Icelandic Football Team Qualifies for Euro 2022

Iceland’s National Women’s Football Team has qualified for the 2022 UEFA Women’s Euro. The team ensured their place in the European tournament with a 1-0 win over Hungary on Tuesday.

The Icelandic team finished the qualifying tournament with a score of 19, landing them in second place in their group, behind Sweden. Teams were separated into nine groups in the qualifiers, with the team in the top spot of each group automatically qualified for the championship. In addition, three second-place teams qualify for the 2022 UEFA Women’s Euro, and the Icelandic team had to rely on other match results to ensure their spot. Luckily, in the end, their performance ensured them the chance to compete in the 2022 tournament.

“It would have been fun to celebrate after the game today, but it is a crazy feeling to have secured our place at the European Championships,” National Team midfielder Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir told RÚV. “We had an incredibly strong team in this qualifier. We were well prepared for the 2017 Euros but I personally did not feel we had a good tournament. We were not able to show what we had in us and now we have the opportunity. The group has gotten stronger and strong players have joined the group.”

Sara Björk won the UEFA European Champion’s League this year with her team Olympique Lyonnais, becoming the first Icelander to do so.

The 2022 UEFA Women’s Euro will take place in England.

Iceland Hopes to Vaccinate 75% of Nation By April

While there is as of yet no definite information on when a COVID-19 vaccine will become available in Iceland, the country’s government issued today the latest information regarding the acquisition of vaccines and the planned efforts to administer them. While vaccination could begin in Iceland as early as next month, the vaccines Iceland is in line to buy are still waiting on necessary approval from the European Medicines Agency. Icelandic health authorities aim to vaccinate 75% of the nation, starting with healthcare workers and the elderly.

Iceland to Receive Several Different Vaccines

Icelandic authorities are scheduled to sign a contract next week to purchase enough doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine for 85,000 individuals. The vaccine has yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency, which is expected to make its decision by December 29.

Iceland has already signed a contract with AstraZeneca for its COVID vaccine and should receive enough doses of the vaccine for 115,000 people. AstraZeneca’s vaccine is also waiting on approval from the European Medicines Agency, which is expected to make its decision in January. The Agency is expected to make a decision on the Moderna COVID vaccine by January 12.

Access Through EFTA

Iceland and other EFTA countries are guaranteed the same access to vaccines as member states of the European Union. The European Commission has signed contracts with six vaccine manufacturers, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna. The Commission negotiates the number of doses it receives from each manufacturer and they are divided among countries proportionally. Each individual country also makes contracts with vaccine manufacturers and EFTA member states such as Iceland do so through Sweden. Iceland has already signed such a contract with AstraZeneca and a contract with Pfizer is in its final stages, as stated above. Negotiations with Moderna and Janssen are underway.

Vaccination Timeline

The first doses of COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be shipped to Iceland shortly after each vaccine is authorised by the European Medicines Agency. It is expected that vaccines will be available in limited quantities to begin with, meaning Iceland will not receive all of the doses it has agreed to buy at once.

Most agreements stipulate that vaccines will be imported to Iceland by the manufacturer. They are expected to use the same distributors in Iceland as they have used when distributing medicines they have manufactured. Agreements have already been drafted with distributors for the companies that are likely to receive the first authorisation for their COVID-19 vaccines. Syringes and needles will be distributed along with the vaccines themselves. A working group under the auspices of the Chief Epidemiologist is responsible for organising vaccination, which will be carried out in collaboration with healthcare institutions.

Two Doses 2-3 Weeks Apart

COVID vaccines will be administered in two doses, likely 2-3 weeks apart. It takes around a month from the first dose for an individual to develop immunity, though this may vary depending on the vaccine.

The goal of vaccination is to protect people from the COVID-19 disease and to develop herd immunity that prevents the spread of the pandemic. To achieve herd immunity, Icelandic health authorities estimate it will be necessary to vaccinate at least half of the population. They aim to vaccinate 75%, however. Vaccines will be administered free of charge.

