It’s a Living Thing

Þjóðbúningur Icelandic national costume

In 2004, Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, then Minister of Education, Science, and Culture, appeared on live television wearing Iceland’s national costume. The outfit seemed perfectly appropriate for the occasion, which was the reopening of the National Museum of Iceland following its renovation. But it soon became clear that the Minister’s choice of outfit had backfired – […]

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Cost of Rent Has Increased Slowly Since Pandemic Hit

architecture downtown Reykjavík houses

Rental prices in Iceland have risen by just 1.9% since January 2020, economists of the Landsbanki bank report.

At the same time, real estate prices have skyrocketed. The increase can largely be explained by a growing demand for real estate and reduced interest rates.

According to the report, the rate of first-time buyers has never been higher which curbs the demand for rental flats. Fewer tourists also mean less opportunities for landlords to rent their flats short-term. All these factors contribute to higher real estate prices and a slower rise in rental prices.

For the past twelve months, rental prices in the capital area have risen by 3.4% while real estate prices have increased by 16%. In comparison, the consumer price index rose by 3% during that same period.

Rental prices vary between different areas in the city. Two-bedroom flats in the west side of Reykjavík (Vesturbær) currently have the highest price tag, or 3.441 ISK [23€, 26$] per square metre. Within the capital area, rental prices for two-bedroom flats are lowest in the municipalities of Garðabær and Hafnarfjörður, which are situated rather far away from the city centre. The situation is similar for three-bedroom flats, where the highest rental prices are found in the west side of Reykjavik, and the lowest in the municipality of Kópavogur.

Icelandair Cancels Flights Due to Severe Weather

Icelandair

Icelandair has cancelled all flights arriving or departing from Keflavik Airport on Thursday morning, due to extreme weather conditions.

The Icelandic Met Office has issued yellow weather warnings in five regions, starting this evening. According to Birta Líf Kristinsdóttir, a meteorologist at the Met Office, all regions in Iceland will be affected by a deep depression that is forecast to cross the country tonight.

In a travel alert on Icelandair’s website, it says that passengers who experience disruptions due to the cancellations will be rebooked automatically. Instead of having to contact the airline, they will receive a new itinerary via e-mail.

Eruption site closed

The Reykjanes Police District announced earlier today that the Geldingadalir eruption site will be closed to visitors due to extreme weather.

“Travelling in this weather is not advisable. Furthermore, the weather may complicate rescue operations and monitoring in the area,” says in the announcement.

The Met Office has advised travellers to monitor the situation closely. Road closures are common during severe winter storms and driving conditions can be dangerous.

The weather in Iceland has been quite rough during these first days of the year. New Year’s Day was extremely cold and windy in the capital. Two days ago, the eastern region of the country was hit by a storm that caused damage to breakwaters in the town of Vopnafjörður.

Current COVID-19 Border Measures to Remain in Place

keflavik airport COVID-19 testing

The government has announced that current restrictions at the Icelandic border will remain in place until February 28.

The authorities are currently discussing the possibility of a different arrangement at the border for next spring, which will be officially introduced on February 20.

At present, travellers who enter the national border that have close ties within the Icelelandic community are required to undergo a COVID-19 test after arrival in Iceland. However, they are not required to present a negative result before boarding. Other passengers need to present a negative PCR or antigen test prior to boarding, but they are exempt from testing at the border if they have been vaccinated and are not arriving from a high risk country.

Although the numbers of covid cases have never been higher in Iceland, the authorities said that tightening the current restrictions at the border was not necessary at the moment.

However, authorities have decided that vaccination passports are now valid for nine months instead of twelve, which conforms to new EEA rules.

Thousands Watched the Demolition of a Damaged Wind Turbine

Thousands of people watched a live stream of the demolition of a damaged wind turbine in Þykkvabær last night. According to Ásgeir Margeirsson, who managed the operation on behalf of the owners of the turbine, the blades of the turbine’s rotor had caught fire and started spinning on New Year’s Day. It was considered to be hazardous to leave it in that condition, especially considering the stormy weather that is forecast tonight. “Therefore, it was a priority to bring down the wind turbine as soon as possible,” Ásgeir says. He adds that the decision to demolish the turbine was made on Monday, and the operation started the day after.

The felling of the turbine, which was carried out with controlled explosions, took much longer than the explosives experts that oversaw the operation had anticipated.

The wind turbine was 60 metres tall [197 ft] and weighed more than twenty tonnes. The explosive ordnance disposal unit (EOD) at the Icelandic Coast Guard had hoped that one explosion would suffice to bring down the turbine, but they did not succeed until after the sixth one.

