first spaces could be ready in November.

Oddsson Hotel is in a newly renovated building at Grensásvegu, and according to Sóltún, no significant alterations to communal spaces or rooms are needed to accommodate elderly care. “Covid-19 has resulted in little demand for hotel rooms at the moment, creating this opportunity to utilise the hotel to solve the pressing problem of strain on the National University Hospital.”

Sóltún Elderly Care runs the Nursing Home Sólvangur in Hafnarfjörður and the at-home nursing service Sóltún Heima. The company also has experience in setting up and running a temporary nursing facility, from opening and running a 30-people temporary nursing space as an addition to Sólvangur while Health authorities waited for the new nursing home at Sléttuvegur to open.