Election Investigation Will Take At Least One More Week

Bjarni Benediktsson icelandic politics

The chairmen of the Left-Green Movement, Independence Party, and Progressive Party continued their governing coalition negotiations yesterday. The three chairmen Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Bjarni Benediktsson, and Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson have played their cards close to their chest as far as the talks are concerned, but now say their coalition agreement is far along. The new government will, however, not be presented until the Credentials Committee completes its investigation of election proceedings in the Northwest Constituency.

Seven weeks have passed since Iceland’s parliamentary election on September 25, 2021. The governing coalition held its majority in the election, and three parties have been holding regular negotiations to define their continued collaboration since that time. The ministers now say that the main content of the coalition agreement has been ironed out, but confirm they will not present the new government until the investigation in the Northwest Constituency is completed.

Election investigation to take at least one more week

Uncertainty hangs over the election results from Iceland’s Northwest Constituency. Over a dozen legal complaints have been filed due to election proceedings in the constituency, where ballots were left unsealed and unsupervised between the initial count and recount that occurred the following day. The Credentials Committee has met 22 times to investigate the case and recently stated it will be at least another week before its final report is submitted to Parliament. Time is of the essence, as Parliament is required to pass a budget bill before the end of the year.

Division of ministries still unconfirmed

Bjarni stated yesterday that the division of ministries between the three parties is yet to be confirmed. The Independence Party has expressed interest in taking on the Ministry of Health, currently in the hands of the Left-Greens. The party leaders have also expressed the possibility of reorganising ministries, including establishing a ministry of infrastructure. According to Bjarni, however, ministry assignments have not been discussed much at this point in the talks.

Urgent Need for Healthcare Workers on Reserve Force

Emergency room

Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir has encouraged those with healthcare training to join the healthcare system’s reserve force. The healthcare system is experiencing strain due to the continuing rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations, and Svandís stated that the need is urgent.

“Due to the rapid increase in COVID-19 infections with increased strain on the healthcare system, more healthcare workers are urgently needed in the health service’s reserve force,” a government notice reads. “The assistance of healthcare professionals who are willing to come to work temporarily at short notice, whether full-time, part-time or for shift work, is requested, as circumstances allow.”

The reserve force was set up at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when it became clear that key healthcare institutions could face staffing problems due to staff illness or absences due to quarantine. The National University Hospital has now sent out a call for additional staff.

The reserve force accepts workers with diverse training, including nurses, doctors, and paramedics (and students in these disciplines) but also social workers, pharmacists, radiologists, and more. Workers with relevant healthcare training can register by filling out this form. Wages are based on collective agreements in the relevant institutions.

COVID-19 in Iceland: 10,000 Per Day Offered Booster Shot

Icelandic healthcare system

Around 120,000 Icelandic residents will be invited to receive a COVID-19 booster shot before the end of the year, RÚV reports. Health authorities are preparing to begin administering up to 10,000 booster shots per day from next week, and expect to offer all of those who have been fully vaccinated a booster shot by March.

For residents of the Reykjavík capital area, booster shots will be administered in Laugardalshöll. “We are going to speed up considerably and starting on Monday, November 15,” stated Ragnheiður Ósk Erlendsdóttir, director of patient care for the capital area. “We are going to take four weeks and will be doing three days a week. That’s 12 days in total and we expect to invite 10,000 people per day.”

Most of those who will be invited to receive a booster shot before the end of the year are people over 60 and those with underlying illnesses, e.g. those who received their second dose of vaccine before mid-June this year. Other demographics will not receive an invitation before January. Deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to Iceland have continued monthly and Ragnheiður says that reserves have accumulated. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will likely be used for most booster shots.

Booster shots increase immunity, research shows

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has stated that data from abroad show that booster shots increase immunity against COVID-19 and that side effects from the shots are very rare. “Side effects after vaccination are much rarer than after COVID so if you’re going to choose between getting COVID or vaccination, it’s much more likely you will react badly to COVID infection than vaccination,” Þórólfur stated.

Around 11% still not vaccinated among eligible population

Icelandic health authorities held a COVID-19 briefing last week for the first time in nearly three months in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers. Þórólfur encouraged those who have not yet been vaccinated to do so, as local data shows vaccinated lowers rates of infection, hospitalisation, and serious illness. Around 76% of Iceland’s total population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Þórólfur stated that around 11% of those who had been invited for vaccination had yet to be vaccinated.