Reykjavík Ramps Up

In March of this year, a project called Ramp Up Reykjavík launched with the intention of helping local businesses install wheelchair ramps to improve accessibility for people with disabilities. Per an press release on the City of Reykjavík website, the organization not only met its initial goal of installing 100 ramps around the capital four months ahead of schedule, it also has a surplus of funds—ISK 15 million [$115,517; €99,876], to be exact—which will be placed in an Access Fund to assist in funding additional ramp access.

Ramp Up Reykjavík is a collaborative venture undertaken by local businesses, labour unions, government ministries, associations, banks, and city officials. It was launched by entrepreneur Haraldur Ingi Þorleifsson after finding himself stuck outside downtown shops and restaurants on numerous occasions. He recalls a recent summer night during which he had to sit outside a shop while his family all went inside because there was only one step at the entrance and it was too tall for his wheelchair to go over.

“That wasn’t the first step,” he writes. “I’ve sat outside before and often. I’ve not gone to coffeehouses because of that step. I’ve not met friends out. I’ve not gone downtown on Þorláksmessa with my family. All because of that step.”

Haraldur isn’t the only person in his position, he continues, noting that thousands of Icelanders use wheelchairs, and thousands of tourists, too. This is what inspired him to start Ramp Up Reykjavík, soliciting donations to fund 100 ramps to start with. Under the terms of the funding, restaurant owners can be reimbursed for up to 80% of the cost of installing a wheelchair ramp on their premises.

“It’s amazing how easy it actually was,” Haraldur says. “All the founding members, planning authorities, restaurants, and shops in the area really pushed the boat out to get the ramps set up and we had a lot of support from the start.”

Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson praised the project and said the city was prepared to continue funding for it. Ramp Up Reykjavík will continue to improve access around the capital but is also set to move further afield. Akureyri mayor Ásthildur Sturludóttir said she’d support the project in her town and both Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Minister for Social Affairs and children Ásmundur Einar Daðason said that they’d support the initiative in the countryside, having seen how successful it’s already been in the capital.

National and University Hospital on Alert Phase

The National and University Hospital announced that it was going into Alert Phase on Friday afternoon, Vísir reports. The hospital’s preparedness committee made the decision in collaboration with pandemic authorities. The Alert Phase entails visitation curtailments and other restrictions, the better to free up hospital staff to work with COVID patients.

When the hospital goes on Alert Phase, operations such as minor procedures, interventions, and outpatient services are curtailed. This frees up staff who can then be moved to cover COVID wards.

An announcement on the hospital Facebook page states that an increased number of recent COVID-19 infections will result in an uptick in admissions in the coming week. The length of stay for unvaccinated patients and those who require intensive care is longer than for those who are fully vaccinated. This makes it difficult for hospital management to predict what patient flow will be. A good in- and outflow of patients is key to having enough beds for admitted patients on any given day.

“There are currently 1,082 patients under observation in the COVID ward,” reads the Facebook post. “Three patients are in intensive care, all of whom are on ventilators and one of whom is on heart and lung support. The infectious disease ward now has 13 patients, and is quickly approaching its capacity. We’ve begun moving patients from the pulmonary ward to create space for COVID patients, but we expect to have at least three admissions every day for the next few days.”

As of midnight Friday, there is a ban on all hospital visitors. As per previous visitation bans, department managers can make exemptions on a case by case basis.

Inpatients will only be allowed leave privileges if such are thought to be necessary preparation for discharge and/or part of their rehabilitation. Permission will be contingent on the patient only meeting with a very few people and only visiting one external location while on leave.

All meetings held by hospital staff will be conducted virtually.

The hospital also stressed the importance of continued mask use and a 1-metre [3 ft] distance between individuals within the hospital. When taking off masks to eat, individuals must observe a social distance of 2-metres [6 ft]. Staff members are also encouraged to seek booster shots, as data shows that this significantly improves antibody response and helps combat the Delta variant of the virus.