COVID-19 in Iceland: Country Reports 12th Death

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason

The National University Hospital of Iceland reported the country’s 12th death due to COVID-19 today. The patient is the second to die of the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2 since the country’s third wave began in mid-September. The hospital expressed its condolences to the loved ones of the deceased.

Iceland reported 86 new domestic cases of COVID-19 yesterday. The number of cases diagnosed outside of quarantine does not appear to be dropping. Around 120 of Iceland’s 1,062 active cases are traced to a group outbreak at the National Hospital’s Landakot location.

Due to these and other factors, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has stated that he will be submitting recommendations for updated restrictions to the Health Minister shortly.

Iceland Review will live-tweet authorities’ COVID-19 briefing tomorrow at 11.00am UTC at the link below.

Owner Will Have One Month to Demolish Fire-Ravaged House

Bræðaborgarstígur fire

The owner of a Reykjavík house, now in ruins after a fatal fire, will be ordered to demolish the building’s remains within 30 days, RÚV reports. The Vesturbær Neighbourhood Residents’ Council has expressed concern that impending winter weather could knock over the compromised structure. The house owner’s lawyer has said the building cannot be demolished due to an insurance dispute.

The fire that occurred at the house last June resulted in three deaths and is considered the deadliest fire in Reykjavík’s history. A man was immediately apprehended following the fire and has since been charged with manslaughter and arson. The house was being rented for use as workers’ housing and had been investigated by media for unacceptable living conditions as far back as 2015.

Read More: Fire Sparks Conversation About Working Conditions Facing Foreigners

Owner Cites Insurance Dispute

Skúli Sveinsson, the house owner’s lawyer, told reporters it is not possible to demolish the house as there is an ongoing dispute between the owner and his insurance company on whether the house requires demolition or simply renovation. The City of Reykjavík’s Buliding Inspector Nikulás Úlfar Másson says the dispute is irrelevant to authorities. “Our duty is to ensure that buildings don’t pose a danger to their environment, can harm or even cause health problems to passersby or those living in their vicinity,” Nikulás stated. “We have been monitoring the scene, with the net that covers the house and the fence, and all of that has been exemplary so far but now of course we can expect all kinds of weather that could simply destroy the house. We don’t truly really know what condition it’s in.”

“Now it’s time for us to send a letter to the owner and ask him to demolish the house within 30 days or come up with an explanation as to what he plans to do with the ruins,” Nikulás stated.

Both the house’s owner and the man who has been charged for the fire are expected to face legal proceedings from the families of the victims. All three people who died in the fire were Polish citizens.

Five Unions Press Charges Against Fishing Company following COVID Outbreak On Board

Júlíus Geirmundsson

Five unions are joining forces to press charged against a captain and fishing company for keeping a crew of 25 at sea for three weeks despite a COVID-19 outbreak on board, RÚV reports. Twenty-three of the 25 crew members became infected by the novel coronavirus in the outbreak, many developing serious symptoms. The ship stayed out at sea for several weeks contrary to guidelines from authorities and many ill crew members kept working.

The five unions are pressing charges against the captain of the freezer trawler Júlíus Geirmundsson, on which the incident occurred, as well as against the fishing company that runs the ship, Hraðfrystihúsið Gunnvör. The unions are also asking the Westfjords District Court to order a so-called “maritime inquiry” (sjópróf), a type of formal investigation conducted on incidents at sea. The purpose of such an inquiry is to determine the causes of the event in question and whether the shipowner, captain, or crew were criminally liable.

Read More: Fishing Company Under Fire for Keeping COVID-19 Infected Crew at Sea

“This is really a request for a police investigation of the case to the Westfjords Chief of Police and a request to the District Court to conduct a maritime inquiry on the case to find out what really happened on board and why and if necessary who is responsible,” stated Valmundur Valmundsson, chairman of one of the unions.

Karl Ingi Vilbergsson, Chief of Westfjords Police, stated yesterday that his aim was to finish interviewing all general crew members that day. The investigation’s next steps would be decided after that. He told reporters: “This is a grave matter and I don’t think we can live with it any other way than by getting to the bottom of it.”

The five unions are Verkalýðsfélag Vestfirðinga, Sjómannafélag Íslands, Félag skippersmanna, Félag vélstjóra og máltæknimanna, and Sjómannasamband Íslands.

The CEO of Hraðfyrstihúsið Gunnvör has responded to the incident, with a statement and interview that have been called contradictory.

Let it Glow: Reykjavík Christmas Lights Make Early Appearance

Christmas lights Advent Reykjavík

Reykjavík Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson has announced that the city will set up Christmas lights earlier than usual this year. The first lights will be lit this coming weekend, and they will be added to gradually afterwards.

“We’ll have the Christmas Cat and the Christmas tree and the basis of this is that if there’s been any year when we’ve truly needed Christmas it’s certainly this year,” Dagur stated in an interview on Stöð 2. “If [COVID control] and such goes well in the coming weeks then we aim for the city to be more Christmas-y than ever and coming here and sitting down at a restaurant will be irresistible.”

Read More: IKEA Christmas Goat Gives it Another Go

The decision to light up the capital earlier than usual was prompted by an initiative called Líf í lokun (roughly translated as Life in Lockdown), aiming to bring more life into downtown Reykjavík by connecting creatives with landlords offering empty or available spaces in the city centre. The movement’s organisers urged the mayor to put up Christmas lights as soon as possible in order to bring a bit of holiday cheer to the town.