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Akureyri Iceland
Photo: Golli. Akureyri, North Iceland.

Mayor’s Comments on Akureyri Residents’ Obedience Criticised

Mayor of Akureyri Ásthildur Sturludóttir has received criticism on social media after asking people in Reykjavík not to travel to regions where there are fewer infections. During an interview with RÚV, she stated that people in Akureyri follow the rules, and that’s why there are fewer infections in the town. 99 cases of COVId-19 were confirmed yesterday, 95 of which were in the capital area. Of the 747 patients in isolation, 640 live in the city. The Mayor’s comments have reignited the long-standing but mostly dormant rift between the city and the rest of the country.

In the interview, Ásthildur agreed with the Chief Epidemiologist that restrictions in the capital area need to be tightened. “ I think these actions are reasonable and understandable, and maybe they could even have been implemented sooner,” said Ásthildur to RÚV yesterday. She went on to say that she is not afraid that people from Reykjavík will flock to the countryside as restrictions are tightened in the city. “No, I think people will stay at home as they’re being asked to do. Of course, we also ask people to stay at home and not come to these regions where there are fewer infections. There’s a reason why there are fewer infections; people are very careful. The people of Akureyri follow the rules, and that’s why the pandemic hasn’t hit us harder than it has up until now.”

While her comments were meant to compliment her fellow townspeople, they drew the ire of many on social media, who perceived her comments as tone-deaf when the nation is fighting to curb a pandemic, with many using social media to express their disbelief that the success of infection prevention in Akureyri was due to their superior ability to follow instructions.

“Just think that the mayor of Akureyri did a televised interview stating that people from Akureyri are better than others at keeping viral infections at bay and following the rules.”

“The people of Akureyri are the best at …not getting sick. The best by far.”

“Presumably smaller towns ‘do better’ than the capital area because doi, there are fewer people, it’s easier to slow down the community, keep a distance and smaller social bubbles and so on. Can we just PLEASE stop the competition and the blame game, it’s a VIRUS, OK?”

“When people ask me once again why I’m not moving back to Akureyri, I’ll show them this.”

Ásthildur responded to her critics on Facebook, stating that her comments were intended to compliment people in Akureyri who follow infection prevention guidelines. “This rubbed some people the wrong way, and I’m sorry for it because my compliments could be understood to mean that I thought others were not complying with the rules. I’m far from that thought, even though my faith in the people of Akureyri is unshakeable.” She goes on to reiterate the Chief Epidemiologist’s request that people limit unnecessary travel between regions, ending on an upbeat note, “Solidarity is the best way to prevent infection!”

Akureyri is the largest town in Iceland outside the capital area, with 18,775 inhabitants. Two-thirds of the nation, just over 233,000, live in the capital area and communication between these two regions are emblematic of a divide between country and city. People on both sides of the country have been known to accuse their counterparts of arrogance.

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