Fishing Company under Fire for Keeping COVID-19-Infected Crew at Sea for Three Weeks

Júlíus Geirmundsson

Test results show that 22 out of 25 shipmates on freezer trawler Júlíus Geirmundsson contracted COVID-19 while out at sea. The ship’s management is currently under fire for not calling the ship to harbour when crew members started showing symptoms, despite repeated requests from doctors. The Federation of Icelandic Seamen’s Unions has issued a statement condemning the ship’s owners’ failure to follow guidelines for discovering the disease at sea.

Despite crew members developing flu-like symptoms one by one, Júlíus Geirmundsson didn’t return to harbour until it needed to refuel last Sunday, after three weeks at sea. During refuelling, the crew was tested for COVID-19 but left again for the fishing grounds before the results were in. They returned as soon as it was discovered that the majority of the crew had contracted COVID-19. While some have recovered and tested positively for COVID-19 antibodies, others are still in isolation and the three who did not contract COVID-19 have to go into quarantine.

A statement on the Gunnvör Freezing Plant’s website yesterday read: “The company would like to state that soon after flu-like symptoms were discovered among the crew, the Westfjord Healthcare Institute was contacted. It was concluded that there was no reason to call the ship to harbour at that time. After fishing for three weeks, it became clear (following crew testing) that there were COVID-19 infections aboard and the ship was immediately returned to harbour. In light of the knowledge we now have, the ship should have been called to harbour, and the whole crew tested sooner.”

The declaration didn’t appease critics, as some interpret it to suggest the tour got a green light from doctors to continue fishing. Hákon Blöndal, the ship’s first engineer, called out the fishing company’s explanation on Facebook, employing salty language to call the declaration an attempt to bury their misconduct and spread misinformation. “This isn’t the whole story, and people have to grow a pair and admit their mistakes,” says Hákon.“If a suspected COVID-19 infection comes up, the captain should contact the Coast Guard so they can decide the next steps. In this case, correct work processes weren’t followed; the crew didn’t get the benefit of the doubt and was put at great risk!” When Vísir contacted Sveinn Geir Arnarsson, captain of Júlíus Geirmundsson, he declined to comment.

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason was asked about the incident during yesterday’s information briefing. He wasn’t up to date with the exact details of the matter but stated that when an illness comes up at sea, the right reaction is to return to harbour and be tested. If that had been done immediately, perhaps some infections could have been avoided.

Súsanna Björg Ástvaldsdóttir is a doctor with the Westfjords Healthcare Institute and the regional epidemiologist. She told Mannlíf that her instructions always have been and always will be to go in and get tested, no matter where you are in the world. “I can confirm that that’s the communication that occurred between the fishing company and me, early on in the tour. My instructions are very simple.”

The Federation of Icelandic Seamen’s Unions issued a statement saying that considering the regional epidemiologist’s account of how her repeated requests that the boat return to harbour were ignored, the fishing company’s response shows disdain for their crew. “The company seems to have only been thinking of its financial gain, with no regard for the health and welfare of their grew. The Icelandic Seamen’s Federation condemns the disdain the company showed the ship’s crew by continuing fishing despite the sickness onboard.” They state in no uncertain terms that they consider the fishing company to have gone against best practices during pandemic times, ending their statement so: “The Federation of Icelandic Seamen’s Unions demands that Icelandic fishing companies follow guidelines on response to infections onboard to the letter and that they don’t put the lives and wellbeing of their crew at unnecessary risk during these dangerous times.”

Iceland Removed From FATF Grey List

Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir minister of justice

Iceland has been removed from the so-called grey list of FATF (Financial Action Task Force) – concerning anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing measures. The organisation’s revealed this conclusion at a meeting today, according to Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir.

Iceland was greylisted along with Mongolia and Zimbabwe one year ago and owed its place on the list to the lacklustre legislature concerning money laundering and its sluggishness in monetary reform. The government responded to the criticism, including the introduction of legislation on the registry of beneficial owners of companies. Last June, Iceland had met the organisation’s requirements in a satisfactory way.

