Fewer Statistical Updates, Press Conferences Discontinued

Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, Director of Health Alma Möller

In light of falling COVID cases and a successful vaccination campaign, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has announced that it will not be providing statistical updates on covid.is with the same frequency as before. Likewise, periodic press conferences will be discontinued.

End of an era, the “troika” bids farewell

Since March of last year, the so-called “troika(þríeykið in Icelandic) consisting of Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, Surgeon General Alma Möller, and former Chief Superintendent Víðir Reynisson – has held regular press conferences concerning the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Iceland. The press conferences quickly became ingrained in the national consciousness during the early days of the pandemic, with many waiting with bated breath, especially during the crests of the various waves, for the newest statistical information.

Given the decline of COVID cases and successful vaccination efforts, the authorities have decided to discontinue periodic press conferences and will henceforth be providing fewer statistical updates; for the past two weeks, infections among non-quarantining individuals have been rare and there have been several days without any new infections“46.9% of Icelandic residents (16 years and older) have been vaccinated and more will be inoculated this week. Today, we transitioned to a “grey” on our colour code,” a communique from the Department reads.

Twice a week in June, once a week in July

The web page covid.is – which has been updated daily at 11 am – will only be updated twice a week from now on, with no tentative statistics being relayed to the media. “As it stands, we don’t think it’s necessary,” Hjördís Guðmundsdóttir, communications manager with the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, stated in an interview with RÚV.We will be sending press releases if any non-quarantining individuals become infected with COVID, for such information is relevant to the citizenry.”

So long as the state of the pandemic remains unchanged, the statistics section of covid.is will only be updated twice a week in June (on Mondays and Wednesdays) and once a week in July (on Mondays). Hjördís stresses that despite information not being delivered as rapidly as before, it does not mean that the COVID pandemic is over. “We will continue to stay on our toes and keep a close watch on infections.”

Statistics concerning vaccines will be updated with the same frequency as before.

Authorities Investigate Extensive Airbnb-Related Tax Fraud

iceland real estate

With data from Airbnb in hand, the Directorate of Tax Investigations suspects that many Icelandic residents were guilty of tax fraud between 2015 and 2018, Fréttablaðið reports. Some of the offences are considered wide-ranging and serious, with fines, and in some instances, jail sentences being considered.

Billions of unpaid taxes

At the end of 2018, the Director of Tax Investigations sent a letter to Airbnb Ireland requesting information concerning payments made to Icelandic residents. Airbnb complied with the request in August of 2020, at which point the tax authorities began their investigation. Other enquiries have, however, served to delay the Airbnb probe.

According to Theodóra Emilsdóttir, appointed Director of Tax Investigations, the ongoing probe is proceeding well, although it remains unclear how many cases will be officially investigated. In addition to a reconsideration of tax payments, the Directorate may also levy fines and, in some instances, seek jail time. The most serious cases would be sent to the district attorney and could wind up in court, which would likely conclude with fines or jail sentences,” Theodóra remarked.

Airbnb paid an estimated ISK 25.1 billion to Icelandic residents between the years 2015 and 2018, with unreported earnings likely amounting to tens of millions of króna.

Worth Ca. ISK 15 billion in 2017

In February of 2018, Statistics Iceland estimated that the total number of overnight stays in Iceland in 2017 had amounted to approximately 10,500,000, with the total number of overnight Airbnb stays amounting to approximately 1,700,00 (worth ca. ISK 14.7 billion, which was up from ISK 11.8 billion in 2016).

In 2019, Mbl.is reported that up to 70% of apartments in given streets had been registered on Airbnb, many of whom were being operated without the necessary permits.

1 Metre Rule Takes Effect, 300 People Can Come Together

pedestrian street Laugavegur Reykjavík

Social restrictions were eased as of midnight today. The gathering limit has been raised from 150 to 300 people and the one-metre rule has replaced the two-metre rule.

As noted on covid.is, masks will still be mandatory at seated events, and the same goes for other events or places where the one-metre rule cannot be guaranteed.

Night clubs will be allowed to remain open until midnight, with guests being required to leave the premises before 1 am. Restaurants owners are still required to keep a written record of patrons but are now allowed to be open until midnight.

300 people may now attend theatres, cinemas, and other cultural events. Sports competitions are allowed, both inside and outside, but hosts must keep a written record of guests. Swimming pools can likewise open at maximum capacity, and the same holds for gyms, where up to 300 can gather in the same location so long as they adhere to the one-metre rule.

Gathering limits, social-distancing restrictions, and mask obligations do not extend to children born in 2015 or later. The obligation to wear a mask does not apply to children born in 2005 or later. Those individuals who have already been infected with COVID-19 and completed isolation are exempt from wearing a mask.

The new regulations will remain in force up to and including June 29, 2021.