COVID-19 in Iceland: Christmas Parties Pose Danger to Progress Skip to content

COVID-19 in Iceland: Christmas Parties Pose Danger to Progress

By Yelena

Icelandic authorities caution the public to tread carefully when it comes to social gatherings leading up to Christmas. In a briefing in Reykjavík today, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated that while Icelanders can rejoice that domestic infections are on the decline, the public must maintain preventative measures and restrictions throughout the normally social holiday season to avoid a new uptick in cases.

The Advent season leading up to Christmas is normally a very social time for Icelandic locals. Extended families gather to make laufabrauð, friends meet over drinks in each other’s homes, and workplaces host large Christmas parties for their staff. Attending at least one Christmas concert is a tradition among many families as well.

Despite Iceland’s relative success in managing the current wave of infection, Þórólfur stressed the importance of continued distancing, handwashing, and other preventative actions to avoid a resurgence of cases before Christmas. Director of Health Alma Möller also stated at the briefing that authorities were considering issuing guidelines for private parties during the holidays.

Wave on the Wane

Iceland reported 4 new domestic cases of COVID-19 yesterday, 2 of which were in quarantine at the time of diagnosis. The country now has the lowest incidence rate in all of Europe, at 50.7. The number of active cases is at 233 and has been declining since mid-October. Strain on the healthcare system is also decreasing, though 52 are currently hospitalised due to COVID-19 and 3 in intensive care.

Þórólfur praised Icelanders for their actions and solidarity, which had helped contain the current wave of infections. He stated he would suggest an easing of restrictions after December 1, but expressed concern about holiday gatherings. If you deem it safe to meet with older relatives or others, he stated, make sure you continue practising distancing and other preventative measures.

Vaccinations and Priority Groups

While news of vaccine development is promising, Þórólfur pointed out that no COVID vaccine is ready at this point. A plan outlining how vaccinations will be administered once they are available should be completed by the end of the year, stated Þórólfur. Neighbourhood health centres will administer the majority of vaccinations, but how they will be distributed depends on many factors, including how many doses Iceland receives at first.

The Ministry of Health is still working to determine which groups would be prioritised in vaccination, but the Chief Epidemiologist expressed his belief that healthcare staff should be one of those groups. Authorities stressed the importance of continued social distancing and restrictions until a vaccine has been administered.

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