In an interview on the radio station Bylgjan this morning, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason expressed his belief that the peak of the current COVID-19 wave had been reached; infections have begun to dwindle, and a greater proportion of those diagnosed are already self-isolating.
A downward sloping curve?
One hundred two new cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed yesterday. Sixty-two of those infected were already self-isolating. These numbers mark a considerable decline from November 16, when, since the start of the pandemic, a record number of infections were diagnosed in Iceland: 206.
Speaking to the hosts of the radio programme Bítið on the station Bylgjan this morning, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated that there was some indication that the current wave of the pandemic had reached its zenith: “We had 130 infections on Friday, followed by 110 on Saturday, and just over 100 yesterday. We still haven’t reached any definitive conclusions – and we still have to see how many tests were done – but we’re not talking a lot of infections.”
In addition to the relatively few infections, Þórólfur also pointed out that an increasing number of those diagnosed were self-isolating. “It’s usually been about 40-50% of those diagnosed who have been self-isolating, but now that number has increased to over 60% … I believe, deep down, that we’ve already reached the peak of this current outbreak. Some believe that we’re not quite there yet, but I think we are. It may take some time for the curve to flatten out; you would only need a single cluster, say within a school – forty or fifty new infections at the same time – and then the numbers will jump back up again.”
Booster shots making a difference
When asked if the decline in infections meant that residents of Iceland could enjoy a “relatively normal Christmas,” Þórólfur refused to go so far: “I’m not predicting the state of affairs during the holidays. I think we have to wait and see. Even if the curve keeps gradually flattening, it will take time for us to reach forty to fifty new cases a day – which is where we’d like to be. And I think that our recent campaign of booster shots is also helping us; administering boosters to as many people as possible will help us expedite the process.”
As reported by Iceland review last wekk, the health authorities launched a new campaign of COVID-19 booster shots at the Laugardalshöll stadium on November 15. The authorities hope to offer all those who have been fully vaccinated a booster shot by March.
According to Þórólfur, 70% of those who have received an invitation have accepted. “I had hoped for a better rate of attendance, but I don’t think that we can draw any conclusions as yet. I know of many people who couldn’t make it, but I hope that more people will accept the invitation; as it stands, this is our best hope in limiting the spread of infections.”
Þórólfur concluded by saying that the authorities could begin to ease restrictions if the booster campaign proved effective. “Of course, we’ll have to wait and see. It’s an eternal journey, and the waves are washing over us from all directions.”