Chief Superintendent Víðir Reynisson and Director of the National University Hospital of Iceland Páll Matthíasson have advised against domestic travel this Easter, RÚV reports. The more travellers on the road, the higher the risk of accidents, which could increase the stress on an already strained healthcare system.
Won’t hesitate to take action
During a daily press briefing yesterday, Chief Superintendent Víðir Reynisson encouraged residents to stay at home during Easter – a popular travel weekend in Iceland – as opposed to spending a long weekend at countryside cottages. Speaking anecdotally, Víðir mentioned that a few of his snowmobiling friends had agreed to stay put this Easter and make do with merely “polishing their vehicles” over the holidays. “We will not, however, hesitate to take action,” Víðir said, revealing that the authorities were considering a ban on cottage trips. Other Nordic countries have taken similar action.
Although the latest figures on COVID-19 are a cause for optimism, Víðir stressed that it was important to avoid complacency. The achievements of the past few days were the result of strict measures. Víðir went on to compare the epidemic to a long-distance race that was half-finished. “The coming days will be a test of our collective endurance.”
Avoiding other major accidents
Páll Matthíasson, Director of the National University Hospital of Iceland, emphasised the importance of shielding the hospital from major accidents, as the healthcare system was already under considerable strain. All available energy was focused on the epidemic. Having heard that many residents were planning trips to the countryside to spend the holidays in cottages, Páll responded: “That’s a bad idea. Don’t do it.”
Vulnerable healthcare areas
As outlined during the press briefing, there are several reasons why the authorities recommend residents stay at home this Easter: if individuals gather in the countryside in high numbers, it could put significant stress on vulnerable rural healthcare areas; furthermore, there is the risk of carelessness in new environments. Residents have learned to eschew handshaking and respect the so-called two-metre rule (social distancing), but such behaviours could quickly be unlearned in cottages.
Víðir concluded by saying that the authorities would not hesitate to take action, emphasising that the coronavirus has an incubation period of 7 to 14 days. If action needed to be taken, it would likely occur over the next few days: “We are greatly worried; we’re not out of the woods yet.”