Prospective Airline Play Secures USD 40 Million in Funding

play airline

Prospective low-cost airline Play raised more than USD 40 million (ISK 5.1 billion) through a private share offering that ended last Friday, Fréttablaðið reports. The investors include some of Iceland’s largest investment companies and two pension funds. Former WOW executive Birgir Jónsson will take over as CEO of the company upon the request of investors. Established nearly two years ago, Play has yet to operate any flights and does not yet hold an air operator’s certificate.

Flight Delays

Play was established in 2019 in the aftermath of WOW air’s bankruptcy by a number of WOW air’s former employees. The new company held a press conference in November 2019 to present its name and details of its forthcoming operations. One and a half years later, Play has obtained a landing permit at three airports in London and Dublin but has yet to receive an air operator’s certificate, a prerequisite for operating aircraft for commercial purposes.

The company aims to list on the First North Growth Market this summer and hopes to raise an additional USD 20 million in funding according to Fréttablaðið’s sources.

Chief Epidemiologist Turns Down Priority Vaccination Spot

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason turned down his first invitation to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as a healthcare professional and will wait until he is invited based on his age group. “I’m not working with patients, so I’ll wait,” Þórólfur told Vísir reporters. Þórólfur has encouraged other licenced healthcare professionals in his situation to do the same.

Icelandic health authorities began vaccinating against COVID-19 on December 29, 2020, according to defined priority groups. The first to get vaccinated were nursing home residents and frontline healthcare workers. Now vaccination has been offered to the fifth priority group: healthcare professionals working outside of healthcare institutions. The Chief Epidemiologist was offered vaccination on that basis.

Þórólfur turned down the offer as he is not working directly with patients and has encouraged others in his position to do the same and wait until they are offered the jab based on their age group. It will likely be a short wait for Þórólfur: vaccination of locals born in 1951 began this week, and the Chief Epidemiologist was born in 1953.

Everyone on Permit Register Received Invitation

While frontline healthcare workers have already been offered vaccination in Iceland, now the jab is being offered to priority group number five, defined as “other healthcare staff that have direct contact with patients and require COVID-19 vaccination according to further definitions by the Chief Epidemiologist.” The group includes 33 diverse healthcare professions ranging from nurses and midwives to optometrists, dentists, and speech pathologists.

Read More: What’s the status of COVID-19 vaccination in Iceland?

There are around 20,000 locals with valid licences in one of these professions, and it was not possible for authorities to contact everyone on the permit register to confirm they are currently working in a clinical setting. Therefore, all those with valid licences received an invitation to get vaccinated, but the Chief Epidemiologist’s Office sent out a notice urging those who are working in other jobs to turn down the invitation.

Chronically Ill and Under 70 Next in Line

The next priority groups are those with chronic illnesses under 70 years of age. Some individuals from these groups will be vaccinated this week.  So far 28,056 people have been fully vaccinated in Iceland, or 7.6% of the population. Authorities have stated they are on track to vaccinate 280,000 people (75% of the population) by mid-July.

Korriró, Baby

It explained a lot when Snæfríður figured out that there were trolls in her apartment. The discomfort she’d felt over the last few months was vague, but real. Respiratory infections. Chronic fatigue. Panic attacks.            She went online immediately and looked up an exterminator.            The exterminator was more attractive than she’d expected. He had a silver […]

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Reykjanes Eruption Marketed to Foreign Tourists

Tourists catch a selfie by the edge of the new lava flowing from the crater in Geldingadalur on the Reykjanes peninsula

Business Iceland (Íslandsstofa) has begun creating a marketing campaign to attract foreign tourists to the ongoing eruption in Geldingadalir, Southwest Iceland, RÚV reports. Over 40,000 have visited the eruption site since the Icelandic Tourist Board began tallying visitors on March 24, five days after the eruption began. The site is expected to become even more popular once border restrictions are relaxed – whether or not it remains active.

Shortly after the eruption began on March 19, Business Iceland began working on a marketing campaign to attract foreign visitors to the site. According to their data, the Geldingadalir eruption has been featured in some 11,000 articles in foreign media outlets. “Yes, it attracts a lot of attention and we see that,” stated Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir, a program director at Business Iceland. “We also see that there is a lot of visual footage of the eruption on social media and the web. That’s also helping to spread the word, so to speak. We have a live stream on our website Visit Iceland for example and we see a lot of traffic there.”

Great Opportunity and Great Responsibility

Indeed, Business Iceland’s campaign aims to leverage social media to attract tourist to the eruption. It includes a partnership with American photographer Chris Burkard, who has already shared photos and videos of the eruption with his 3.6 million followers on Instagram.

