Andri Snær and Guðrún Eva Nominated for the 2021 Nordic Council Literature Prize

Fourteen Nordic novels, short stories, and poetry collections have been nominated for the 2021 Nordic Council Literature Prize. This year, Iceland’s nominees are Andri Snær Magnason for On Time and Water and Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir for Aðferðir til að lifa af.

The winner of the 2021 Nordic Council Literature Prize will be announced on November 2 in Copenhagen, in conjunction with the Session of the Nordic Council. The winner will receive the Northern Lights statuette and DKK 300,000 (6,204,000 ISK, $49,300, €40,328).

The Nordic Council Literature Prize was first awarded in 1962. It goes to a literary work written in one of the Nordic languages – poetry, prose, or drama. Eight Icelanders have won the prestigious award before, including Thor Vilhjálmsson, Sjón and most recently in 2018, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir.

Read more – Andri Snær on writing and what it takes to save the world

The list of nominees for this year’s literature prize:

Denmark

Penge på lommen. Scandinavian Star. Del 1 by Asta Olivia Nordenhof. Novel, Basi…

Mit smykkeskrin by Ursula Andkjær Olsen. Poetry collection, Gyldendal, 2020.

Finland

Bolla by Pajtim Statovci. Novel, Otava, 2019.

Autofiktiv dikt av Heidi von Wright by Heidi von Wright. Poems, Schildts & Söde…

Faroe Islands

Eg skrivi á vátt pappír by Lív Maria Róadóttir Jæger. Poems, Forlaget Eksil, 20…

Greenland

Naasuliardarpi by Niviaq Korneliussen. Novel, Milik Publishing, 2020.

Iceland

Um tímann og vatnið by Andri Snær Magnason. Novel, Forlagið, 2019.

Aðferðir til að lifa af by Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir. Novel, Bjartur, 2019.

Norway

Er mor død by Vigdis Hjorth. Novel, Cappelen Damm, 2020.

Det uferdige huset by Lars Amund Vaage. Novel, Forlaget Oktober, 2020.

The Sami language area

Gáhttára Iđit by Inga Ravna Eira. Poems, Davvi Girji, 2019.

Sweden

Strega by Johanne Lykke Holm. Novel, Albert Bonniers Förlag, 2020.

Renheten by Andrzej Tichý. Short stories, Albert Bonniers Förlag, 2020.

Åland

Broarna by Sebastian Johans. Novel, Nirstedt/litteratur, 2020.

The works have been nominated by the national members of the adjudicating committee for the 2021 Nordic Council Literature Prize.

65 Have Applied For Remote Worker Visas

Since regulation changes made it possible for remote workers outside the EEA with substantial incomes to obtain visas to Iceland for 6 months, 65 such applications have been received, almost all from US citizens, Kjarninn reports. Ten people have already come to Iceland on such a visa but 50 more applications have been accepted.

The Directorate of Immigration has received 65 visa applications for people outside the EEA who want to come to Iceland and work for a foreign company remotely for up to six months. These visas were first made available at the end of October and attracted some interest for the strict conditions required for obtaining such a visa, most notably the high salary requirements attached. In order to obtain a remote working visa, people need to have a salary of at least 1 million ISK per month or show proof of contract work meeting the required income standards if working independently.

According to the Directorate of Immigration, the 65 visa applications are both from people who wants to work remotely from Iceland, as well as their spouses and children. Ten people have been issued such a visa but the visa isn’t issued until the people arrive.

In addition to the ten already here, the Directorate of Immigration has approved 50 more visa applications and is processing five more. 95% of the applications come from the US and the remaining 5% are either Canadian or British.

The new visa option was introduced last October, intended for remote workers who want to spend time in Iceland. Since the remote workers don’t pay taxes in Iceland, they’re not entitled to any government services. If the visa holder is bringing school-age children, they need to provide proof that the children are studying remotely or being home-schooled or, alternatively, get permission to place them in an Icelandic school.

