Tourist Nearly Drowns at Reynisfjara Beach

Reynisfjara tourists

An ambulance was called out to Reynisfjara beach in South Iceland this week when a Spanish tourist nearly drowned, reports. The man had waded into the water intentionally and was then dragged out by the powerful waves at the site. He eventually managed to get himself back onto the shore, chilled and agitated but otherwise fine.

Photographer Sandra Pawłowska, who witnessed the incident, says the man nearly drowned. He had gotten undressed and waded into the water intentionally while his friend took photographs of him. Sandra says families at the site led their children away so they would not see what was happening.

Reynisfjara is a black sand beach with basalt column formations that is a popular tourist site. The powerful “sneaker” waves at the site have previously claimed several lives, most recently last November, when a Chinese tourist died after being swept out to sea. The path to the beach has a plethora of signs warning visitors to stay well away from the water due to the dangerous waves.

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Resigns

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason

Chief Epidemiologist of Iceland Þórólfur Guðnason has sent in his resignation. The Directorate of Health announced the decision on its website this morning. Þórólfur is leaving the job both for personal and professional reasons.

According to the Directorate of Health, the main reason for Þórólfur’s resignation is that the current wave of COVID-19 infection has mostly subsided and a new chapter is beginning in the Chief Epidemiologist’s role. “This new chapter includes, among other things, a review of the response to the COVID pandemic with the aim of improving response to future pandemics,” the notice from the Directorate states. The Chief Epidemiologist will also be shifting focus back to the routine projects that were largely put on hold due to the pandemic.

Pandemic far from over

Led by Þórólfur, Iceland’s response to COVID-19 received global attention early in the pandemic. With a focus on testing, tracing, and isolating cases, the country managed to contain the first wave with relatively few infections and deaths – and without ever instituting a total lockdown or closing schools.

“While Iceland is currently in a good place in the COVID pandemic, it is far from over globally and while such is the case, it will be necessary to closely monitor the emergence of new variants of the virus and how well and for how long the immunity that individuals have achieved will last,” the notice on Þórólfur’s resignation states.

Another reason for Þórólfur’s resignation is that he turns 70 next year: the age at which the Chief Epidemiologist is required by law to leave the position. His resignation will take effect September 1.

Þórólfur recently reflected on his work throughout the pandemic in an interview with Iceland Review.