Social Restrictions to be Eased on Monday

Katrín Jakobsdóttir COVID-19 mask

After a record number of Icelanders were vaccinated this week, the government announced that social restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be eased on Monday. Approximately 47% of those whom the government intends to vaccinate, have received at least their first jab, RÚV reports.

Record number of vaccinations

On the heels of the biggest vaccination week in Iceland, where 40,000 people were inoculated, the government announced today that social restrictions will be eased on Monday, May 10. The current tally of Icelanders who have received one or both doses of the vaccine stands at 138,577, or 37.6% of Iceland’s population.

From 20 people to 50

The new regulation will see the number of people allowed to gather in one place rise from 20 people to 50. Swimming pools, camping sites, and ski slopes will be allowed to increase their number of guests to 75% capacity. The same holds for gyms, with the added caveat that no more than 50 people are allowed to gather within each designated area.

The number of sports competitors allowed within each designated area will be increased to 75 from 50, and the same goes for performers on stage (or during other cultural events generally). The number of seated guests allow within a designated area at an event—whether regarding the performing arts, religious events, etc.—will be increased from 100 to 150.

The number of people allowed inside stores will be increased from 100 to 200, and restaurants are allowed to stay open until 10 pm (guests must leave the premises before 11 pm). The two-meter rule will continue to be in effect.

Keflavík Airport Prepares for Busiest Weekend of the Year

Keflavík airport

An estimated 17 passenger planes are expected to arrive at Keflavík International Airport this Saturday and Sunday, in what will be the busiest travel weekend in Iceland so far this year. The arrivals could test the limits of the Icelandic health authorities‘ ability to analyse PCR tests, which may translate into a longer period of quarantine for arriving passengers.

A greater number of arrivals than expected

After arriving in Iceland, all passengers must submit to a PCR test to screen for COVID-19 and then await the results in quarantine, that is, if passengers are exempt from double screening (for more information, click here).

While testing has generally gone without much difficulty at the airport, the weekend’s increase in traffic could put a strain on the system. With eight passenger planes (ca. 1,000 people) expected to arrive on Saturday and nine planes on Sunday, arriving passengers may experience something of a bottleneck as they queue for testing at Kefavík Airport, according to Fréttablaðið.

“Tourists are arriving in Iceland in greater numbers than our models predicted,” Víðir Reynisson, Director of Civil Protection, stated in the above-referenced article. “We expect numerous travellers to arrive on Saturday, which will be the busiest day of the year. We’ll see how many people actually arrive, and so we can’t say for certain how many samples we’ll need to analyse. But we certainly expect to see days when our testing capabilities are pushed to the limits.”

More time spent in quarantine?

PCR tests (polymerase chain reaction tests) are analysed by the National University Hospital’s Department of Virology. While tests results have so far been communicated in a timely manner, it is unlikely that the hospital will be able to cope with the stress from the busiest arrival days at Keflavík Airport this summer.

This could mean that travellers will be forced to spend more time in quarantine while samples are being analysed. “It’s one of the side effects of so many arriving passengers,” Víðir stated. “The waiting period between when passengers arrive and when their test results are ready could be prolonged.”

Despite the delay, Víðir does not expect the waiting period to extend beyond 24 hours; during the busiest days of the summer, those samples that cannot be analysed on the same day are expected to be analysed on the following day.

A reassessment of protocols

The authorities are considering how best to respond to this increased traffic. “We’re reviewing the big picture. How the tests are executed, whether to stop screening passengers who’ve already been vaccinated, or to screen them in a different way. We’re reviewing our ability to test, more generally. We’re considering the protocol as it relates to certificates. And we’re also looking at the traffic at the airport,” Víðir stated, adding that he expects this assessment to be concluded this weekend. 

When you’ve got such a complicated system, like the system at the border, you can’t change things in one day. Some aspects of the system may take a week or two to alter.” Víðir concluded by stating that the authorities aim  to construct a contingency plan according to the most optimistic forecasts regarding the arrival of tourists in Iceland this summer.

League of Legends Tournament Attracts 600 People to Reykjavík

Esports

One of the world’s largest e-sporting events went underway in Reykjavík yesterday, RÚV reports. An estimated 600 people have traveled to Iceland in connection to the event, which pits competitors against each other in two different tournaments. Strict social restrictions are in effect in the Laugardalshöll sporting arena.

COVID cancellation

Last year, Riot Games—one of the largest video game companies in the world—was forced to cancel its League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational (or MSI for short) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This year, as countries across the world ramped up their vaccination campaigns, Riot Games announced that the tournament would go ahead in May and that it would be held in Reykjavík. In addition to the MSI, Riot Games also announced that a second tournament, the so-called Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) Masters Reykjavik, would be held alongside the first. The VCT is the first live international tournament for the Valorant video game.

According to event organizers, Iceland was chosen as a venue for the tournament as it “ranked first” with regard to relevant criteria, ranging from the state of the working environment to stability, in its broadest context. In an interview with RÚV yesterday, Nick Troop—director of the tournament—explained that Riot Games had approached Business Iceland (Íslandsstofa) with the idea of hosting a tournament in Iceland: “It was a win-win for everyone. Iceland is a wonderful country that has responded extremely effectively to the pandemic. We are grateful to be here.”

Strick social restrictions for all 600 attendees

This week, Troop and his cohort traveled to Iceland alongside 11 professional teams from all over the world, in addition to personnel comprising approximately 400 people. “We reach many millions of people from all over the world, across forty different media platforms,” Troop stated. Asked how many people would attend the event, Troop estimated that somewhere between 500-600 people, including professional players and personnel, would be in attendance. 

Strict social restrictions will be in effect at the tournament. No one is allowed to enter the Laugardalshöll arena without submitting a negative PCR test. In collaboration with Business Iceland and the Icelandic health authorities, we decided that every traveler, whether or not they were vaccinated, would self isolate for five days,” Troop explained. “Only after this period of isolation, and only after having received a second negative PCR test, would they be allowed to attend the tournament.” Event organizers will also be taking the temperatures of attendees and tracking the interactions between personnel to ensure effective tracking in the event of an infection. 

The busiest travel weekend of 2021

The tournament goes underway as 17 passenger planes are expected to arrive at Keflavík Airport this weekend. The arrivals make for the busiest travel weekend in Iceland this year, with eight passenger planes expected to arrive on Saturday and nine on Sunday.

There are currently three quarantine hotels in operation in the Greater Reykjavík Area, capable of receiving approximately 500 guests. 

In early April, Iceland’s Court of Appeal confirmed the district court’s ruling that authorities cannot require people to spend their quarantine at quarantine hotels when arriving in the country. The ruling mandated clearer requirements for home quarantine, regarding, for example, housing and rules of conduct. However, those travelers who are unable to stay in a home quarantine that fulfills the requirements will need to stay at a quarantine facility. No fee shall be collected for the stay.