Nordic Noir Author Arnaldur Indriðason Awarded

Best-selling Nordic noir author Arnaldur Indriðason was awarded the Jónas Hallgrímsson Prize yesterday. The award is given annually on November 16, Icelandic Language Day, to individuals whose work has helped the Icelandic language flourish through writing, teaching, or scholarship. Arnaldur’s books have sold over 14 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 40 languages.

Arnaldur is a prolific writer whose crime fiction books are popular in Iceland as well as abroad. In 2006, his novel Jar City was made into a film directed by Baltasar Kormákur. On receiving the award yesterday, Arnaldur stated that he was accepting it on behalf of all crime fiction writers in Iceland. “I believe the award is also a recognition of the branch of literature of which I have been a representative for about a quarter of a century and has flourished in our literary flora in recent years,” he stated.

Podcast host Vera Illugadóttir also received special recognition at the ceremony. Vera is the creator of the Icelandic-language podcast series Í ljósi sögunnar, produced by RÚV. The podcast presents global history in a gripping, narrative format, often telling of historic events that have rarely been written about in Icelandic.

Central Bank Raises Key Interest Rate to 2%

Central Bank Ásgeir Jónsson seðlabankastjóri

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Iceland has decided to raise the Bank’s interest rates by 0.5 percentage points. The Bank’s key interest rate will therefore be 2%. This is the Bank’s fourth interest rate hike since May, indicating a change in direction as the economic forecast has improved.

The Central Bank’s key interest rate reached a historic low of 0.75% in November 2020. In comparison, rates in January 2020 stood at 3% and in January 2019 at 4.5%.

According to the Bank’s new macroeconomic forecast, GDP growth is expected to measure about 4% in 2021. Better prospects for exports result in an improved outlook for GDP growth compared to projections from last August. GDP growth next year is expected to measure just over 5%. The Central Bank nevertheless states that “significant uncertainty remains, and as before, economic developments will depend on the path the pandemic takes.”

Inflation rose to 4.5% in October, according to the Central Bank’s statement, and is expected to continue rising in the coming months but then start to ease. Global price increases, a more rapid rebound in domestic economic activity, and rising wage costs are some of the factors behind the rise.

Vaccination Bus to Offer COVID-19 Jabs Across Reykjavík

The capital area healthcare service is planning to operate a mobile vaccination station that will offer COVID-19 inoculation to residents across Reykjavík, Fréttablaðið reports. Around 11% of Iceland’s residents who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination have yet to receive the jab.

“We’re still in the early stages but it might be that the car or bus would stop outside a work area or just in Smáralind or Kringlan shopping centres, and people could get the vaccine there,” Óskar Reykdalsson, director of capital area healthcare centres, explained.

Vaccinate to reduce spread and strain on hospital

Over 89% of Icelandic residents 12 years of age and over are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Icelandic health authorities have begun administering booster shots en masse and hope to offer them to all eligible demographics by the end of March. While vaccination has lowered rates of infection, transmission, and serious illness in Iceland, it has not led to herd immunity. Iceland is currently in the middle of its largest wave of infection since the start of the pandemic.

The mobile vaccination drive aims to reach those that are still unvaccinated against COVID-19. “Number one is just to reach as many people as possible and reduce the spread of the disease and reduce strain on the hospital,” Óskar stated. “We do that by vaccinating as many people as possible.” He added that the Chief Epidemiologist and others have identified which groups have yet to be vaccinated and the drive will aim to make vaccination accessible to those groups.

Drop-in for unvaccinated on Thursdays and Fridays

Those who have yet to receive COVID-19 vaccination, or those who have yet to receive their second dose of vaccine, can also drop in to Laugardalshöll in Reykjavík between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM on Thursdays and Fridays in the coming weeks. The Pfizer mRNA vaccine will be administered on both days, while the AstraZeneca and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines will be offered on Thursdays and the Janssen vaccine on Fridays.

Efling Union Appoints First Chair of Foreign Origin

Strike efling hotel workers union

Efling Union, whose chair resigned earlier this month following allegations of workplace bullying, has now voted in its first chair of foreign origin. The new chairperson is Agnieszka Ewa Ziółkowska, previously vice-chair of the union. More than half of Efling’s members are of foreign origin, and Agnieszka told Kjarninn she is pleased that foreigners now have a representative from their ranks heading the union.

Read More: Efling Union Leaders Resign

Efling is Iceland’s second-largest labour union, with around 27,000 members working in public service, healthcare, and other industries. Efling’s chairperson since 2018, Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, resigned from the position earlier this month following allegations of bullying from Efling employees. Since her appointment was announced, Angieszka has been the target of criticism on social media for her Icelandic language skills. Agnieszka understands Icelandic though she does not speak it, and says her Icelandic language ability will not be an issue in her position.

“First of all, most foreigners in Iceland work in low-wage jobs – and work among other foreigners who also do not speak Icelandic,” Agnieszka stated. “Secondly, I understand Icelandic and I believe that it is very important to make Icelandic society aware that foreigners are part of this society. We must have the right to participate in society – no matter how long we stay here. Even though we do not speak perfect Icelandic, we deserve to be participants here.”

Fighting for rights of low-wage workers

The new chair says her priorities will be the same as those of the former chair: fighting for the rights of low-wage workers. Agnieszka stated she would focus on resolving issues in the Efling office and making sure the union continues to provide necessary services to its members. “I have been a member of Efling for most of the time I have lived in Iceland. I know how important it is for members to get the services they deserve,” Agnieszka stated. “I see the chairmanship as a unifying symbol for members. Efling must be able to stand by them when they need it because low-wage earners are unable to hire a lawyer to fight for their rights. And believe me, employers sometimes go too far. That’s why it’s so important to keep the union going – that’s our goal.”

Agnieszka’s appointment is short-term: Efling Union will hold elections for a new board and chairperson before the end of March.