The initiative is intended to make it easier for remote workers to choose Iceland as their residence. Authorities are looking into extending the visas for more than the current 6 months but that would require further changes to legislation and regulations. The Ministry of industry and innovation told Kjarninn that Minister of Industry, Innovation and Tourism Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir has brought the issue up in a government meeting, suggesting that her ministry figure out how to execute further visa extensions and present the necessary legal changes to the government no later than May 7.

Visit Iceland has analysed the demand for remote work in Iceland and found that there’s a great demand for working remotely in Iceland but many don’t fulfil the strict requirements currently in place for such visas. Visit Iceland also found that the application process needed to be streamlined, applicants’ spouses needed to be able to obtain work permits in Iceland, and the tax situation should be reviewed.

When the initiative was presented last October, Þórdís Kolbrún stated that to develop an export industry based on innovation in Iceland, we needed to create an environment where people with different ideas and skills can get to know each other, learn from each other and create opportunities for the future. The Icelandic innovative industry’s greatest weakness was its lack of connections to the international market and by attracting remote workers, we could create new connections.

Þórdís Kolbrún also told Kjarninn that she believed making remote worker visas available was only one step. The process also needed to be simplified and Iceland needed to be marketed as an option for remote working. “for experts in international tech companies, we can offer a high quality of living. There’s the nature of course, but also good access to kindergartens and elementary schools, which is often a bigger bonus for people with children than we realise. Then there’s our great healthcare system, active cultural life, peace and quiet,” said Þórdís Kolbrún.

COVID-19 in Iceland: No Reason to Turn Down AstraZeneca Vaccine, Says Chief Epidemiologist

COVID-19 vaccine vaccination Iceland

A few individuals in Iceland have turned down the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated at a briefing in Reykjavík today. Þórólfur stressed that while the manufacturer’s vaccine is slightly less effective than those made by Pfizer and Moderna, the difference is insignificant and there is no reason for the public to refuse it. Those who refuse vaccination will lose their spot in priority groups and be put at the end of the line, the Chief Epidemiologist stated.

Iceland has reported no new domestic cases of COVID-19 out of quarantine since February 1. Authorities announced that twice-weekly briefings would be reduced to once per week and the next briefing would take place on Thursday, March 4 at 11.03am UTC.

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

 

On the panel: Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson and Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason.

Yesterday’s numbers have been updated on covid.is. Iceland reported 0 new domestic cases and 1 at the border. Total active cases have dropped to 15. 12,376 have been fully vaccinated, just under 3.4% of the population.

The briefing has begun. Víðir begins by addressing the ongoing earthquake swarm in Southwest Iceland. He encourages the public to make sure there are no loose items in their homes that can fall on people as they are sitting or sleeping.

Þórólfur goes over the numbers. The situation continues to be good, no new domestic cases yesterday. Fewer samples were taken however, 450 as compared to around 1,000 per day in recent days. The last domestic case that was diagnosed outside of quarantine in Iceland was on February 1, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason says.

For the past week, seven COVID-19 infections have been caught at the border, 3 of them active infections. There have been no cases of the South African or Brazilian variants of the virus. We must be vigilant when it comes to variants believed to be more infectious. The British variant is spreading rapidly in the Nordic countries, says Þórólfur.

We’re entering a new chapter in the fight against COVID-19, doing our best to stave off new infections but relaxing restrictions domestically, says Þórólfur. Over 200 travellers arrive in Iceland each day and the majority of them now present certificates of negative PCR tests, vaccination certificates, or antibody certificates confirming a previous COVID infection. Most arriving travellers come with a negative PCR test certificate or around 80%. Around 3% present an antibody certificate and 3% a vaccination certificate. Research from Israel is showing that those vaccinated against COVID-19 are unlikely to spread the virus to others, which is good news. We need to watch out for if people are testing positive at the border despite presenting negative PCR tests before departure, especially if they test positive in the second test (after five days of quarantine). That will be crucial for determining future border regulations. Þórólfur thanks border staff for doing their part and for their patience in adopting new regulations.

