First Cases of Monkeypox Likely Diagnosed in Iceland

Chief Epidemiologist Iceland Þórólfur Guðnason

Two middle-aged men were diagnosed with monkeypox in Iceland yesterday on an initial test, according to a notice from the Directorate of Health. Samples will be sent abroad as soon as possible to confirm the diagnosis. There is an overwhelming probability that the diagnosis is correct. The infection can be traced to a trip to Europe and neither of the men is seriously ill.

“Monkey pox is not a highly contagious viral disease, but is transmitted mainly through close and prolonged contact such as sexual intercourse but also through droplets from the airway. Infections can also be transmitted through clothing, towels, and bedding,” the notice explains.

A person with monkeypox can be contagious for up to three weeks, with the risk of infection ending when the last blister on the skin has healed. While the person is contagious, they need to be in isolation. People exposed to the infection need to be for up to three weeks.

The Directorate of Health encourages anyone who experiences an outbreak of bumps or blisters on the skin, especially on or near the genitals to go into isolation and contact the National Hospital’s Dermatology and Sexual Infection Ward, the Infectious Diseases Ward, or their local health clinic for further advice on diagnosis and treatment. The Directorate of health encourages people to avoid close contact with strangers, including sex, especially during their travels abroad.

“The main way to prevent the widespread spread of monkey pox in Iceland is to avoid the transmission routes/risks that can lead to infection and to seek diagnosis as early in the disease’s development as possible.”

The Ministry of Health, in consultation with the Icelandic Medicines Agency, is working to obtain antiviral drugs and vaccines that could benefit selected individuals against the infection.

Opposition Proposes Changes to Asylum Seeker Bill

Alþingi Icelandic parliament

MPs in Iceland’s Parliament have not reached an agreement on several bills, and it has become clear that Alþingi will not be prorogued at the end of this week, as planned. Justice Minister Jón Gunnarsson’s immigration bill has been one of the most controversial, and three opposition parties have submitted proposed changes to the bill.

The proposed changes submitted by the Social-Democratic Alliance, People’s Party, and Reform Party are in six parts and their aim is to reach an agreement before the end of this parliamentary session. The first change proposed is for asylum seekers whose applications have been denied continue to be provided with services until they leave the country, instead of being cut off from basic services like housing and food allowances after 30 days, as the bill currently outlines.

Read More: “Everyone Loses” in New Legal Scheme for Asylum Seekers

Other proposed amendments to the bill include continuing to grant applicants for international protection the minimum protection of the Administrative Procedure Act on reopening a case due to new data and information. The parties also propose that quota refugees (those invited to settle in Iceland via international agreements) would have the same rights regarding family reunification in Iceland as others who have received protection here through other routes. These proposals are now being reviewed by the Ministry of Justice.

Criticised by human rights organisations

The first version of this controversial bill was introduced in Alþingi in 2018 but was not passed at the time. This is the fourth version of the bill, which has been criticised by human rights organisations each time it has been introduced.

“This is an attempt by the government to establish a policy that involves significantly constricting refugees, curtailing their human rights, and reducing their possibilities for receiving protection in Iceland,” Activist Sema Erla Serdar of the aid organisation Solaris tweeted. “The bill especially targets children and other people in a particularly vulnerable situation.”

Namibian Officials Visit Iceland And Discuss Fishrot Files

Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir

Namibian officials, including the country’s Deputy Prime Minister, visited Iceland this week and discussed the case of Icelandic seafood company Samherji’s allegedly questionable business practices in Namibia, Stundin reports. The District Public Prosecutor confirmed to Vísir that he has met twice with those in charge of investigation and prosecution and states that the investigation is progressing nicely.

Read more: The Fishrot Files

Two and a half years have passed since Kveikur, Stundin, and Al Jazeera Investigates cooperated with Wikileaks to shed light on what’s known as the Fishrot Files. In that media coverage, whistleblower Jóhannes Stefánsson alleged that Samherji committed bribery and tax fraud in relation to their fishing operations in Namibia.

“We’ve acquired a considerable amount of data, and we’re working our way through that data and conducting interviews, although COVID-19 has hindered us in getting meetings, mostly abroad. We’ve been working on fixing that over the past few days,” District Public Prosecutor Ólafur Þór Hauksson told Vísir, confirming Stundin’s report that Icelandic investigators had met with their Namibian counterparts in the Hague last week to coordinate their efforts. Meetings have continued in Iceland over the past few days.

“Most recently, there have been meetings with the parties investigating and prosecuting these cases n Namibia, and we needed to go over the situation of the case there. I can’t disclose the content of the meetings but will confirm that the meetings have taken place and been very productive.”

Icelandic citizens cannot be extradited to Namibia

Deputy Prime Minister of Namibia Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah is in Iceland along with Namibia’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Deputy Director-General Erna van der Merwe and Prosecutor General Martha Imalwa. The reason for their visit is to meet with the Icelandic investigators on the case as well as Icelandic ministers. After their meeting with the Minister of Justice’s assistant Brynjar Níelsson, he confirmed to Stundin that Namibian authorities had extended no official extradition request. Namibian investigators have asked that Namibian judicial authorities issue such a request, as extradition is a prerequisite for prosecution. No extradition treaties are in place between Namibia and Iceland, and according to legislation, Icelandic citizens can not be extradited.

When asked if it was normal for an investigation to take such a long time, Ólafur stated that it’s possible when the case is extensive. “In that case, this can take a long time in Iceland and abroad. I will point out, in this context, that Namibian investigators started looking into the issue long before 2019. I believe it was in 2015 that they started looking into it.”

Ólafur would not issue a timeframe for prosecution but repeated that the investigation was progressing satisfactorily.