COVID-19 In Iceland: "Every Reason To Be Optimistic For the Summer," States Chief Epidemiologist Skip to content
Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason
Photo: Golli. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason.

COVID-19 In Iceland: “Every Reason To Be Optimistic For the Summer,” States Chief Epidemiologist

While fewer people are testing positive for COVID-19 out of quarantine, authorities remind the public that the virus is still out there, during the COVID-19 information briefing today. On the panel were Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson, and infectiologist Kamilla Sigríður Jósefsdóttir who discussed vaccinations. A new infection prevention regulation is expected to take effect next week and if the situation continues to be good, Þórólfur expects to start lifting restrictions.

COVID-19 numbers for May 5:
New domestic cases: 2 (both in quarantine)
New border cases: 5
Total active cases: 139 (down from 173 yesterday)
In hospital: 5
Individuals with one or both doses of the vaccine: 124,014 (33.36% of Iceland’s population)

The following is a lightly edited transcription of Iceland Review’s live-tweeting of today’s COVID-19 briefing.

Víðir starts the briefing by thanking the Icelandic community for their effort this winter, as well as police and fire departments who’ve helped during the pandemic. He also commends smaller municipalities that have dealt with group infections in the community.

Þórólfur takes over and goes over the numbers. In the past week, there were 28 positive covid tests domestically, 26 of which were in quarantine. Þórólfur reiterates that despite there’s a good chance we’ve curbed further spread from the group infections, the virus is still out there and we have to continue to be careful. More than 200 people are still in quarantine and we can expect that around 5% of that group will test positive for the virus.

Border cases have gone down recently, perhaps thanks to new border measures. Work on implementing these new border measures is going well. 450 people are currently in the government’s quarantine facilities. Five people are in hospital, of which three have an active infection. None are in ICU.

An increase in travellers is our main challenge in the coming weeks. About 3000 people arrived in the country last week, 600 went to quarantine facilities but 1500 had certificates of vaccination or previous infection. Our current situation is a good one but we haven’t reached herd immunity and we need to continue our work, lifting restrictions lowly and taking care of our personal infection prevention efforts. A new regulation is set to take effect next week and Þórólfur assumes they will continue lifting restrictions.

Kamilla takes over to discuss the vaccination process. Younger people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine before the decision was made to limit it to older age groups, can choose if they want a different vaccine for their second shot or not. Research is currently ongoing if getting a different vaccine for the second shot yields the same results or not. Some people choose to get the same vaccine as there is some concern if vaccination certificates with two different vaccines will be acceptable when crossing borders.

The Jansen vaccine will be used for everyone over the age of 18 as the already rare side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine seem to be even rarer for the Jansen vaccine. Most nations have made the same decision.

People should show up for their vaccination when they are asked to, not when it’s more convenient for them. Not everyone can get their shot after office hours. Information and answers to questions on vaccinations are available with local healthcare clinics, their website is very informative and information on covid.is has also been updated.

The panel is now open for questions from the press. Asked about illness following Jansen vaccinations Kamilla stated that they had not received news of more serious illness than with other vaccines.

When asked about the future regarding increased tourism while the nation is not yet fully vaccinated, Þórólfur stated that at the moment, we were gathering important data, such as if it was safe to stop testing vaccinated individuals at the border. Once we have more data, we can start lifting border measures based on sound evidence.

Þórólfur is asked if optimism for the summer was grounded in reality, he replies that there’s every reason to be optimistic for this summer but we’ll continue to monitor the situation and if anything changes we have to be able to react.

People who have already contracted COVID-19 will also be vaccinated once people who have never contracted the disease are protected. It is by no means dangerous to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if you’ve already contracted the disease, Þórólfur stresses.

When can we go partying again? Þórólfur replies that it’s up to people’s own discretion but that we can’t let happiness and joy cloud our judgement. “we can have fun but we must be careful.”

Kamilla states that no cases of AstraZeneca’s most serious side effects have been documented in Iceland. The decision to not vaccinate women younger than 55 with the AstraZeneca vaccine was made to be as careful as possible for a group most liable to blood clots.

When asked if AstraZeneca vaccination will be accepted for travellers to the US, Þórólfur replies that he can’t answer for US politics but he doesn’t know why the US wouldn’t accept vaccinations that they themselves have taken part in researching.

Víðir ends the briefing by urging people to be careful during the pandemic’s final stretch. “as mountaineers will know, sometimes the way down from the peak can be just as difficult.”

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