Hope to Vaccinate Everyone by June 25

bólusetning mass vaccination Laugardalshöll

In an interview with Morgunblaðið today, Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir confirmed that the government hopes to have offered everyone their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by June 25. Those who had previously declined will be invited again in August.

Nearly 130,000 fully vaccinated

Following a busy week of vaccinations, Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir stated that the authorities hope to have offered everyone the first dose of the vaccine by June 25.

“Hopefully, everyone will be happy,” she stated in an interview with Mbl.is. Svandís added that vaccinations have gone well so far but that the authorities have yet to inoculate much of the youngest section of the population.

A total of 128,645 individuals have been fully vaccinated in Iceland and a further 86,326 have received their first doses. Those individuals who have previously declined vaccinations, or have been unable to attend, will be offered additional doses in August.

Causal relation “unlikely”

On May 18, after five deaths and five serious side effects were reported to the Icelandic Medicines Agency, two independent specialists in internal medicine were hired to examine the causal relationship between these cases and the administering of vaccines. Their investigation involved all of the vaccines that have been used in Iceland: Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Janssen.

The Icelandic Medicines Agency published the specialists’ findings today, noting the following:

  1. The specialists found it “unlikely” that four of the five deaths under review could be traced to vaccinations. The association between one of the deaths and vaccines is described as “unlikely to possible.”
  2. The specialists found it “unlikely to possible” that three of the five reported instances of serious side effects could be traced to vaccinations. A “possible” connection exists between vaccination and illness in one case. A “likely” connection exists between vaccination and illness, according to the investigators.
  3. In almost all of the cases they reviewed, the specialists concluded that there was a clear association between death and illness and underlying risk factors.

24,000 doses of the Janssen vaccine

At a press conference this morning, Lena Hallengren, Sweden’s Minister of Health and Social Affairs, stated that Iceland had received 24,000 doses of Janssen on loan from Sweden. According to RÚV, most of the doses have arrived in Iceland, with 10,000 doses already having been administered.

Iceland has borrowed a total of 40,000 vaccine doses from Norway and Sweden, with Norway having lent Iceland 16,000 AstraZeneca doses.

Gathering Limit to be Raised to 300 After the Weekend

Following a closed cabinet meeting this morning, Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir announced that social restrictions will be eased on Tuesday, June 15th, Vísir reports.

Nightclubs open until midnight, restaurants too

The restrictions will see the limit on public gatherings raised to 300 people and the two-metre rule replaced by the one-metre rule. Individuals attending public gatherings of 300 people will be allowed to sit side by side, with the one-metre rule only applying at events attended by a greater number of people. Masks will still be mandatory at seated events.

Night clubs will be allowed to remain open until midnight and guests will have had to have left the premises before 1 am. Restaurants will likewise be open until midnight.

Hope to ease all social restrictions next month

The authorities hope to ease all social restrictions within the country at the beginning of next month and to vaccinate children between the ages of 12 and 15 suffering from long-term illnesses during the middle of this month.

When the new regulations take effect, fully-vaccinated travellers will be exempt from screening upon their arrival. Those travellers who have not been vaccinated, however, must undergo two PCR tests and quarantine between the tests.

COVID cases on the decline

In a memorandum to the government, the Chief Epidemiologist notes that the state of affairs in Iceland, vis-a-vis the COVID-19 pandemic, is good. Since May 25, when the last regulations were passed, 42 individuals have been diagnosed with COVID within the borders – 25 of whom were in quarantine. Cases have been decreasing over the past few days despite a high number of tests. “It is clear that widespread vaccination in Iceland, and individual sanitary measures, have resulted in our success, although the virus is still among us.”

The new regulations will be in effect until Tuesday, June 29.

This article will be updated.

Rising Mortgages May Put Some Families in Tight Spot

Those who recently signed non-indexed mortgages with variable interest rates may find themselves in a difficult position, according to the Director of the Institute of Economic Studies at the University of Iceland. Monthly payments could increase by tens of thousands of króna as interest rates rise.

The Central Bank responds to COVID

As reported by RÚV, the Central Bank slashed interest rates to historic lows last year to mitigate the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The cuts resulted in a real-estate boom, with many seeking to take advantage of low rates to secure roomier homes or to refinance. The majority of new mortgages signed during the pandemic have been non-indexed with variable interest rates. Although the payments are initially higher, such loans allow lenders to “own their homes sooner.”

But as the economy has recovered, the Central Bank has raised interest rates by 0.25% leading commercial banks to do the same. As economists expect inflation to continue to hover well above target rates – despite a strengthening króna – real-estate prices are expected to rise, along with wages, while unemployment is expected to decrease as the price of raw commodities remains high.

The best of times, the worst of times

Such trends put pressure on the Central Bank to continue to raise interest rates, which will in turn pressure commercial banks to do the same. This will directly impact the public, especially those who signed non-indexed mortgages with variable interest rates.

This could put them in a difficult position,” Sigurður Jóhannesson, Director of the Institute of Economic Studies at the University of Iceland, stated in an interview with RÚV. “Such caveats had been raised before, that is, that these types of mortgages looked good on paper because of the circumstances last winter, but that those circumstances wouldn’t persist forever. Nonetheless, those who were unprepared, who expected interest rates and inflation to remain low, may be put into a difficult spot.”

An increase of ISK 25,000 per month

As noted in a recent report from Landsbankinn, a 1% increase in variable interest rates for a non-indexed mortgage of ISK 30 million could result in an ISK 25,000 rise in monthly payments.