Telecommunications Security Must be Ensured Despite Foreign Ownership, Says Prime Minister

Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Iceland’s government is working to ensure that the sale of telecommunications company Míla will not pose a threat to national security, reports. Míla is a subsidiary of Síminn hf., which announced yesterday that it has signed an agreement with a French fund management company regarding Míla’s possible acquisition. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir is preparing a bill to ensure telecommunications security, and therefore national security in Iceland, regardless of the ownership of important infrastructure.

All of Iceland’s homes, businesses, and institutions are serviced by Míla’s nationwide telecommunications infrastructure, which includes copper wire, fibreoptic, and microwave systems. The company is therefore the basis of all telecommunications and electronic communications systems throughout the country. The notice on Míla’s sale states that negotiations are well underway and the potential purchase is fully financed. If acquisition is successful, a large part of Iceland’s telecommunications infrastructure will be in the hands of foreign investors.

Transport Minister Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson is in discussions with Síminn to ensure that Iceland’s communications security, and national security, are protected regardless of Míla’s ownership. The Prime Minister stated that the company had done well to keep the National Security Council informed on the sale’s progress.

Discussing telecommunications infrastructure, Katrín stated “it was perhaps not entirely foreseen how important such infrastructure would be, but now with technological developments and other things, it has become a key issue for public security in every society.” Katrín says she is preparing legislation that ensures foreign investments in important infrastructure would be carefully reviewed and plans to introduce a bill on the matter in Parliament this winter. The bill is based on existing legislation in Denmark and Norway.

This is not the first time Iceland’s institutions discuss foreign, private ownership of local infrastructure. The National Security Council has discussed foreign ownership of card payment companies and the Central Bank of Iceland is currently developing a domestic payment system that could be used as a backup if needed.

Eruption Still a Possibility at Askja

Askja volcano iceland

The Icelandic Met Office is closely monitoring uplift at Askja volcano in the Central Highland. Benedikt Gunnar Ófeigsson, a deformation scientist at the institution, told that it is not possible to rule out an eruption at the site. The land at Askja has risen 15 centimetres since the beginning of August, movement that is most likely explained by magma accumulating below the surface.

Askja is located in Iceland’s Central Highland, far from inhabited areas. Over the last 7,000 years, its eruption frequency has been around 2-3 eruptions per 100 years. The last eruption at the site occurred in 1961: it was a moderate eruption that produced about 0.1km3 of lava.

Though Benedikt states that the uplift at Askja may still lead to an eruption, he added that it was too early to say when a potential eruption would occur. An uncertainty phase is active in the area.

Iceland’s COVID Restrictions Relaxed at Midnight, Lifted in Four Weeks

At a bar in Reykjavík Iceland, drinking beer.

Iceland’s domestic COVID-19 restrictions will be relaxed at midnight tonight, and all remaining domestic restrictions are set to be lifted in four weeks, the country’s health authorities have announced. As of midnight, the general gathering limit will be raised from 500 to 2,000, mask use requirements will be lifted, and bars will be permitted to remain open one hour longer. Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir announced the changes following this morning’s cabinet meeting.

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist had sent the Health Minister a memorandum outlining three possible scenarios after the current domestic regulations expire: the first was to maintain the current COVID-19 restrictions, the second to relax restrictions in stages, and the third to lift all restrictions. The Health Minister and Prime Minister had previously sent the Chief Epidemiologist a memorandum that outlined the reasoning other Nordic countries had used in lifting all domestic restrictions. Those countries had determined that a majority-vaccinated population faced little risk from COVID-19 as a whole. Three-quarters of Iceland’s population, or 75%, are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Svandís stated that if all goes well, all domestic COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted in Iceland on November 18, 2021. Iceland maintains COVID-19 travel restrictions at its borders.

There are currently 562 active cases of COVID-19 in Iceland, with seven people hospitalised due to the illness and zero patients in ICU.

Þorlákshöfn Harbour Now Fifth Busiest in Iceland

thorlakshofn iceland

There was a 23% increase in transport through Þorlákshöfn harbour in Southwest Iceland between 2019 and 2020, according to newly released figures from Statistics Iceland. The ports of Reykjavík, Grundartangi, Straumsvík and Mjóeyri in Reyðarfjörður maintained their positions as the four busiest ports in Iceland in 2020. The rankings are based on tonnes loaded and unloaded at the ports.

Local authorities in Þorlákshöfn are planning an ISK 3 billion [$23.3 million; €20 million] expansion of the harbour that would allow it to accommodate ships up to 180 metres long and 30 metres wide. The renovation would take three years to complete but the new harbour would be usable within two years, according to Elliði Vignisson, mayor of Ölfus municipality.

By docking in Þorlákshöfn instead of Reykjavík, cargo ships would shorten their journey between Iceland and Europe by up to 24 hours, which would lessen the carbon footprint of transport, Elliði stated. A larger harbour in the town could also prove beneficial for the tourism industry, the mayor argued.