Press Photos of the Year 2020 Revealed

Photographer Yiwei Li 2020 portrait of the year

Iceland Review photographer Golli’s portrait of photographer Li Yiwei was awarded Portrait of the Year at this year’s Press Photo Exhibition hosted by the Icelandic Press Photo Association last Friday. Golli’s portrait, seen above, show’s Li looking up at Iceland’s winter clouds. The jury described the photograph as an “Beautiful, enigmatic, and dreamlike,” adding “The subject lies on the ground looking at the clouds but at the same time, it’s as if she herself is floating on clouds. An unusual and well-executed portrait. Its construction evokes feelings of infinity and calm.”

The Icelandic Press Photos of the Year have been awarded annually since 1979 by the Union of Icelandic Journalists, in seven different categories, in addition to the Press Photo of the year. This year’s Press photo of the Year portrays Ásta kristín Marteinsdóttir, paramedic and legal student who signed up for the healthcare professional reserve corps when the pandemic began. The photo was taken by the National Hospital’s photographer Þorkell Þorkelsson, who also shot the Photo Series of the Year. The judge’s panel called it “ a beautiful moment at the end of a demanding shift at the National Hospital. Beauty in an institutional and sterile environment. There’s calm and peace in the photo but also sadness and fatigue. A symbolic shot for the situation this year, that most people can relate to – handwashing, disinfectant, and fatigue.”

Press photo of the year 2020
Þorkell Þorkelsson. Paramedic and legal student Ásta kristín Marteinsdóttir, who signed up for the medical staff reserve corps when the pandemic began.

Other photographers awarded this year included Kristinn Magnússon (Morgunblaðið) for News photo and Magazine photo of the year, Vilhelm Gunnarsson (Vísir) for Sports and Environment photo of the year, and Valgarður Gíslason for the best photo depicting daily life. The winning photographs are on display at Reykjavík’s Museum of Photography.

This is not Golli’s first distinction from the Press photo Association, as last year, he shot the Press Photo and Photo Series of the year. 

COVID-19 in Iceland: 90 Broke Border Regulations at Airport

Keflavík airport

Icelandic police had to intercept over 90 locals last weekend who had shown up at Keflavík International Airport to pick up friends or family arriving from abroad, which is a breach of border regulations. Arriving travellers are required to undergo two COVID-19 tests and quarantine for five to six days before meeting others. With just 23 active cases and a domestic incidence rate of 3.3, Iceland has been successful in containing the pandemic locally. At a briefing in Reykjavík, however, authorities reminded the public of the importance of maintaining infection prevention practices, both within the country and at its borders.

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

 

On the panel: Chief Superintendent Víðir Reynisson and Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason. Special guest: Chief Superintendent Jón Pétur Jónsson, head of the border department of the National Police Commissioner’s Office.

Yesterday’s COVID-19 numbers have been updated on covid.is. Iceland reported 1 new domestic case yesterday and 3 at the border. Total active cases have dropped to 28. 13 are in hospital and 4,856 have been fully vaccinated. The briefing has begun. Þórólfur goes over the numbers. Yesterday’s one domestic infection was in quarantine at the time of diagnosis. “The success we’ve had continues.” -Þórólfur

Last week, we had five new domestic cases, three of which were in quarantine at the time of diagnosis. Within the past week, 15 have tested positive at the border, about half of which were active cases. The situation is fairly good and we’re still doing well with keeping the pandemic contained domestically, says Þórólfur. Those few who tested positive outside quarantine recently had old infections, meaning they were no longer contagious.

Today, we have implemented a loosening of social restrictions. It’s clear that some think they are too little while others think they are too much.

Þórólfur: Last week, Parliament passed new legislation on infection prevention and we’re looking into the future of border restrictions, along with the Minister of Health. We received the first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week and we hope to start vaccinating nurses and nursing home staff soon with those doses. The two doses will be given three months apart.

Þórólfur: As for rumours of the Pfizer negotiations regarding a mass vaccination study in Iceland, the truth is that we haven’t had any news of the planned study, or how much vaccine we would receive if it goes forward. I assure you all that we’ll let you know when we know.

Jón Pétur takes over to discuss border regulations. He starts by going over the role of border patrol. Police follow through on infection prevention for people arriving in the country. Their orders are constantly being revised, but the main objective remains unchanged: to make information on proper behaviour during a pandemic easily accessible to arriving passengers. From the start, we’ve watched what other countries around us have been doing. Every country has their own way of doing things and the rules can change quickly.