The final decision was made after the organisation’s evaluation this September when experts arrived for field research. These experts concluded that there was a strong political will to continue the work of strengthening Iceland’s defences against money laundering and terrorist financing.

“For the last two year’s we’ve made enormous strides in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. I’m grateful for the hard and selfless work that several individuals and authorities have put in to reach this conclusion. My thanks and congratulations to all of them on this occasion,” said Áslaug.

Commissioner of the Inland Revenue Snorri Olsen told RÚV he thought the positive effect of leaving the grey list will be clear immediately.

 

Daði Freyr in Eurovision 2021

Daði Freyr Pétursson and his band Gagnamagnið will perform Iceland’s entry to the Rotterdam Eurovision Song Contest next May. RÚV approached the musician who agreed to write a song for the contest.  Daði won the local song contest Söngvakeppnin this year with the song Think about Things, which was well received internationally. He was considered a frontrunner for this year’s Eurovision, cancelled due to the global pandemic.

Read more about Daði Freyr’s Think About Things win

Once this year’s contest was cancelled, participating countries were informed they could send their chosen competitor to next year’s contest but they would have to bring a new song. Alternatively, they could have a new competition, choosing a new contestant and song.

Daði told Berliner Zeitung last week that he was ready to participate in the song contest but only if he would be asked to. “Taking part in the preliminary contest is a lot of work and at this point, I don’t see a reason to go through that again. If we went straight to the main contest, we could focus on that.”

In a statement from RÚV, Skarphéðinn Guðmundsson, Director of Programming, says he’s delighted that Daði Freyr accepted the invitation. “Daði won Söngvakeppnin 2020 by a landslide and the reception to Iceland’s contribution has never been so welcoming. We’re very happy and proud to be able to enter this great musician and his people into the competition like we wanted to do last time. We think the nation wants Daði og Gagnamagnið to represent us in this competition.”

He says many things had to be considered before making the decision but they found this was the right thing to do. “Due to the unprecedented situation that there was no Eurovision Song Contest this year. We thought it right and fair.”

In addition to the song contest’s cancellation this year, Daði also had a narrow miss in 2017. His song Is This Love? Was a fan favourite but ultimately came in second to Svala’s Paper. Daði Freyr is excited to finally take the Eurovision Song Contest stage. “I’m very excited. The reason I took part in Söngvakeppnin 2020 was to try to take my friends in the band to experience Eurovision from within. We always wanted to see how far we could go in this competition and we’ll see how we do this year.” Daði hasn’t written the song yet but he’s working on a couple of ideas. “I know how the music video is going to look and I have a few key things that need to be in the stage performance so I’ll write a song around that. I’ll try to write a dong to fit my performance, not the other way around, Euro is in a league of its own. But it will be a fun song, that’s for sure.” Daði is in it for the fun, stating: “The main thing is to have fun with it, although I do think it would be most fun if we win.”

Authorities Denounce Racist Symbols While Officer Rejects Accusation of Racism

police racist flag symbols

Government officials and police management’s response to a photo of a police officer wearing hate symbol patches underneath her uniform has been swift, condemning the flags and denouncing racism within the police force. The police officer in question, as well as the head of Reykjavík’s police union, reject accusations of racism. A photo showing the officer wearing flags and symbols with connotations of white supremacy and violence sparked public outcry.

Read More: Hate Symbols on Reykjavík Police Uniform Cause Public Outcry

Minister of Justice: racism isn’t widespread but incident will have repercussions

Minister for Justice Áslaug Arna Sigubjörnsdóttir stated on Twitter yesterday that hate symbols will not be tolerated within the police, not now nor ever, adding that education will be increased. She stated that police officers had the responsibility to not express hateful points of view through symbols, words, or gestures. “That’s now clearer than ever and everyone should know what these symbols mean. We will set a higher standard from now on.” The police officer has repeatedly told the media she had no idea that the symbols she wore had connotations of white supremacy and violence.

