At today’s information briefing, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, Assistant to the Director of Civil Protection Rögnvaldur Ólafsson, and Director of Health Alma Möller went over the COVID-19 situation in Iceland after the holidays. Þórólfur was optimistic, stating that there had been no surprises during the holidays but that it would remain to be seen if New Year’s celebrations had any effect on the pandemic’s spread. If nothing unexpected happens in the next few days, he expects to be able to relax restrictions January 12.
Following is a lightly edited transcript of Iceland Review’s live-tweets of the briefing:
Rögnvaldur starts the meeting by wishing everyone a happy new year, before telling the public that their work is not over. “it’s clear that we need to continue to do a lot of things differently.”COVID-19 Numbers: Iceland reported 10 new domestic cases yesterday (6 in quarantine at the time). Total case numbers: 101. 23 are in hospital, none in intensive care.
Þórólfur takes over. He states that relatively few people have tested positive over the holidays, 35 in total, of which the majority were in quarantine. On the other hand, fewer samples have been taken. More cases have been caught at the border. That’s to be expected considering the pandemic’s progress in the countries around us and travel behaviour around Christmas.
According to Þórólfur, we’re doing pretty well after the advent and Christmas but we’ll have to wait and see if New Year’s Celebrations will affect the spread of the pandemic. With the first vaccinations, we’re starting a new chapter in the fight against COVID-19 and that’s his belief that it will be the last. Iceland has secured access to vaccine for all Icelanders. We’ve secured access to the Pfizer vaccine for 125,000 people and according to the current schedule, we’ll receive a vaccine for 25,000 people from now until March. The Moderna vaccine is expected to receive a market license in Europe today
We’ve been in talks with Pfizer to consider taking Iceland on as a research project, to answer questions regarding vaccinations of a whole nation and herd immunity but the ball is in their court and we’ve nothing new to report. A new infection prevention regulation is due before January 12. If nothing unexpected occurs, Þórólfur hopes to be able to relax restrictions somewhat. Alma takes over and starts by thanking healthcare professionals for their work in the past year. She also thanks Rögnvaldur and all the staff at the Directorate of Health and the Department of Civil Protection. She reminds people to consider their own health and seek out information at the Directorate’s website and
She mentions the importance of sleeping well to maintain good health. (Covid.is) She reminds people that adults need a half-hour of exercise per day and children a full hour. A healthy and balanced diet is also important and that Icelanders should take vitamin D. She also reminds people to take care of their mental health and cautions against the excessive use of alcohol. Alma goes over the symptoms of COVID-19 and reminds people to stay at home if they’re experiencing symptoms and to get tested as soon as possible. The panel is now open for questions. The first reporter asks about the British strain of the virus and the one confirmed domestic case.
Þórólfur replies that the case in question was closely related to one caught at the border. It does not seem to have spread. Þórólfur is asked about the possibility of administering the vaccine in half doses to hasten vaccination. Þórólfur replies that they will only be using the vaccine according to the producer’s directions. When asked about the British strain and the possibility of tightening restrictions on passengers arriving from the UK, Þórólfur replies that they will continue to monitor the situation closely. When asked if any extra doses of the vaccine were in the Pfizer vials, Þórólfur replies that in some cases a sixth dose could be extracted and that he trusted the staff to do their best. He also mentioned that the extra doses could cause complications during the second injections
Asked if they should rely on the limited protection of the first injection and give more people the first injection, Þórólfur replies that the protection after the first injection is not clear. While the pandemic is not widespread here, it’s better to vaccinate in the safest way. Þórólfur is asked about the vaccine’s side effects. Alma states that Iceland’s Medicines Agency received 7 notifications of side effects, of which one might be considered serious, but it’s impossible to know for sure due to an underlying disease. When asked about emergency marketing licenses for vaccines, Þórólfur refers the question to the Medicine Agency, they handle marketing licenses for vaccines. When asked about the next vaccine shipment, scheduled for January 21st, Þórólfur replied that at first we’d get weekly portions but they should increase in February and March. The next doses will be administered to priority groups, ages 70+ and people with preexisting conditions. People with underlying conditions are unhappy with being prioritised after senior citizens. Þórólfur replies that it is based on data indicating that people over 70 do worse with COVID-19 and that people with preexisting conditions are still prioritised. That concludes the questions. Rögnvaldur ends the meeting by asking people to continue doing the same things they’re already doing.