Domestic Violence Emergency Online Chat Now Available in English And Polish

First Lady of Iceland Eliza Reid

“Violence and abuse in close relationships can take many forms and is sadly all too common, even here in Iceland.” So begins Eliza Reid’s introduction to the National Emergency Number’s new online effort (112.is) to reach sufferers, perpetrators and families affected by domestic abuse. The online chat is part of Iceland’s government’s attempt to address domestic violence during the global pandemic.

The online gateway for domestic violence centres around Iceland was officially opened in October but is now available in English and Polish in addition to Icelandic. The most significant change offered by the new platform is that people affected by domestic violence can now contact emergency services not only by calling Iceland’s emergency number, 112 but also via online chat on their website. A notice from the Emergency Services states that the need for such a central information hub has never been greater than in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the pandemic’s effect on households and mental health, the holidays often cause increased strain on families causing tension and violence.

Eliza Reid, co-founder of Iceland’s Writers’ Retreat and wife of President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson officially introduced the English and Polish part of the website. In her online address, she stated that “ Violence and abuse can take place across all, ethnicities, educational backgrounds, socio-economic class, religion, sexual orientation, gender. It can happen to people that you know, to your neighbours, to your family members, and we really need to be looking out for each other.” She spoke on different forms of abuse and the resources available through 112.is, such as the Women’s Shelter, Stígamót, Bjarmahlíð and Bjarkarhlíð, located in Reykjavík and Akureyri. If you’ve experienced any such kind of abuse, either if you’re experiencing it now or if you have in the past, or if you’re concerned that you or someone that you know may be experiencing such abuse in the near future, I encourage you to go to 112.is where you can have an anonymous chat online with someone and you can also see all kinds of resources about the services that are available to you and the help that you can seek.”

The online effort of 112 is one of the main tasks suggested to unite efforts against violence in times of trauma and economic difficulties due to COVID-19. The team’s directors are National Police Commissioner Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir and Eygló Harðardóttir. The Emergency Response Services have also been tasked with organising a campaign to encourage people to disclose violence and seek help with 112.

The full video can be seen below and everyone who has witnessed or experienced domestic abuse is encouraged to visit www.112.is.  

Infrastructure Development in New Nature Reserves

Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson and Birkir Jón Jónsson by Dynjandi waterfall.

The Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources has allocated 140 million ISK ($1,102,535, €893,712) to emergency operations and infrastructure development in areas that were declared nature conserves in 2020.

Wooden platforms will be constructed in the Geysir geothermal area, which was declared a nature conserve last summer, as well as gravel paths and an observation platform. Infrastructure in Kerlingarfjöll will also be built, as the area is on a red list due to tourist onslaught and at risk of losing its characteristics that led to it being protected. The strain is most visible in Neðri Hveravellir where a lack of control and infrastructure leaves the unique geothermal area and delicate clay soil unprotected. Walking platforms will be constructed to protect sinter and the hot spring clay from desire paths and foot traffic.

A pedestrian bridge will be constructed on the 5 km hiking path from Ásgarður to Hveradalir. This is one of the most popular hiking trails in the area but Ásgarðsá river can be deep and fast-flowing and can prove a hindrance to people who don’t want to wade across it. The project leaders also suggest the work will be done in the vicinity of Búrfell and Búrfell canyon, where another popular hiking trail is straining its environment. The delicate flora in the area is liable for damage because of foot traffic. Additional projects include informational signs by Goðafoss waterfall, infrastructure by Háifoss waterfall in Þjórsárdalur and research into whether further infrastructure is needed by Gjáin and Hjálparfoss.

“Nature reserves are important to protect the natural and cultural value of the land for the next generations. By conserving areas, an additional attraction is created that can be helpful to create jobs in rural areas,” stated Minister for the Environment Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson. “I’ve focused on directing infrastructure funds to newly conserved areas and to deal with issues as soon as they arise. In 2020, eight locations became conserved areas and in many, improvements are needed to make sure nature is receiving the benefit of the doubt.”

Iceland to Receive 5,000 Doses of Moderna Vaccine Through February

According to the Ministry of Health’s vaccine distribution schedule, Iceland will receive 5,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in January and February but after that, distribution will increase. This is proportional to the amount of vaccine distributed to other nations in the EU vaccine negotiations, based on population. It is hoped that the Moderna vaccine will receive its marketing license today from the European Medicines Agency. Iceland is expecting 128,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine total, enough to vaccinate 64,000 people.

Before the end of last year, Iceland received 10,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. According to distribution schedules, Iceland will receive a minimum of 45,000 additional doses from Pfizer in the first quarter of 2021. The next shipment is scheduled for January 20 and it is expected to be similarly sized. Shortly before the end of the year, Iceland signed another deal with Pfizer securing 80,000 doses in addition to the 170,000 doses previously negotiated. According to a release from the Ministry of Health, there is also a chance Iceland might receive more of the Pfizer vaccine during the first quarter due to the new deal.