Parents May No Longer Be Required to Isolate With Their Children

school children

The families of children who are required to self-isolate may forgo isolation themselves if they have not been in direct contact with the infected individual, according to a new proposal on quarantine regulations being considered by the government. The authorities hope to reduce future social restrictions as far as possible, although long-term measures in the fight against COVID have yet to be laid out.

Reduce the number of people self-isolating

Speaking to RÚV this afternoon, the Minister of Health revealed that the government hopes to loosen quarantine regulations, intending to reduce the number of people required to isolate in the event of an infection. Among the measures that will be implemented in this endeavour are rapid antigen tests. Furthermore, the families of children who are made to self-isolate will not be required to isolate if they have not been in direct contact with the infected individual.

“We’ve decided, following the proposals from the Chief Epidemiologist, to reevaluate our quarantine regulations with the hope of steering individuals who’ve been in direct contact with an infected person into isolation; however, whenever we’re dealing with the outer circles, with people who are further removed from the infected individual, then we’ll recommend, among other things, rapid antigen tests,” Svandís stated. “We’re also considering whether to allow families of children who are isolating to forgo self-isolation themselves.”

Uncertainty surrounding social restrictions in the future

Although a long-term pandemic plan has yet to be formalized, the government discussed the Chief Epidemiologist’s long-term measures to fight COVID-19 in its meeting this morning. “We’re discussing future plans,” Svandís stated. “We know that we need to temper the pandemic so that it does not jeopardize the healthcare system.” As has been the case in the past, the authorities will need to take into account the progress of the pandemic. “We can’t make precise decisions about the state of things six months or a year from now, but we can state that we hope to reduce restrictions as far as possible, with the caveat that we don’t put the healthcare system at risk.”

Cat Power Covers “I Think of Angels” for New Sean Penn Film

Chan Marshall

Today, August 20, marks the release of Sean Penn’s new film Flag Day. The soundtrack to the film comprises 13 songs, among them a cover of “I Think of Angels” – originally composed by Icelandic musician KK – as performed by American singer-songwriter Cat Power (Chan Marshall).

Eddie Vedder, Glen Hansard, Cat Power

Flag Day, written by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth (Edge of Tomorrow), premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this summer. The film stars Sean Penn, who also directs the film, and his daughter, Dylan. The film has received mixed reviews. As noted by Pitchfork, the film’s soundtrack features eight songs composed by Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) and Glen Hansard (The Frames, the Swell Season), in addition to a cover of the Icelandic “I Think of Angels” by Cat Power (Chan Marshall).

“I Think of Angels” was composed by KK and performed in collaboration with his sister, Ellen Kristjánsdóttir. The song pays tribute to the siblings’ late sister, Inger, who died in a car crash in America in 1992. “I Think of Angels” was officially released in 1995 on the album Gleðifólkið. The song is often performed at funerals in Iceland.

“I’m on cloud nine”

In an interview with Mbl.is, KK revealed that the producers of Flag Day reached out to him about two years ago: “I just said Yes, and then there were a few twists along the way, before, finally, it was decided that Cat Power would perform a cover of the song.”

According to KK, Valdís Óskarsdóttir – who edited the film in collaboration with Michelle Tesoro – suggested “I Think of Angels” to Sean Penn, and the director fell for the song immediately. KK is over the moon with Cat Power’s performance, sung an octave lower than the original, which he calls “divine.”

Readers can listen to the song below.

National Hospital Expects Continued Strain

Iceland National Hospital COVID-19

Intensive care units are at “a breaking point,” according to a memorandum sent to the Minister of Health from the National University Hospital on August 16. While the healthcare authorities believe the current wave of infections may have reached its peak, it is unlikely that the strain on the hospital will decrease for another two to three weeks.

Various measures have been implemented

According to a memorandum sent to the Minister of Health from Páll Matthíasson, Director of the National University Hospital, on August 16, the state of the hospital’s ICU and emergency room is dire; if the hospital’s most pessimistic forecast becomes a reality, it will be unable to respond to other emergencies that may occur, with staff exhaustion being a “real risk,” well. At the time that the memorandum was composed, 20 hospital employees were quarantining and a further 90 were self-isolating.

To accommodate the strain caused by the current wave of COVID-19 in Iceland, the country’s largest to date, the National University Hospital has implemented various measures. These include transferring patients out of the hospital to other healthcare institutions and calling in staff from summer vacations. The Ministry of Health has also contracted staff from private healthcare institutions in order to ease the strain on public healthcare staff.

Despite these measures, the hospital’s intensive care units are “more than full,” according to the memorandum. The biggest challenge in providing care is a shortage of trained staff, particularly anesthesiologists and intensive care nurses. The strain caused by the pandemic has also led to many elective surgeries being postponed. Not all patients waiting for such operations can wait indefinitely.

A high proportion of foreign tourists in intensive care

The recent increase in tourists arriving in Iceland has also affected the hospital, the memorandum notes: 15% of patients being monitored by the COVID-19 ward are foreign tourists, with 25-40% of patients in the ICU belonging to this group. The state of the ICU is currently the hospital’s biggest challenge, considering that is “that aspect of the hospital’s operations” that will most influence its ability to perform large, exigent elective surgeries.

The memorandum further highlights the recent strain on the hospital’s emergency room, in which those individuals arriving with COVID-like symptoms must be isolated until a diagnosis is at hand. This process greatly slows the transfer of individuals into and between the hospital’s inpatient units. Similarly, owing to the above-mentioned circumstances, patients (mainly those suffering from cardiac problems) are being transferred to inpatient units at a faster rate than normal. Under normal circumstances, these patients would be monitored in the emergency room for a longer period of time.

The memorandum concludes with the following plea: “It is imperative that the authorities implement all of the necessary societal measures in order to reduce the strain on the hospital.”