COVID-19 in Iceland: Case Diagosed Yesterday Is Not Infectious

COVID-19 test tubes

The domestic coronavirus infection diagnosed outside of quarantine in Iceland yesterday was an old infection and the individual is no longer contagious, RÚV reports. The infected individual is thus not required to isolate and no others are required to quarantine due to the infection. Previous to yesterday, Iceland had not diagnosed a domestic case of COVID-19 outside of quarantine since February 1: and that case also turned out to be an old infection.

Iceland reported this morning that one domestic case of COVID-19 had been diagnosed yesterday. The person who was diagnosed returned to Iceland from abroad recently and tested negative upon arrival and in a follow-up test after the mandated five-day quarantine. Yesterday, a few days after the second border screening, the individual underwent an additional test because they were on their way out of the country again and received a positive result. Antibody testing has since determined the individual was infected a long time ago and has already produced antibodies to the virus.

Iceland currently has just 13 active cases of COVID-19 and is the only European country currently considered green (the lowest COVID risk category) of those monitored by the European Centre for Disease Control. Gatherings of up to 50 are currently permitted in the country and bars, restaurants, and businesses are open (though with some restrictions on their operations). While 8,486 have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the country (2.3% of the population), 12,600 have been fully vaccinated (3.4% of the population).

Justice Minister “Not Out of Line” in Requesting Information from Police Commissioner

Áslaug Arna

Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir did not overstep her bounds by telephoning the Capital Area Police Commissioner after police issued a notice to media that concerned a government minister. This is the opinion of Pirate Party MP Andrés Ingi Jónsson, who requested the Justice Minister come before the Constitutional and Supervisory Committee to discuss the case. Áslaug was questioned by the committee this morning and the Capital Area Police Commissioner will also appear before it tomorrow. Áslaug phoned the Commissioner after a police notice to media stated that a minister had been among guests at an event that breached COVID-19 regulations.

On the night of December 23, police broke up a gathering of 40-50 people in downtown Reykjavík where several COVID-19 regulations were being broken. Not only was the national gathering limit 10 at the time, but the event’s guests were breaking two-metre distancing and mask use regulations as well as consuming alcohol after the mandated closing time. A media release from police stated that an “honourable minister” had been present at the gathering but omitted the minister’s identity. It later came to light the minister in question was Bjarni.

Read More: Criticism of Finance Minister After He Breaks COVID-19 Regulations

Last month, media reported that Áslaug called the Police Commissioner twice on the day after the incident. According to Áslaug, she called the Commissioner due to questions from media which concerned the police’s working procedure for releasing information. Áslaug stated that she knew the MP in question was her fellow Independence Party member Bjarni Benediktsson before she made the calls.

Formal Request Would Have Been More Appropriate

“Such communication can be on the boundary of the Minister’s supervisory role and then unreasonable interference in a case that is under investigation by the police. We just wanted to make sure that everything was on the right side of the line,” Andrés Ingi told reporters. When asked whether the calls were in fact on the right side of the line, he answered: “There is no indication otherwise, at least, but we need to review it in more detail.” After Áslaug’s testimony, the committee decided to interview the National Police Commissioner tomorrow to hear her side of the story.

While the phone calls may not have crossed beyond Áslaug’s role, Andrés Ingi did state that it “would have probably been more appropriate to skip these phone calls and submit this request for information in a formal fashion between officials.”

Earthquake Swarm in Southwest Iceland Continues

Kleifarvatn - Krísuvík - Reykjanes

Nearly 800 earthquakes were detected between midnight and 10.00am this morning by monitoring equipment on the Reykjanes peninsula. The strongest was a magnitude 4.9 earthquake around 1.30am that was felt across the Reykjanes peninsula and the Reykjavík capital area as well as West and South Iceland. The earthquakes are part of a swarm that began five days ago and will likely continue throughout the week. An Alert Phase declared by the Civil Protection Department is ongoing for the Reykjavík capital area, the Reykjanes peninsula, and Árnessýsla.

The largest earthquake in the swarm occurred last Wednesday, February 24, and measured M5.7. Another earthquake, which occurred at 8.07am on Saturday, February 27 measured M5.2. Yesterday, February 28, brought seven earthquakes that measured between M4.0 and M4.7. The earthquakes originate in an area roughly between Kleifarvatn lake and the town of Grindavík.

Kristín Jónsdóttir, Earthquake Hazards Co-ordinator at the Icelandic Met Office, stated such powerful swarms are known to occur in the area at roughly 25-year intervals. So far, there is no sign the earthquakes are connected to volcanic activity. Kristín stated it was likely the activity would decrease this week, though it is not certain.

The public is advised to be cautious on steep slopes and avoid areas where rock falls or avalanches can occur. These areas include Kleifarvatn lake, Esja mountain, Ingólfsfjall, Bláfjöll, Hengill, Keilir, Helgafell, and Vifilsfell outdoor recreation areas. Information on earthquake preparedness in English is available on the Civil Protection Department’s website.