The number of people recovering from COVID-19 in Iceland is greater than that of people being newly diagnosed with the virus. “As things stand, I think we can say that we have reached the peak,” reported Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason at the daily COVID-19 press conference on Wednesday.
This means that Iceland now likely has a basic reproduction number (R0) of less than 1. R0 is used to measure the transmission potential of a disease and measures secondary transmission in a susceptible population, i.e. how many people each infected individual is infecting.
“As it stands, the epidemic is now on the decline, I think we can say,” continued Þórólfur, “but it’s absolutely clear that this is in no small part due to [our] response and this could change with a new batch of infections if people don’t take care.”
Indeed, said Director of Health Alma Möller, the news that Iceland had reached the peak with new infections is very welcome, but she also cautioned that the stress on the health care system probably wouldn’t reach its peak for another 10 days or so.
A particularly heartening finding, however, is that there has been very little community transmission in Iceland of late. Of the individuals tested on Tuesday, only .07% had the virus; that means that one out of the 1,284 samples taken was due to a community transmission.
The epidemic appears to be following the best predictions of the model produced by scientists at the University of Iceland, the National University Hospital, and the Directorate of Health, says Þórólfur. The only exception to this is with the number of hospitalized patients. Þórólfur said the model had been very helpful to health authorities.
Þórólfur also reported that a diagnostic machine in the National Hospital’s microbiology and immunology division, which had been broken, is now fixed. This means that it will possible to speed up sample analysis.
At time of writing, Iceland had 1,648 confirmed infections, with 40 individuals hospitalized and 11 in intensive care. Six hundred and eighty-eight COVID-19 patients had recovered; six have died.
Health officials project that social distancing measures and the gathering ban will start being relaxed on May 4, but nothing certain would be announced until after Easter. “We’re sticking to that date and the speed with which we relax these measures will depend on how things are progressing,” concluded Þórólfur.