Vaccination efforts are expected to begin early in the new year and the press release expresses hope that the goal of herd immunity will be reached within the first three months of 2021. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist has urged the public to keep their optimism regarding COVID vaccines in check, as they have yet to be approved by European health authorities and could face any number of obstacles along the way.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Chief Epidemiologist Recommends Cautious Optimism Toward Vaccine News

At a briefing in Reykjavík today, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist encouraged locals to keep their optimism in check regarding news that COVID-19 vaccinations could arrive in Iceland as early as next month. While that is a possibility, the COVID vaccines Iceland is in line to acquire have yet to be approved by European authorities. Furthermore, vaccines will need to be administered in two doses and it takes about a month after the second dose for recipients to develop immunity. The Icelandic government has published a press release with the latest information on upcoming COVID-19 vaccination in Iceland.

 

Below is a lightly edited transcription of Iceland Review’s live-tweeting of the briefing.

On the panel: Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason and Assistant to the Director of Civil Protection Rögnvaldur Ólafsson.

Yesterday’s numbers have been updated on covid.is. Iceland diagnosed 14 new domestic cases yesterday (only 1 out of quarantine) and 4 at the border. Total active cases: 205, 38 are in hospital and 2 in ICU.

The briefing has begun. Rögnvaldur starts by noting that everyone’s tired of COVID so he starts by discussing the upcoming cold snap. Þórólfur takes over to discuss the numbers. 14 were diagnosed yesterday domestically, a similar number as the past few days but only one wasn’t in quarantine, lower than in recent days. We don’t know how the pandemic is trending but we hope this is a positive sign, says Þórólfur. It’s positive that the proportion of positive cases of all those tested is decreasing. Hopefully this is an indication that community spread is on the wane.

We’re still seeing small group infections within families, groups of friends, an even one prayer group, says Þórólfur. We’re seeing the same strains we’ve been dealing with recently with but also a newer one from the border. I think we can say that the pandemic has been growing in a linear fashion in recent days but we don’t know what will happen next. Projections show the R factor to be just above one and we are in a delicate spot.

Þórólfur addresses comments from athletes, who have been vocal about how restrictive the regulations are to them. He says restrictions have heavily affected many groups, including tourism workers, all artists and performers, hair salons, restaurateurs, and the public as a whole. He is compassionate toward their plight and hopes they can return to their normal training activities soon. He adds that the restrictions have been successful in helping Iceland keep the pandemic at bay.

We’ve heard much talk on vaccinations in the past few days. Vaccines are awaiting a decision from European authorities. We can expect that by the end of December. But vaccination efforts might not start as soon as January in Iceland, let’s be cautiously optimistic. Also, vaccines become effective about one month after they are administered. We have to be patient. It is important to not let the positive news about vaccination lead to us relaxing our personal preventative efforts, says Þórólfur, as that will only lead to another wave.

The panel opens for questions. Will you suggest harsh restrictions until everyone has been vaccinated? That depends on how the pandemic develops domestically, answers Þórólfur. The UK’s decision to begin vaccinating is interesting but most countries in Europe agree that we need to wait until scientists give the green light, says Þórólfur.

How is Víðir? His symptoms go up and down, answers Rögnvaldur, but hopefully he’ll feel better soon.

When will we know the regulations from December 9? Þórólfur says regulations will be presented by the Health Minister, not him, and mentions that things can change quickly so he doesn’t expect they will be introduced a long time in advance.

Þóróflur and Rögnvaldur are asked about their Christmas “baubles,” and answer that they will be spending Christmas with their immediate family members only.

Will everyone receive the same amount of the vaccine? Usually, vaccines are administrated in equal doses for adults, no matter their size or weight, though children receive a smaller dose. We’ll vaccinate people according to instructions from the pharmaceutical companies.

Can you tell us more about the new strain? Þórólfur says he does not have much information but it would be interesting to know more.

The situation at the hospital is taken into account when Þórólfur issues his recommendations and the situation at the hospital right now is good. Þórólfur points out that strain on the hospital occurs around 2 weeks after cases are diagnosed, as it takes time for serious illness to develop.

The Director of the Icelandic Medicines Agency told Vísir reporters that they could get enough vaccinations for all Icelanders in the first shipment. Þórólfur says that is not the case, but we will most likely get all the vaccines we have access to at first in a single shipment.

