Iceland European Champion in Group Gymnastics

Icelandic gymnastics national team

Iceland became the European group gymnastics champion in Portugal on Saturday when the women’s team won gold with a score of 57,250 points, narrowly beating the Swedish team. The team won the competition’s highest score in floor exercises in the women’s category with 22,300 points.

This was the first year Iceland also sent a men’s team to the competition, and they took home silver medals for their performance. The Icelandic youth team also won silver and bronze in the competition.

Björn Björnsson, one of the team’s coaches, told RÚV he hopes the men’s silver award encourages young men to train in gymnastics. “I think it can do nothing but increase the number of great boys in gymnastics. The next competition is coming up, in nine months, and we need more great boys.”

Chief Epidemiologist to be Appointed by Health Minister if Amendment Passes

Þórólfur Guðnason Chief Epidemiologist

If proposed amendments to Iceland’s pandemic legislation are passed, the Chief Epidemiologist would be appointed by the Health Minister rather than Iceland’s Director of Health. An epidemiological committee would also participate in the drafting of the Chief Epidemiologist’s recommendations for infection prevention measures. Both the incoming Minister of Health Willum Þór Þórsson and Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason have a positive view of the amendments, which are intended to clarify Iceland’s infection prevention legislation.

Experts say that Iceland’s current legislation on infectious diseases is adequate but could use streamlining, particularly in decision-making when disease control measures are implemented that affect the public. The amendments also aim to clarify the role of the Chief Epidemiologist within the administration.

Chief Epidemiologist and Minister of Health approve

The proposals are built on a report written by Páll Hreinsson, President of the EFTA court at the request of the Icelandic government last year. “When we made changes in the parliament as a response to the pandemic and relatively quickly, there came a report from Páll Hreinsson that stated that we needed to do a comprehensive review of the legislation,” Willum Þór told RÚV. He expressed support of the idea that the Minister of Health would be responsible for appointing the Chief Epidemiologist. “I think it could be a good arrangement. I think it’s perhaps a constitutional issue in terms of responsibility and communication.” He added that he looked forward to hearing other points of view on the matter from fellow MPs and from critics.

While the Chief Epidemiologist is currently appointed by the Director of Health, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist has pointed out that the Director of Health is appointed by the Health Minister. “I think [the amendments] are not illogical because the law stipulates that the Chief Epidemiologist works under the Minister and submits his proposals to him,” Þórólfur stated in an interview this morning. “The administrative position of the Chief Epidemiologist is being clarified, I think it’s time to do that.”

A working group has been appointed to draft the bill, consisting of representatives from the Health Ministry, Ministry of Justice, capital area healthcare centres, the Directorate of Health, the Chief Epidemiologist’s office, the National Committee on Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases, the National University Hospital, and the National Police Commissioner’s Office. It is expected to submit a draft of the amendments by February 1.

Unusual Activity at Grímsvötn Volcano: Aviation Code Raised to Orange

Grímsvötn Gígjukvísl

The Icelandic Met Office has raised the elevation colour code at Grímsvötn volcano from yellow to orange due to elevated seismic activity at the site. The glacial flood from Grímsvötn reached its peak discharge yesterday morning. Seismic activity at the site has been increasing above the normal level for the past two days or so, and a magnitude 3.5 earthquake occurred at the volcano just after 6:00 AM this morning.

Despite strong earthquakes detected this morning, no volcanic tremor has been detected at Grímsvötn and no increases or changes in geochemical emissions at the volcano have been measured. According to a notice from the Met Office, the seismic activity “is possibly occurring due to the decreased pressure above the volcano, since the flood water left Grímsvötn sub-glacial lake. According to calculations from the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland at least 0.8 km3 of water have drained from the sub-glacial lake.”

Grímsvötn volcano is located in the Icelandic highland, underneath Vatnajökull, the country’s largest glacier. It last erupted in 2011 and emitted about 0.8km3 of basaltic tephra. It erupts roughly once every ten years and the eruptions are accompanied by glacial floods such as the one that is currently winding down.

Read more about the glacial outburst flood at Grímsvötn.