Ongoing Risk of Eruption on Reykjanes Peninsula

Keilir

An M5.1 earthquake woke residents across Southwest Iceland at 3.14 am last night, one of over 700 earthquakes that were registered on the Reykjanes peninsula between midnight and 8.00am this morning. Most of the seismic activity is occurring by Fagradalsfjall mountain, situated at the southern end of a magma intrusion that has formed between 1-2 kilometres (0.6-1.2 miles) under the earth’s surface. According to the Met Office, this morning’s seismic activity likely indicates the magma intrusion is growing, and an eruption in the area continues to be a possibility. Experts have stated that if an eruption occurs, it will most likely be relatively calm and not affect inhabited areas.

Eruption Increasingly Likely

The magma intrusion is in the shape of a horizontal corridor stretching some 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) between Fagradalsfjall and Keilir mountains. The corridor is around 2km (1.2mi) below the surface by Keilir but 1km (0.6mi) below the surface at Fagradalsfjall. The magma is also hotter by Fagradalsfjall, making it the more likely site for a possible eruption.

In an interview this afternoon, the IMO’s Natural Hazards Co-ordinator Kristín Jónsdóttir stated an eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula appeared more and more likely with each passing day. “There is pressure building up in this magma chamber. While this is going on, while we are seeing these transfers, that magma is clearly entering this corridor and these earthquakes are a reaction to that, we have to expect that there could be an eruption there.”

According to Kristín, it is difficult to predict exactly when an eruption would occur. “Possibly in the coming days but it’s difficult to say.”

The ongoing earthquake swarm on Reykjanes began two weeks ago. Today, the Icelandic Met Office reported that the total number of quakes in the swarm has surpassed 34,000, more than the total number of quakes measured in the same area in 2020. The average number of quakes in the area ranged between 1,000-3,000 in the years 2014-2019.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Domestic Outbreak Not Yet Contained, Authorities Say

Víðir and Þórólfur COVID-19

Iceland reported zero new domestic cases of COVID-19 yesterday, despite extensive testing in connection with a small local outbreak that has emerged in recent days. Four domestic cases of the highly-contagious British variant have been confirmed in Iceland in the past week, all outside of quarantine. The variant has thus far not spread extensively in Iceland. Health authorities are continuing a campaign of extensive testing and tracing with the aim of preventing a new wave of community infection.

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated that although yesterday’s testing did not reveal any new domestic cases, the outbreak has still not been fully contained. “It can take a few days for an infection to be detectable by testing and then also a slightly longer time to get symptoms. This week might have to pass concerning [the emergence of] symptoms.” Concertgoers that were exposed to one of the four cases last Friday will be tested a second time tomorrow. “The samples taken in the latter half of this week should tell us if we’ve gotten out of this or not,” Þórólfur told Vísir. A total of 193 are currently in quarantine and that number may continue to rise as contact tracing efforts continue.

All Cases Traced to a Traveller

The four cases have all been traced to an individual who returned to Iceland from abroad on February 26. While they tested negative before departure and upon arrival to Iceland, they tested positive in a follow-up test after the mandatory five-day quarantine. The traveller appears to have infected a neighbour without direct contact through use of a common stairwell in their residential building.

Before the four cases were diagnosed, Iceland had not reported a single case of COVID-19 out of quarantine for over a month. Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir stated the outbreak was a reminder of how little it takes for the virus to spread into the community.

Not Much Room for Relaxing Restrictions

Current domestic restrictions, including a gathering limit of 50, are valid until March 17. Domestic regulations have been relaxed several times since the start of the year as case numbers have remained low. Þórólfur stated it was too early to discuss his recommendations for the next stage of domestic regulations but added he doesn’t see much room for relaxing restrictions as long as the outbreak has not been contained.

 

Iceland Review will live-tweet authorities’ regular COVID-19 information briefing tomorrow, Thursday, March 11, at 11.03am UTC.

Icelandair Unifies Domestic and International Brands

As of next week, Icelandair’s domestic and international flights will be merged under the Icelandair brand. The domestic brand Air Iceland Connect will be scrapped and the company’s domestic and international booking systems will be consolidated. Icelandair CEO Bogi Nils Bogason hopes the change will increase the number of passengers in domestic flights in Iceland.

“We hope that with strong marketing and connection to our route systems in Europe and North America, we will also be able to increase the number of tourists on domestic flights. It would strengthen our key destinations throughout the country and benefit our customers in increased frequency and better service,” Bogi stated. Once the change takes effect next Tuesday, March 16, domestic flights will be visible in the search engine on Icelandair’s website, and customers will be able to combine international and domestic flights in a single booking.

Icelandair will continue operating domestic flights to Akureyri, Egilsstaðir, Ísafjörður, and the Westman Islands. Air Iceland Connect and Norlandair had previously collaborated on flights to Bíldudalur and Gjögur from Reykjavík and flights to Grímsey, Vopnafjörður, and Þórshöfn from Akureyri. From March 16, these flights will only be available for booking through Norlandair’s website, though an announcement says the two companies will continue working closely together and services will remain unchanged.