Are you considering reopening swimming pools? Þórólfur answers: It’s like I’ve said before, I can’t discuss the details of regulation changes a long time in advance. There are always steps that must be taken and they have to be assessed. We’re aware that people are impatient for swimming pools and gyms to reopen but we’ll have to wait and see. When asked whether he will recommend regionalised restrictions, Þórólfur says there are varying opinions on the matter and he is looking into it.

Will vaccines be free? And will people with more funds have access to them in private clinics?
The vaccine regulations issued by Icelandic authorities are clear: the vaccines will be free and will be distributed through local public healthcare clinics and hospitals.

Þórólfur is asked about vaccination sceptics and their planned response to those who oppose being vaccinated. Þórólfur replies that once they have scientific reports that vaccines are safe and effective, they will recommend their use to the public. Of course, I don’t have a report on the vaccine’s long-term effects, that would be impossible with a new vaccine, but we must consider the long-term effects of the COVID-19 disease: all data points to them being considerable.

Regarding the pending colour-coded COVID risk warning system, the plan was to implement it this week but it’s being fine-tuned and will be presented after the weekend.

Will we get enough of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to vaccinate the whole nation? Þórólfur says no, we’ll probably get around 80,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and the EU is currently negotiating with Moderna. We don’t know how many doses of the Moderna vaccine we will receive, but it will probably be a little less. That is not enough for the whole nation but we’ll have to wait for more information.

Rögnvaldur says he’s heard that the public is being careful and has postponed gatherings they had planned for the weekend. He expresses his gratitude and says that if things continue as they’ve been, we might be able to have a few more people in our bubble for Christmas. Rögnvaldur ends the briefing by encouraging everyone to keep up the good work and says it will work out if we work together.

Iceland Review live-tweets authorities’ briefings every Monday and Thursday at 11.03am UTC.

Reykjavík Emergency Shelters To Stay Open All Day During Cold Spell

Konukot emergency shelter

Reykjavík’s four emergency shelters will stay open all day December 3-7, due to the forecasted cold spell. The Iceland Red Cross’s on-wheels harm reduction team Frú Ragnheiður will be checking up on their protegés, making sure they have a place to stay at night and have warm clothing.

The Reykjavík Welfare Committee activated their contingency plan for people battling homelessness due to the forecasted cold spell. Under normal circumstances, shelters are only open from 5 pm until 10 am the next day. If people spend long hours outdoors in this cold, there’s a risk of hypothermia and accidents.

The four shelters collectively have room for 63 individuals. All shelters will focus on creating a cosy atmosphere indoors so that as many as possible will stay there instead of going out into the cold.

Reykjavík Response and Counselling team, which aids people battling homelessness, substance and mental health issues, is working with Frú Ragnheiður to get information to users who might be in unsafe situations and might need to use the emergency shelters. The city’s also working closely with the National Hospital’s emergency rooms, the capital area police force, the Red Cross and campsite operators.

Frú Ragnheiður is the Red Cross’s on-wheels harm reduction team, helping people battling substance use issues in a specially equipped medical reception vehicle. They posted a request on social media asking for warm clothing for the people they help, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. They received all the donations of warm clothes and down coats they need, and will not be requiring more as they don’t have space to store the clothes that aren’t in use. If people want to support their work, the Red Cross accept monetary donations. During this cold snap, the Frú Ragnheiður team will be checking up on the people they meet, making sure everyone has a place to stay.

Icelandic Comedian Ari Eldjárn Releases Netflix Special

Stand-up comedian Ari Eldjárn

Pardon My Icelandic is the title of comedian Ari Eldjárn’s Netflix special, which premiered yesterday, December 2. Ari referred to the special as a dream come true. In the programme, Ari pokes fun at Iceland and its claims of greatness “per capita,” as well as making light of the differences between Icelanders and their Nordic neighbours.

Comedian Ari Eldjárn, 39, has been performing standup for some 11 years. He has worked as a writer on Icelandic TV programmes and has performed in the UK and Australia.

Iceland Review interviewed Ari Eldjárn about his career in comedy and translating jokes between cultures.