 

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“This could naturally become one of the coolest destinations in Iceland. And it’s also very interesting to see it being created within the Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark, which has the role of using the area’s geology to create value. So there are enormous opportunities in this,” Sigríður stated. “But at the same time, there’s a responsibility in marketing an event such as an eruption, and it’s really important to have responsible tourism there.”

Read More: Infrastructure Needed at Eruption Site

According to Sigríður, work to build infrastructure in the area has already begun. She says the eruption could become a feature of overall marketing campaigns for Iceland as a destination. “This new destination will definitely be one of the ones we will focus on when we see travel start up again.”

COVID-19 in Iceland: Fourth Vaccine Arrives on Wednesday

First mass vaccination in Laugardalshöll arena.

Icelandic authorities report that the country is on track to vaccinate 75% of the population by the end of July. A total of 14,541 people received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Iceland last week and vaccination efforts are speeding up in line with distribution. Óskar Reykdalsson, Director of Capital Area Healthcare Centres told RÚV the week ahead will be a busy one, with some 5,000-6,000 expected to receive a dose tomorrow.

7.6% are Fully Vaccinated

Vaccination against COVID-19 in Iceland started on December 29, 2020. Of Iceland’s population of 368,590, a total of 61,134 have received at least one dose of vaccine. Of those, 28,056 are fully vaccinated: 7.6% of the population. By the end of April, around 90,000 individuals are expected to have received at least one dose. Authorities have stated they are on track to vaccinate 280,000 people (75% of the population) by mid-July.

Fourth Vaccine Arrives This Week

Iceland’s first shipment of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday, containing 2,400 doses. A second shipment of the same size is expected on April 26. The Janssen vaccine is administered in a single dose, unlike the three other vaccines currently in use in Iceland. This means that April shipments of the vaccine will be enough to fully vaccinate 4,800 people.

Those 60-70 and Healthcare Workers Vaccinated This Week

Health authorities in Iceland have been vaccinating according to priority groups defined by the Chief Epidemiologist. The first to receive vaccines were nursing home residents and healthcare workers. Over 95% of locals 80 or older are now fully vaccinated in Iceland, while over 90% of those 70 and older have received at least one dose. This week those 60-70 years of age will be invited to receive the jab, as well as healthcare workers outside of healthcare institutions and people with chronic illnesses, groups five, six, and seven of ten defined priority groups.

Government to Fund Summer Jobs and Summer School for Students Again

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir Ásmundur Einar Daðason

The government will spend 2,4 billion ISK on creating summer jobs and providing summer school opportunities for students this summer. This was first done last year to combat the effect of the global pandemic on the economy but students criticised its execution.

This year, the government will spend 2.4 billion ISK towards creating temporary jobs for 2500 students 18 years and older, within government institutions, municipalities, and associations. Workplaces hiring students will receive funding for a full-time salary, up to 472,000 ISK per month (the limit for unemployment benefits) including 11.5 % for retirement funds for a duration of two and a half months. According to Minister of Social Affairs Ásmundur Einar Daðason, “it’s vital that as many students as possible will get a job this summer, where they will gain a valuable experience as well as creating value for the economy.”

In addition to the summer job program, the government will spend 650 million ISK to ensure the availability of summer studies this summer, 500 million to universities and 150 million to secondary schools. 650 secondary students attended summer school last year and just under 5000 university students. Finally, the Icelandic Student Innovation Fund issued 311 million ISK in grants, funding 206 projects and providing 351 students with work. The fund’s goal is to give universities, research institutes and companies a chance to hire undergraduate and master’s students for summer jobs in research and development.

Last year, The University of Iceland Student Council criticised the initiative for not meeting the requirements of students hit hard by the pandemic’s effect on the economy, claiming the jobs created were too few and too specialised to serve a large number of students. Student Council President Isabel Alejandra Diaz states that while students were thankful for the initiative, its execution was flawed. “This was supposed to benefit both University and secondary school students but most of the jobs required a year or two of University studies.” The Student Council hopes that the initiative could be more than a short-term solution and instead become a long-term program that would help university students find work in their field to gain valuable experience. The Council claimed that students’ interests would be better served by allowing them to qualify for unemployment benefits and to raise the basic subsistence allowance within the student loan system. They also criticised the duration of the program as last year, the initiative funded student jobs for two months, which wasn’t enough to cover the whole summer. This year, the jobs will cover two and a half months but the jobs available to students are yet to be revealed.  The Government’s press release does note that authorities will keep a close eye on how the initiative progresses to ensure that students won’t be without work or means of subsistence this summer.

The government’s press notice also states that they are continuing their efforts to raise the basic subsistence allowance for subsistence loans while noting that basic subsistence allowance has increased more than inflation but haven’t kept up with overall increased purchasing power. “Work on bridging this gap is ongoing and an important step in this direction is planned for the coming weeks. Suggestions on the matter will be introduced to the Minister of Education and Culture before May 1.”