Erupting Volcano For Sale

People admiring lava flowing from the crater in Geldingadalur on the Reykjanes peninsula

Owners of the land where the currently active Fagradalsfjall eruption site is located have stated that the estate or parts of it are available for the right price. Landowners state they have received interest and offers on the land but Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir claims that new owners limiting public access to the eruption site is “out of the question.

The eruption site is situated on the Hraun estate east of Grindavík, which is owned by 20 individuals. After the eruption started, interested buyers have contacted the owners with the intent of buying the land, including the eruption site, Hraun landowners association representative Sigurður Guðjón Gíslason told Stöð 2. “This must be the hottest piece of land in Iceland right now,” he added.

Sigurður stated that they had received 2-3 offers but declined to mention the amounts offered for the land.

While interested buyers might intend to profit off of tourism centred on the eruption, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, in an interview with RÚV, stated that it’s out of the question that private parties can shut off the public’s access to the eruption site. The government is funding infrastructure construction in the area and a prerequisite for that funding is continued public’s access to the area.

Work on tourism facilities at the eruption site has already begun as it’s currently Iceland’s foremost tourist attraction for both domestic as well as foreign tourists. According to numbers from Visit Iceland, people have hiked up to the eruption site approximately 87,000 times since counting began, which was five days after the eruption started. Landowners have participated in that work, taking part in a workgroup that recently issued a report to the Minister of Tourism. The memo described their plans for the area, which include building a kiosk that would sell refreshments and merchandise, improving parking, and issuing operating licenses for tour operators. The authorities will in turn fund infrastructure construction through the Tourist Site Protection Fund.

Katrín stated that the government had not discussed making a bid for the land, instead focusing on ensuring that the public has access to the eruption site. “That’s the prerequisite for everything that we’re doing. The government is funding certain infrastructure construction and access, in order for the public to be able to visit the site.” When asked if new owners could limit public access to the eruption site, Katrín firmly stated: “That’s out of the question.”

The eruption began March 19 and currently show no sign of stopping and the lava flow has increased lately. 

COVID-19 in Iceland: Updated Tracing App Unveiled

rakning c-19 app

Locals in Iceland should expect some level of social restrictions until 60-70% of the population is vaccinated, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated at a briefing in Reykjavík this morning. Though nearly 40% of Icelanders have received at least one dose and over 16% are fully vaccinated, those figures are far from what is necessary to achieve herd immunity, Þórólfur reminded.

Continued diagnosis of domestic cases means the SARS-CoV-2 virus is still out in the community and we must proceed carefully, the Chief Epidemiologist underlined. The Indian variant of the virus has been detected in two individuals in Iceland who are currently in government isolation facilities.

Director of Health Alma Möller discussed the update to the government’s official tracing app Rakning C-19. Unlike the previous version of the app, which used GPS, this new update uses Bluetooth technology, allowing authorities to notify people if they’ve been in the vicinity of an infected individual without compromising privacy. Current users of the app will need to update to the latest version.

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

 

On the panel: Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, Director of Health Alma Möller, and Director of the Civil Protection Department Víðir Reynisson.

Yesterday’s numbers have been updated on covid.is. Iceland reported 3 new domestic cases (2 in quarantine) and 1 at the border. Total active cases have dropped to 75; 3 are in hospital. Iceland’s latest COVID-19 vaccination data: 16.89% of the population are fully vaccinated. 39.28% have received at least one dose.

The briefing has started. Víðir begins by addressing the alert phase due to wildfires in the southwest quadrant of the country. He asks the public to do their part in preventing fire. Even a small spark can cause a large wildfire in these dry conditions. Víðir says that the emergency phase due to COVID-19 will be lowered to an alert phase today. He says solidarity has helped us prevent a large group infection.

Þórólfur goes over the number. One individual who tested positive yesterday domestically arrived in the country recently. There’s a possibility their infection was undetected by border tests. There are fewer infections being diagnosed at the border, perhaps because current border measures might discourage people liable to be infected from travel, speculates Þórólfur. Two people have tested positive for the Indian variant of the virus. They’re in isolation in government facilities. Two patients are in hospital due to COVID-19. One of them in the ICU but not on a ventilator. We’re still finding new cases domestically so the virus is still out there as we’ve repeatedly stated.

There’s an increase in tourism in the coming weeks and that presents a great challenge to ensure proper infection prevention at the border. This challenge will last throughout June or July, until we expect vaccinations to be widespread enough that we don’t have to fear if infections cross the border. We’re not at that point currently, Þórólfur states. We need to stick to our proven methods, which include lifting restrictions slowly. Þórólfur notes that restrictions were last eased at the beginning of this week.