Margeirsson says he is happy that the operation turned out to be successful in the end, and adds that he is extremely grateful for the service of the Police, the Icelandic Coastguard and the local authorities, who all participated in the project.

“An extraordinarily complex task”

Explosives expert Ásgeir Guðjónsson said in an interview with Vísir that the operation was one the most difficult projects that the EOD had ever been involved with.

“The tower of the wind turbine was made of two centimetres [0.7 inches] thick steel. Felling a steel tower of this kind is an extraordinarily complex task. These are, in fact, the most complex controlled explosions that are carried out. We are certainly explosives experts, but this is definitely not a run-of-the-mill operation,” Guðjónsson said.He added that in the end, the project was successful, and said that he hoped that those who watched the live stream had a good time.

Margeirsson says that cleaning operations are already underway and that the remaining debris will be recycled. “It is one of the great things about renewable energy, that wind turbines can be demolished and then recycled,” Margeirsson adds.

Icelandic Ranger’s Course Becomes Fully Booked in Two Minutes

The Icelandic Ranger’s Course became fully booked just two minutes after it opened for registration yesterday morning. 36 places were offered on the course, which is due to take place during a four-week period in February.

Rangers operate in various national parks and nature reserves in Iceland. They are responsible for providing tourists with necessary information, as well as taking care of maintenance in the area. Rangers are usually employed only during the summer season.

According to Kristín Ósk Jónasdóttir, a specialist at the Environment Agency of Iceland, who has overseen the course for the past few years, the course is increasingly drawing a larger attendance.

“Last year, the course filled up four minutes after it opened for registration. Which means that it happened 100% more quickly this year,” she jokes.

She says that less than five years ago, registration for the course remained open for a month or so before filling up. But what explains this sudden increase in applications?

“I think environmental awareness is increasing amongst Icelanders. They appreciate nature more than they used to and realise the importance of environmental protection.” She adds that camping and hiking is more popular in Iceland than ever. “The job combines outdoor activities and nature preservation, which seems to appeal to a lot of people.”

Landing a job as a ranger is not guaranteed upon completing a Ranger Course. However, those who have done the course have priority over other applicants. “There has not been a problem filling vacant posts for the past years,” Jónasdóttir says. She adds that rangers are a very diverse group of people, both in terms of gender, age and background. “We have even had people with PhDs working for us as rangers,” she says.

The Icelandic Ranger’s Course takes place once a year, so those who did not make it this time will have to wait another year. Jónasdóttir says it is a pity that the agency cannot accept everyone who is interested in joining the course. “The applicants are selected by a computer program on a first come, first served basis,” she says.

She emphasises that some universities offer similar courses to students of geology, tourism, biology and geography.

Severe Weather Conditions to Be Expected in All Regions

Waves crashing over Reykjavík lighthouse

Stormy weather is expected in all regions of the country tomorrow evening. The Icelandic Met Office has issued yellow weather warnings in South Iceland, Faxaflói, Southwest Iceland, Westnorthwest Iceland and the Central highlands.

An unusually deep depression is likely to cross the country tomorrow, resulting in strong winds and heavy precipitation. According to Birta Líf Kristinsdóttir, a meteorologist at the Met Office, all regions be affected by the weather.

“According to the current forecast, the southwestern and western regions will be experiencing the strongest winds tomorrow night while precipitation will be heavy in the southern and southeastern regions,” Kristinsdóttir says.

She says that although warnings have not been issued for the northern parts of the country, bad weather is also expected in the region. “A storm is also forecast in North Iceland tomorrow, although the wind is not expected to be as strong there as in other regions.”

Kristinsdóttir urges people to take precautions before the storm hits. Securing loose objects outdoors, such as trampolines, barbecues and lawn furniture is vital to ensure the safety of people in the area.

The Met Office has said that some transport disturbances are to be expected due to the storm. Travelers should monitor the situation closely and plan accordingly. The storm is expected to die down on Thursday morning.

Uber and Lyft May Become a Reality in Iceland if Bill Passes

Rideshare apps, such as Uber and Lyft, may become legal in Iceland if an impending bill on taxicab driving and licensing passes.

The bill was initially proposed in 2019 but did not pass during the last electoral term. It was a response to an investigation of the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) in 2017, which led to the conclusion that due to restriction of access to the taxi driver profession  embedded in Icelandic legislation, there was a possibility that Icelandic law did not conform to EEA law.

“Current practice in Iceland limits the number of taxi licenses available in certain districts. Requirements for awarding new licenses in those districts are not objective, effectively favouring existing taxi operators over new entrants. This has the potential to deter and prevent new operators from establishing businesses. The current legislation also requires taxi operators in certain districts to be connected to a dispatch central and to have taxi driving as a principal profession,” ESA states.

