Authorities Ask Young People to Show Good Sense on Merchant's Weekend Skip to content
COVID-19 Press conference Þórólfur Guðnason Alma Möller V'iðir Reynisson
Photo: Golli.

Authorities Ask Young People to Show Good Sense on Merchant’s Weekend

The police as well as civil protection agencies have asked for young people to show good sense on the annual Merchant’s Weekend. They specifically ask people not to gather in large unplanned events, breaking disease prevention measures that limit gatherings to 500 people. 

In a briefing earlier today, authorities announced changes to the way incoming travelers are notified regarding testing. Icelandic authorities are also interested in taking part in the international vaccine program COVAX.

Three day weekend for the nation

The Merchant’s Weekend (Verslunarmannahelgi) is the first weekend before the first Monday of August each year. Originally a day off for merchants, the three day weekend is one of the busiest travel periods of the year for locals. and was eventually made a national holiday. This year’s Þjóðhátíð in the Westman Islands, Iceland’s largest festival, has been cancelled due to a ban of gatherings over 500 people.

Iceland’s gathering ban will be loosened on August 4 from 500 to 1,000 people. August 4 is the Tuesday immediately following Merchant’s Weekend. From that date, bars and clubs may also remain open until midnight, one hour later than current restrictions allow. Authorities are wary of groups forming in downtown Reykjavík once the bars and clubs close.

Authorities call for sensibility

Although some festivals will take place, many have been cancelled. This has authorities worried that young people will gather in spontaneous festivals around the country, without organized security measures and necessary sanitation facilities. Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson has specifically asked the youth to be responsible and respect disease prevention measures.

“The police all around the country are assessing the situation. They are discussing the matter, what can be done. The main thing is that people show responsibility and that they do not group together. There we are especially looking towards our young people to be sensible,” Víðir stated in an interview Vísir.is. He said that it’s all well and fine to meet up with friends and to gather in some forms of smaller groups. “But to gather in the thousands to one place is very unwise, and we know that our young people have more sense than to take such a risk,” he stated.

Covid-19 briefing – changes announced

Authorities announced changes to the way incoming travelers are notified regarding testing in a press briefing earlier today. It will be the last press briefing for some time, at the very least until new developments call for another one.

The main change is that incoming travellers will only receive a notification if they are infected. In the original format of testing arriving travellers, which had been in place since June 15, all tested travellers received a notification. Now, only those who tested positive for the Covid-19 test, will receive a notification to their phone. This is mainly to reduce stress on front-line staff, who have received up to 150 inquiries per day from travellers who have been tested. If travellers do not have Covid-19, they will get no notification.

“If you have not been contacted within 24 hours, your sample was negative,” said Víðir. The new format will formally begin on Saturday July 25.

The statistical display on www.covid.is will also be changed. New numbers will only be posted on Tuesdays and Fridays rather than daily, and positive tests will be split into two groups: domestic infections and infections detected at the border.

Authorities are also interested in the WHO’s Covid-19 vaccine program named COVAX. The program was put in place to co-ordinate vaccine efforts, and Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason hopes that Icelandic authorities will gain access to the vaccine by stating an interest in the program. Nine manufactures have been selected for the program, with six of those already working on a vaccine. Eighty countries in total have claimed interest, including all of the Nordic countries. It is estimated that each individual will need two vaccines and that each portion will cost around 35$. Þórólfur believes that vaccines will not be available to the public until next year, at the earliest.

 

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