Alma takes over to discuss the latest update to the official government COVID-19 tracing app. She adds that the app will have increasing importance in the coming weeks as we start to relax restrictions further. Unlike the previous version of the app, which used GPS, this new update uses Bluetooth technology, allowing authorities to notify people if they’ve been in the vicinity of an infected individual without compromising privacy. Data will not be stored in clouds and will only be stored for 14 days.

The app is available in English, Icelandic, and Polish. Those who have the original version of the app installed on their phones will need to update it. The app will notify you if you’ve been in close contact with an infected individual and will guide you on the proper steps to take if that happens. This will not replace the COVID-19 tracing team but is an addition to the current system, says Alma. The app was created for the government but an independent investigation was conducted to ensure its privacy and appropriate handling of personal data. Alma particularly encourages young people who are out and about to update the app.

The panel opens for questions. Q: More young people are now being called in for vaccinations, has randomised vaccination begun? A from Þórólfur: No, but the last priority groups aren’t called in based on age but rather risk factors. Also, many young people work in healthcare for ex. nursing homes. Þórólfur believes that once 60-70% herd immunity is reached, hopefully in June/July, we might still experience group infections but not epidemics that carry the risk of overpowering the healthcare system.

The second AstraZeneca shots will likely be administered 2 months after the first one, not 3. That depends on vaccine stocks, says Þórólfur. Þóróflur is asked about the Indian variant of the virus. He states that it is being detected in several countries and as such it is normal that we have detected it here. We don’t know much about the Indian variant, says Þórólfur, for example whether it is more contagious than others or resistant to vaccinations. When asked why there aren’t more vaccinations scheduled this week, Þórólfur replies that it’s because we don’t have more vaccine. “We always use all the vaccine that we receive each week.”

Some vaccine distribution schedules aren’t yet available and others change regularly, Þórólfur adds. Þórólfur is asked about the Sputnik V vaccine, now being evaluated by the European Medicines Agency. He states that Iceland will base its decision on the EMA’s but that he’s seen promising research on the vaccine. Víðir closes the briefing on an optimistic note, praising the nation’s solidarity. The briefing has ended.

Iceland Declares First-Ever Alert Phase Due to Wildfire Risk

forest brush fire

Icelandic authorities have declared an alert phase in the southwest quadrant of the country due to the risk of wildfires. The handling of open fire has been prohibited. It is the first time such a high level of risk has been declared in the country due to wildfires. The alert phase applies to all of South and West Iceland, from Breiðafjörður to Eyjafjöll, where weather has been dry for weeks and little precipitation is in the forecast. Wildfires have broken out in the region daily this week.

“A civil protection alert phase is put in place if people’s health and safety are at risk, environment or population is threatened by nature or people, however not serious to the point of an emergency situation,” a notice from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management states. “An alert phase is a part of the procedures in the civil protection structure to ensure formal communication and information between responders and the public.”

Read More: Brush Fires Break Out in Bone Dry Capital Area

Handling of Open Fire Prohibited

Along with the alert phase, fire department chiefs in the region have prohibited the handling of open fire as even a small spark carries great risk of wildfire when vegetation is dry. The prohibition has already taken effect and breaches are subject to fines. The public (particularly owners of summer houses in the affected region) are encouraged to:

  • Not light fires inside or outside (including fireplaces, grills, bonfires, fireworks, etc.)
  • Not use disposable or ordinary barbecues
  • Check exits by summer houses
  • Review fire protection (fire extinguishers, smoke detectors) and make an escape plan
  • Not use tools that become very hot or cause sparks
  • Remove flammable material near buildings (check the location of gas containers)
  • Wet the vegetation around buildings where it is dry

Anyone who notices a wildfire must call the emergency line 112 immediately.

Reykjanes Eruption Site Closed Today

Geldingadalur Reykjanes eruption hiking path

The site of the ongoing eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula is closed to visitors today. Suðurnes Police announced the closure on their Facebook page this morning. The reason for the closure are ongoing modifications to the hiking path, which should make the site more accessible to visitors.

Jón Haukur Steingrímsson, a geotechnical engineer at Efla, who is working on improvements to the eruption site stated that there had been two to three cases of broken ankles or other serious injures at the site daily in recent weeks. “There are a lot of people there who are just relatively inexperienced hikers, who are going there. As we enter the summer and we start getting tourists it’s only going to increase more,” Jón Haukur told Vísir. Some modifications were made to the path last week to make it less steep, and there is a plan to shorten the hiking path as well by creating a new parking lot closer to the eruption site.

Read More: Plans for Parking Lots, Paths, and Park Wardens at Erupton Site

Over 87,000 have visited the Geldingadalir eruption since it began on March 19. While the site will be closed to visitors today, interested readers can watch several live streams of the eruption online.