Since Iceland did not respond to ESA’s findings by amending the law, the authority announced last January that it had taken action against Iceland for restrictions in the taxi-services market. ESA’s letter of formal notice was the first step in an infringement procedure against Iceland.

The bill, which will be discussed in the Parliament in January, may determine the future of rideshare companies such as Lyft and Uber in Iceland. Currently, Uber operates in over 785 metropolitan areas in 85 countries. Iceland is one of few countries in Europe that hasn’t welcomed the service.

School May Not Be the Best Place to Vaccinate Children, Ombudsman for Children Says

Salvör Nordal, the Ombudsman for Children, has said that vaccinating children for Covid-19 during school hours is problematic. They should rather be vaccinated after school, at local health centres.

A COVID-19 vaccination rollout for children aged 5–11 was scheduled to start next Monday, in schools during regular school hours. However, the Minister for Education and Children’s Affairs has said that due to recent criticism, a final decision on the place of vaccination has not been made.

In an interview with mbl.is, Nordal claimed that many parents had reached out to her to address their worries regarding the current arrangement.

“We have witnessed a very harsh response from parents who believe vaccinations should not be carried out in schools. People have different views on whether children should be vaccinated or not, and be that as it may, but we sense a strong reaction among parents to the current arrangement. One possible reason is that parents feel they need more time to think the decision through. Others simply do not want their children to be vaccinated,” Nordal says.

She regards the decision to be vaccinated or not as sensitive personal data, which is inevitably exposed if vaccinations are carried out in the classroom. This can make children insecure and trigger uncomfortable conversations with their peers and teachers.

Skeptics demand a revocation of the marketing authorisation of Pfeizer’s vaccine for children

Yesterday, an organisation called Frelsi og ábyrgð (e. Freedom and responsibility) filed an administrative complaint against the Icelandic Medicines Agency, demanding that the marketing authorisation of Pfeizer’s vaccine for children should be revoked.

The complaint echoes the concerns of groups of people who believe that vaccinating children against COVID-19 does more harm than good. The organisation has recently published a series of full-page ads in Icelandic newspapers, where the usefulness of vaccinations of children is questioned.

The Icelandic Medicines Agency responded to the complaint yesterday, emphasising that vaccines are never authorised unless there is data from scientific research that confirms the safety of using the vaccine, Kjarninn reports . Moreover, this particular vaccine has been authorised in all member states of the EEA.

All Icelanders over the age of 11 have now been offered a COVID-19 jab. In other countries, such as the United States, younger children have been offered a vaccination. According to Þórólfur Guðnason, Chief Epidemiologist, data from the US suggests that around 70 percent of children infected with COVID-19 experience symptoms, with 0,6 percent of them requiring hospitalisation. Guðnason stressed in an announcement last month that these figures suggest that if all Icelandic children aged 5 – 11 would get infected with COVID-19, it would result in 134 hospitalisations and one death. Because of that, vaccination is a justifiable measure to prevent serious sickness in young children.

MFRI Suggests a Total Ban on Langoustine Fishing

Iceland‘s Marine & Freshwater Research Institude (MFRI) has suggested a total ban on langoustine fishing in 2022 and 2023.

Langoustine numbers in the country‘s fisheries have been extremely low in the past few years. The size of the langoustine population has shrunk by 27% since 2016 and this year, the total catch of langoustine was the smallest ever recorded.

See also: Langoustine Numbers at Record Low

Because of the declining population, MRFI introduced significant fishing limitations on langoustine last year, which entailed a ban on fishing more langoustine than needed to maintain scientific research. If their new suggestions will be heeded, no lobster fishing will be allowed for at least two years to protect the population, not even for scientific purposes.

The MRFI has also suggested a ban on bottom trawling in defined areas in Breiðamerkurdjúp, Hornafjarðardjúp and Lónsdjúp, in order to protect the langoustine.

Langoustine may disappear from the Icelandic market

Langoustine is the only species of lobster that can be found in Iceland’s fisheries. The species is mostly caught in the fisheries off the south coast of Iceland, by companies based in Höfn, Þorlákshöfn and Vestmannaeyjar.  It is considered a delicacy in the country and is commonly eaten at Christmas and other festive occasions. Through the years, langoustine has been a popular dish at the country‘s seafood restaurants.

See also: Poor Langoustine Season Could Mean Restaurant Shortage

Scientist do not know what has caused of the decline of the langoustine stocks around Iceland. In an interview with RÚV, a deep-sea specialist at MRFI said that full recovery of the langoustine population would take at least five to ten years. He warned that if the langoustine population fails to recover, it may disappear completely from the Icelandic market.