In a briefing yesterday, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason expressed his opposition to the reopening of gyms in Iceland, as they have been the source of several group outbreaks in the current COVID-19 wave. Several gyms are reopening today, however, in line with updated guidelines from the Health Ministry that permit group classes with distancing. Many have criticised the updated COVID-19 regulations, which took effect today, as unclear.
New Regulations Change Little
Tighter COVID-19 regulations took effect in Iceland today, though they present only minor changes from the rules previously in effect. A two-metre distancing rule has been implemented across the country. (Previously one-metre distancing was in effect, except in the Reykjavík area where two-metre distancing was mandated.) Bars and clubs will remain closed as per previous regulations. The rules are in effect until November 10.
Stricter rules are in place for the Reykjavík capital area than the rest of the country until November 3. These include closure of all swimming pools and all businesses that require contact (hair and beauty salons and massage parlours, for example). Restaurants in the Reykjavík area must close by 9.00pm while in the countryside they may remain open until 11.00pm. Masks are required across the country in all situations where two-metre distancing cannot be maintained, such as on public transportation.
Health Minister Modified Chief Epidemiologist’s Suggestions
In a memorandum he sent to the Health Minister last week, Þórólfur suggested that gyms remain closed. The Health Minister, however, who has the final say on regulations, decided to allow gyms to reopen exclusively for group classes. According to a notice from the Health Ministry, the Chief Epidemiologist’s October 15 memorandum suggested the continued closure of gyms but allowed “contactless sports activities be allowed with a maximum of 20 participants, where the two-metre rule is followed, disinfection is carried out, and no audience is present. The Ministry’s conclusion was that it was not possible to ban physical activity in gyms where the same conditions could be met as apply to sports activities.” The decision was therefore made on the basis of ensuring non-discrimination.
While many gyms reopen for group classes today, school boards in the capital area have unanimously decided to cancel all indoor athletics for children as well as swimming lessons for the next two weeks. The decision was made based on guidelines from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.