The National Police Commissioner has raised Iceland’s Civil Protection Emergency level from alert to Emergency/Distress in consultation with the Chief Epidemiologist due to COVID-19 after the first community transmitted infections of the virus were confirmed. Two cases of infections have been confirmed, and the total number of infections confirmed in Iceland is now 43.
In a press conference today, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, Director of Health Alma Möller, and Manager of the Police Commissioner’s Civil Protection and Emergency Management Division Víðir Reynisson gave the latest information about the virus in Iceland. Four hundred individuals have been tested for the virus after coming into contact with infected individuals, and so far, there have been 43 confirmed cases of infection. Two people contracted the virus in Iceland, a man and a woman in their fifties and sixties living in the capital area. The individuals are not severely ill and had both been in contact with people returning from the ski resorts in Italy and Austria previously declared unsafe.
The Civil Protection Emergency Level was previously raised from Uncertainty to Alert February 28. The current change of the emergency alert will not have a significant effect on the community beyond the health alert issued February 28, mostly affecting healthcare institutions. The government and healthcare officials have already been operating according to emergency level plans of operations, and some actions have already been put into effect, such as by monitoring and analysing infected individuals and increasing co-operation.
People are encouraged to pay close attention to personal hygiene, with frequent hand washing and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers being the most effective. Public gatherings are not yet banned, although it’s now only a matter of time, according to Víðir. At-risk individuals are, however, encouraged to avoid public gatherings. According to Víðir, banning public gatherings is the most potent tool authorities have to fight the spread of infection. Still, it won’t be put into effect until more locally-contracted infections have been confirmed as it will have an enormous impact on the community.
Director of Health Alma Möller stated that the situation in Italy is serious and shows that the risk must be taken seriously. According to her, “The healthcare system is ready. The healthcare clinics are our frontline and have been performing their duties admirably.”
For the most up to date information on COVID-19 in Iceland, visit the website of the Directorate of Health.