Take a Hike

A tale of Arctic foxes, empty beaches, and a journey into the Hornstrandir wilderness The northern coast of the Westfjords is known as Hornstrandir. To get there, you drive as far as you can go and sail for as far as the local boat will take you. After that, there’s nothing to do but walk, […]

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Central Bank of Iceland Tightens Mortgage Regulations

apartments downtown Reykjavík housing

In an effort to minimise long-term risk as well as household debt, the Central Bank of Iceland has adopted a maximum debt sevice-to-income ratio of 35% for borrowers and 40% for first-time buyers. The Central Bank lowered interest rates throughout last year in response to the pandemic recession, allowing many homeowners to refinance their debt or purchase more real estate. House prices rose as a result, and that “has gone hand-in-hand with increased household debt,” according to a statement from the Bank’s Financial Stability Committee.

Read More: Iceland’s Housing Market

The statement says that Iceland’s economic recovery over recent months has “supported household and businesses. On the other hand, asset prices – equity securities and real estate prices in particular – have risen markedly.” The position of Iceland’s three main banks is strong, with their capital and liquidity “well above regulatory minima,” making them resilient, the Central Bank says.

Grímsey Residents Turn Down Offer of Church from Keflavík

The residents of Grímsey island, North Iceland, have turned down the offer of a church building from the Keflavík Airport Firefighting Staff Association, Morgunblaðið reports. Residents are instead fundraising to build a new church after the island’s historic church burned down on September 21.

The staff association offered to give Grímsey residents a church building that is currently located beside the fire station at Keflavík Airport. Alfreð Garðarson, parish council director on Grímsey told Morgunblaðið that while the offer was very generous, residents had decided at a meeting that the church building from Keflavík did not suit the island’s needs.

Grímsey island is the northernmost point of Iceland and has 67 inhabitants. Named Miðgarðakirkja, the church that burned down on the island was built out of driftwood in 1867. The cause of the fire is being investigated, but it is believed to have started from an old electrical panel.

The Bishop of Iceland has stated that the National Church will assist Grímsey residents to the best of its ability in rebuilding the destroyed church.

Parliament to Decide Whether Revote is Necessary

parliament Alþingi

The National Electoral Commission of Iceland has not received confirmation from the Northwest constituency’s election supervision committee that the handling of ballots had been satisfactory, RÚV reports. A recount of votes in the constituency has been criticised for not following regulations, leading some to call for a revote. According to the constitution, it is Iceland’s newly-elected Parliament that must rule on whether the election results stand.

Read More: Two Politicians Call for Revote After Recount Shuffles MPs

Iceland held a Parliamentary election last Saturday, September 25. Election officials in the northwest constituency decided to do a recount of votes on Sunday as the ballot numbers were very close between MPs. The recount did not change the distribution of seats between parties, but ousted one MP each from the Social-Democratic Alliance, Left-Green Movement, Reform Party, Pirate Party, and Centre Party for another of their fellow-party members.

The results of the constituency’s recount differed greatly from that of the initial count, resulting in a different number of blank and spoiled ballots as well as differences in the number of votes for individual candidates. Ballots in the region were not sealed after the initial count and were left unattended (though in a locked room), and candidates were not informed before the recount began: both breaches of regulation. This has caused some to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election and even call for a revote in the constituency.

Ball in Parliament’s court

Kristín Edwald, the director of the National Electoral Commission, stated that the Commission had requested confirmation from the northwest constituency that the ballots had been handled in a satisfactory manner. That confirmation has not been received, and the ball is now in the Parliament’s court to decide whether the election results will stand. Kristín referred to the 46th article of the constitution, which stipulates that the Alþingi itself decides whether members of parliament have been elected according to law.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Changes to Border Regulations

Keflavík Airport

As of this Friday, October 1, travellers arriving in Iceland who have ties to the country will no longer have to present a negative COVID-19 test certificate when entering the country. Travellers stopping over in Iceland who are not leaving the airport or other border point will also be exempt from this requirement. Those with ties to Iceland will still be required to undergo COVID-19 testing with 48 hours of arrival to the country, with the exception of children born in 2005 or later. The new regulation will remain in force until at least November 6, 2021.

People with ties to Iceland include Icelandic citizens and residents; but also anyone intending to study or work in Iceland for more than seven days; people with work permits in Iceland or those applying for such permits; people seeking asylum in Iceland; and families and relatives of anyone who belongs to the above categories.

Unvaccinated must undergo quarantine

Vaccinated travellers without ties to Iceland as well as those with certificates of previous COVID-19 infection are still required to present a negative COVID-19 test certificate no older than 72 hours. Unvaccinated travellers are also required to present a negative test certificate as well as to undergo testing upon arrival, five days of quarantine, and a follow-up test. Travellers must pre-register before arrival to Iceland.

Border measures key to domestic freedom

In his memorandum outlining the proposed changes to border regulations, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated that COVID-19 infections continue to cross the border, in both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers. Viral sequencing conducted by deCODE genetics shows that it only takes a few infected individuals to launch a large wave of infection within Iceland. Þórólfur says maintaining strict border measures is, therefore, the prerequisite for keeping domestic restrictions to a minimum.

Iceland Review regularly updates our page on Iceland’s travel requirements.