Minister of Health will have permission to impose a lockdown if it’s considered needed due to danger of infection, if a new bill on changes to the Act of Infectious Disease becomes law. The bill recommends that lockdowns won’t be imposed unless in cases of absolute emergency. It also includes provisions making sure contact tracing complies with privacy laws as well as ones allowing the minister to make testing mandatory.
Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir presented the bill in Parliament today, the result of the work of a workgroup she appointed this September. Their goal was to clarify laws on public infection prevention, in light of the recent experience of the current global pandemic. The workgroup based their work on dr. jur. Páll Hreinsson’s report on the powers of the Chief Epidemiologist and Minister of Health over public infection prevention in their work.
The bill provides formal definitions of such concepts that have become commonplace such as isolation, gathering ban, contact tracing and screening. The bill also defines words that haven’t been as prevalent in Iceland, such as lockdown and regional compartmentalisation. Regional compartmentalisation is a ban on travelling between regions within the country or to and from Iceland while lockdown is defined as a “ban on travelling out of doors, and/or outside the home, or further from home than a specified distance, for instance at certain times of the day, due to infection risk in society or other danger that this law pertains to, such as poisoning or radioactivity.” A report attached to the bill states that these measures have never been used in Iceland, even if they’ve been used in neighbouring countries, as there hasn’t been a reason to do so. It also states that “such measures aren’t in the range of the minister’s current power to impose gathering bans,” and that in light of how onerous such a ban could be, authorities should beware of imposing such a ban and only resort to such actions in absolute emergencies.
The bill includes provisions requiring people who doctors suspect to be carrying infectious diseases to follow orders to prevent further infections. It also suggests that the minister would have permission to make testing a part of public infection preventions so that they could require people to provide a sample or undergo other forms of examinations that could be considered a part of testing.