While Áslaug condemned the racist symbols, she told Vísir she doesn’t think racism is mainstream within the police. “This has maybe opened people’s eyes to what these symbols mean, what sort of message they send and what they mean for the people the police serves,” said Áslaug. “Of course I don’t believe racism is deeply rooted within the police here, but I do think we need to learn from this. We will always denounce every kind of hate symbol or discourse that will arise and we can learn from this, understand how different people view these symbols and what they mean,” Áslaug told Vísir.

Chief Superintendent broken-hearted

Chief Superintendent Ásgeir Þór Ásgeirsson, says the symbols underneath the police officer’s uniform are not in compliance with the police’s policy to serve all inhabitants equally and with respect. “This is not the message we want to send,” he told mbl.is and added that the police regrets the incident.

He explained that patches like these have existed for a few years and that officers have worn them on their vests, which usually aren’t visible. Most wear symbols like their blood type, their children’s birth date or old ID number as regional officers. Later on, people started exchanging patches with each other and officers in other countries. He says he hasn’t seen patches like the ones in question before. “We’ve maybe slept on our guard with these patches,” says Ásgeir, adding that regulations clearly state that no patches or symbols can be visible on a police officer’s uniform.

Ásgeir stated that clear instructions were issued today, banning all such patches. He has stated that he feels miserable due to the incident, stating: “The photo sends all the absolutely wrong messages, because the police are trying their hardest to cultivate a relationship with these groups, and the [Vinland flag] is in the complete opposite direction. We take this very seriously and we’re kind of broken-hearted that this was the case,” Ásgeir told RÚV. He has received more images of officers wearing inappropriate patches. He admits that he didn’t recognise the green flag and had to look it up. “it’s horrible that this came up. And what’s so weird is that the photo is three years old, it’s been in the media several times. What’s worse is that no one pulled the reins earlier so that we could have responded sooner.”

MP takes up the issue in Parliament

Pirate Party MP Þórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir took the issue up in Parliament. She has requested that the Capital Area Police meet with Parliament’s Judicial Affairs and Education Committee to discuss racism within the police force and ways to combat it. In a speech, Þórhildur Sunna stated that one of the flags was a symbol of white supremacists and that for the US police, the Punisher logo stood for the police’s role a punishing force, those who take the law and punishments into their own hands and bypass the judicial system. The message was that the police’s only role was to punish citizens for their alleged offences, “but that can not be considered desirable in a society that wants to adhere to a policy of betterment and rule of law.”

She praised the Capital Area Police for their reaction but went on to say that the police officer’s statement that many officers wore the symbols and that she didn’t think they had any negative connotations suggested either a lack of education within the police on racism and violent symbols, “or that racism and violence are accepted within the police force. Both of which are unacceptable.”

Police officer and director of police union reject accusations of racism

Director of the Reykjavík Police Union Arinbjörn Snorrason was offended by the MP’s comments, even suggesting she resign. He told Vísir that police officers who wore the patches did so with good intentions and he never heard any racist messages. When asked if the Vinland flag wasn’t racist, he said it could well be. “I don’t wear these patches myself but I think it was all done with good intentions. […] I think originally, officers, or at least this one, I don’t know how widespread this is, wore them thinking it sent a message of support for a good cause, absolutely not because it was a sign of racism.”

Inspector Anita Rut Harðardóttir, the officer in the photo, does not like the discussion on alleged racism within the police force either, telling Vísir it’s unacceptable that people have called her a neo-Nazi and says she hasn’t received any negative messages from colleagues, only support. She has recently added a thin blue line to her profile picture on Facebook. Asked about the addition, she stated it’s simple, it’s to raise awareness of the thin blue line. “It’s not racist like people are saying but it’s a mark of solidarity within the police. Us who stand guard that society is good. That we do our job and that it is underappreciated.” She reiterates that she does not think the flags are bad. “I would never take part in the ugly game of carrying flags with such messages. That’s not what the police stands for. I don’t feel embarrassed about the flags. The Punisher flag, if that annoys people, I’ll take it down. It’s a cartoon figure and I didn’t think more about it. but calling me a neo-Nazi, that’s just sad.”