Today, most countries are tightening border restrictions, including requiring a negative PCR-test administered no more than 72 hours before departure. Iceland has had more success in keeping the pandemic at bay recently than many other countries. Now, we’re seeing more relaxed domestic restrictions than before, which means that it is more important than ever to stop incoming infections at the border. Around 1.5 per cent of arriving passengers have an active infection, says Jón Pétur.

In our work at the border, we trust people to have everyone’s best interest at heart and follow the rules. We are, however, aware that not everyone intends to follow the rules and we have examples of people not adhering to quarantine regulations. We also know that Icelanders aren’t following rules, such as to not pick arriving passengers up at the airport. Last weekend, we saw 90 incidents of locals arriving to pick people up at the airport.

The panel opens for questions. “Why are doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine administered three months apart?” Þórólfur says research shows the vaccine is most effective when administered that way. The first doses of the vaccine will be administered in Iceland this week. Authorities are discussing requiring a negative PCR test before departure and if they should require arriving travellers to stay at quarantine hotels (rather than private accommodations) between border tests.

“If Iceland participates in a Pfizer study, will they require Iceland to open its borders?” We’ve had plenty of rumours, some more entertaining than others, but we have no contract drafts to discuss and I can’t speculate on any Pfizer requirements, says Þórólfur. In order for such a study to take place, there are certain requirements [health authorities] will consider and others we won’t, says Þórólfur.

“What would we do if we receive large shipments of vaccine?” Þórólfur: We’d vaccinate people, it’s as simple as that. We’ve been prepared for such scenarios [as administering mass vaccinations] from the start. The proposed mass vaccination facility in Laugardalshöll is a continuation of those original plans, not an indication that Pfizer negotiations are close to being finalised. Þórólfur is asked about further rumours regarding the Pfizer negotiations and again declines to comment.

Víðir is asked about fines for infection prevention regulation infractions. Police have more than 200 such cases on their desk and fines are issued according to common procedure. The police’s goal is not to issue fines, but to help people follow the rules in the first place. Most people want to follow the rules but we don’t hesitate to issue fines if it’s necessary, Víðir concludes.

More on the Pfizer negotiations. Þóróflur says he will not divulge information that is still not finalised. Everyone knows that negotiations are ongoing. Icelandic health authorities have not received any contract drafts from Pfizer. If Icelandic authorities do receive a contract offer from Pfizer for a mass vaccination study, they will have to decide whether the conditions are acceptable for the Icelandic nation, and then it will be announced: yes or no.

Airline and ship workers are required to submit to testing if they’re out of Iceland longer than 72 hours. The success of vaccines against new variants of COVID-19 will likely affect future vaccine production but won’t have much of an effect on Iceland’s vaccination plan. “Will you change the plan if the South African variant is found here?” Þórólfur: No, I don’t think so. We monitor the people who test positive for the UK variant more closely.

“Have the PCR tests been developed at all to minimise the likelihood of false positives, for example?” PCR tests are the best tests that exist: they are the gold standard in COVID-19 testing, what new testing technologies are compared to. Þórólfur: We don’t have any better tests than PCR tests and our research and information are based on the data these tests provide. I don’t see a reason to change that.

Víðir takes over to close the briefing. He reminds the public not to let their guard down: personal infection prevention is the key to our continued success. He adds that people need to follow the rules at the border as well: the number of people trying to pick loved ones up at the airport this weekend was staggering. Wash your hands, wear your mask, and if you have symptoms, get tested and stay at home until you’ve received a negative result.

 

Iceland Review will live-tweet authorities’ next COVID-19 briefing on Thursday, February 11 at 11.03am.

No Traces of Icelandic Mountaineer on K2

K2 John Snorri

Several helicopter missions have failed to find any traces of Icelandic mountaineer John Snorri and his team, who have not been heard from for over three days after setting out to reach the summit of K2, the second-highest mountain in the world. Sherpa Chhang Dawa, who took part in the search, stated that teams flew over an altitude of 7,000m (23,000ft) but found no clues as to what has happened to the missing climbers.

At 8,611m (28,251ft), K2 is the second-highest mountain on Earth and is considered a much more challenging climb than Mt. Everest, the world’s highest peak. In 2017, John Snorri became the first Icelander to top K2, which is located on the China-Pakistan border. He then set his sights on being the first person ever to ascend the peak during winter but was beaten to that goal by Nepalese mountaineer Mingma Gyalje last month. This is John Snorri’s second attempt to ascend K2 in winter.

John Snorri is accompanied by Pakistani mountaineer Ali Sadpara as well as Chilean climber Juan Pablo Mohr. The three lost contact with base camp late last Friday when they were some 400 metres from the peak. The search for the team began on Saturday. Ali’s son Sajid Sadpara, who accompanied the team up to 8,200 metres, stated he believes the team reached the peak and likely had an accident on the way back down.