COVID-19 in Iceland: All Travellers Required to Present Negative Test Before Boarding

Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir

In a response to the recent increase in COVID-19 infections in Iceland, the Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir has decided to require all travellers to Iceland to present a negative COVID test before entering the country. This is based on Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason’s recommendations. This includes all vaccinated individuals as well as those confirmed to have contracted and recovered from COVID-19. The tests must be PCR or antigen tests and may be no older than 72 hours, the Minister of Health has announced.

Though it is not an official requirement, residents of Iceland as well as people with personal connections in the country are advised to get tested upon arrival, even if they don’t present any symptoms. 

The Chief Epidemiologist’s latest memo, discussed at the government’s meeting today, states that COVID-19 infections have increased considerably in Iceland. Most cases are of the Delta variant. According to research, fully vaccinated individuals can contract COVID-19 and infect others. The Chief Epidemiologist believes that the current mode of operation will increase the risk of transmission and that it is necessary to take action to curb virus entry at the border in order to eliminate the need for implementing domestic restrictions. Icelandic authorities lifted all domestic restrictions on June 26, 2021. 

Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir has decided that the border restriction changes will take effect July 26. For unvaccinated travellers, restrictions remain the same. They need to present a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours upon boarding, are tested upon arrival, and must quarantine for five days before being tested again. Children born in 2005 or later are exempt from all border restrictions.

Yesterday, 16 tested positive for the virus, bringing the total of active cases to 124. A total of 385 are in quarantine. One person is in hospital but according to Runólfur Pálsson, head of the National Hospital’s COVID department, they are not seriously ill. So far, very few of the individuals infected are experiencing severe symptoms, as most are fully vaccinated.

Volcanic Smog Over Reykjavík Today and Tomorow

Geldingadalir reykjanes eruption volcano

The Environment Agency of Iceland is measuring raised values of SO2 and sulfate particle (SO4) in the Larger Reykjavík Area. These values are not high enough to encourage people to stay inside, but people sensitive to air pollution can experience symptoms such as burning of the throat or raised asthma symptoms. People are advised to not leave young children outside to sleep. According to information from the Met Office, the volcanic smog will likely remain until late Wednesday or Thursday. 

The Iceland Meteorological Office and the Reykjavík municipality are encouraging people sensitive to pollution to be careful and advise against leaving young children to sleep outside. The haze from the eruption lies over the capital as well as the surrounding area.  Levels of SO2 and sulfate particles are high up to Hvalfjörður north of the city and the Environment Agency’s website indicates that there is considerable pollution in Hveragerði as well. 

Volcanic smog has a characteristically blue-grey tint and is created when SO2, other gasses and particles mix with oxygen and humidity. A notice from the City of Reykjavík states that the haze can cause fatigue, headaches, irritation in the eyes and throat as well as flu-like symptoms. Children and others that are sensitive to pollution should avoid spending long hours outdoors, especially when exercising. The haze is expected to stay over the capital area today and tomorrow, but on Wednesday or Thursday, the winds will change and no longer blow haze towards the city. 

The public is advised to follow updates from the Met office at www.vedur.is/en and the state of pollution at the Environment Agency’s website. 

  • Lung-and heart patients are encouraged to have easy access to their medicines
  • Breathe through the nose and avoid physical exertion outdoors when pollution levels are high.
  • Staying indoors with windows closed and no air conditioning significantly reduces the risk of pollution.
  • Close windows and doors
  • Raise the temperature inside
  • Remember to air out your house as soon as pollution goes down. 
  • Dust masks provide no protection against gas pollution

To monitor the measured values go to https://loftgaedi.is/en?zoomLevel=7&lat=64.894972… and for further information on air pollution during a volcanic eruption https://ust.is/…/air-pollution-during-a-volcanic-eruption/

Further information on the health effects of volcanic smog can be found on the Directorate of Health’s website in Icelandic, English, and Polish.

 

Busy weekend for Reykjavík Police and Ambulances

ambulances

Public drunkenness and fights in the city centre kept the capital area police force and the Fire Department’s medical transport staff busy this weekend. On Sunday morning, the daily police log wasn’t sent out until the afternoon as there was no time to write one until then. The log states that several announcements of public drunkenness, noise complaints, and fights meant that all the police’s cells were full. They also noted several cases of people driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances and the Fire Department handled more than 250 medical transports. 

The police log states, among other events, that they were notified of two group fights, in one case, where individuals were armed with a knife and a hammer. They also received notice that a fight had broken out in a moving vehicle. A city-centre shop was broken into as well as an unnamed company. Several cars were broken into where windows were smashed and things were stolen. 

On Saturday night, they received notice that a person under the influence was threatening passers-by. They resisted arrest and kicked a police officer. An upset person was walking through the city centre during the night carrying a golf club and tried to flee from the police. By the morning, the police were notified that a drunk person was jumping in front of cars in the city centre, reportedly looking for a ride home. The police found him a taxi. 

The capital area fire department was also quite busy as there were many people in the city centre and a lot of drunkenness and altercations. “The city centre kept us extremely busy, long into the night,” Stefán Kristinsson with the capital area Fire Department told RÚV. “We had a long night with 50-60 medical transportations, which is very much for a night shift.” Stefán added that at no point was the strain on the medical transport staff such that any danger was caused, although they answered over 250 medical transport calls over the weekend. “In addition to the city centre, there has also been some COVID-related transportation.”

One ambulance is out of commission after a bottle was thrown at the car’s rear window. The missile came from a crowd of people and the thrower is unknown.