Vaccinations are ongoing in Iceland, no updates on distribution schedules for the second quarter are available at this point. We’ve received news in the past few days that people are turning down vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine, says Þórólfur. It does have slightly less efficacy than the other vaccines available, but the difference is small and it does provide active protection against COVID. While people have reported more side effects after the first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine, people report more side effects after the second shot of the other vaccines so that aspect evens out, says Þórólfur. Þórólfur does not consider there to be a significant different between the currently available vaccines and no reason to refuse the AstraZeneca vaccine or others. Those who refuse the AstraZeneca vaccine miss their spot in the priority group and are put at the back of the line.

The panel opens for questions. Þórólfur still believes we shouldn’t be exempting people with vaccination certificates from border tests and quarantines, but it was the government’s decision to do so anyway so that’s what we’re doing.

Iceland is seeing a reduction in the spread of infectious diseases such as influenza this year as compared to other years, says the Chief Epidemiologist.

We will vaccinate everyone in Iceland, no matter their citizenship, Þórólfur confirms. Icelanders living abroad can be vaccinated here but they won’t be prioritised over others, says Þórólfur.

Þórólfur has no more news on the possible distribution schedule of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently being reviewed by the European Medicines Agency.

The Swedish fear another wave of the pandemic is on the way, and the British variant is wreaking havoc in the countries around us. We’ve detected the British strain in over 60 people at the border but it hasn’t been dominant in border cases and hasn’t spread into the community.

“When can we hug people again?” That depends on your relationship to them, says Þórólfur. You can hug those closest to you, that has never been banned.

“Should people who contracted COVID-19 at the beginning of last year be retested for antibodies and will they be vaccinated?” A final decision has not been made on that, says Þórólfur. Research on how long antibodies last is ongoing. Around 30,000 people were tested for antibodies last year. Though antibodies stick around it is not certain whether they continue to provide protection.

If our current success continues, there’s a chance mask requirements will be lifted, although they will remain optional, that will all remain to be seen, says Þórólfur.

When asked about new border regulations that allow officials to set people in quarantine hotels in certain cases, Víðir states that no one has been required to stay at a quarantine hotel yet and no fines have been issued to those who have failed to present negative PCR tests. Regarding the border: Þórólfur adds that the majority of passengers have had no problems procuring the test certificates, it doesn’t seem to be as difficult as some have worried. After all, most countries are requiring such certificates these days.

Þórólfur is asked to look back at the last 12 months as the first anniversary of Iceland’s first COVID-19 infection (February 28) draws near. Þórólfur states that last spring, he would have thought the virus would spread more in Iceland and take less time to pass, but he was always prepared for the pandemic taking a lot longer to pass. He says he has been happy with border regulations, especially since last August, when double testing was implemented. He sees no reason to change current border regulations before May 1, when a new colour-coded system is expected to take effect.

At the moment, the worst-case scenario and biggest threat is that a new variant of the virus becomes vaccine-resistant. In Iceland, we’ve sequenced more than 350 variants. We don’t need to worry over each one but the possibility of vaccine resistance is definitely a threat. However, we know what we need to do to fight the virus, whether there’s a new variant or not.

“Is the virus somewhere out there in the community still?” As time passes, it becomes less likely that someone is infected but not presenting symptoms. However, we always need to stay vigilant. Þórólfur encourages the public to get tested if they experience symptoms. Early detection is the cornerstone of Iceland’s pandemic response.

Víðir announces that the briefings will be reduced from twice a week to once weekly. The next COVID-19 information briefing will be held next Thursday, March 4, at 11.03am UTC.

The briefing has ended.

Police Respond to Bomb Threats at Reykjavík School

Classes were cancelled at Reykjavík junior college Mentaskólinn við Hamrahlíð this morning after school administrators received a bomb threat by email. Police made an extensive search of the building and found no dangerous items. The school has been reopened and administrative staff will decide whether classes will resume in the afternoon.

Several Bomb Threats Made

Police have stated they believe they know who was behind the threat. According to a notice to press, the individual is based abroad and has issued similar threats in the past. Bomb threats were also made on other locations, and police have responded accordingly at three institutions besides the school.