Yesterday, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason submitted a proposal on new COVID measures to Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir. Although she declined to comment on the specifics, the Minister confirmed to Mbl.is that Þórólfur has advised that the authorities move to tighten social restrictions.
A record-number of infections?
One hundred forty-four new COVID cases were reported yesterday, the highest number of infections since August 4 of this year. Seventeen people are in hospital, thereof five in intensive care.
These cases are not confined to the Reykjavík area; following a cluster of infections in Akranes and Sangerði, local authorities have decided to close schools and postpone recreational activities in the area.
In light of numerous cases, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason submitted a proposal on new COVID measures to Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir yesterday. Speaking to Mbl.is, the Minister stated that authorities would be reviewing Þórólfur’s suggestion at a cabinet meeting this morning.
“Yes, it concerns tightening restrictions. We know what measures can be taken when infections are rising, and that’s what the cabinet will discuss tomorrow,” Svandís stated in an interview with Mbl.is yesterday. The Minister confirmed that Þórólfur’s proposal solely concerned domestic restrictions as opposed to measures to be taken on the border.
Asked if she was concerned about the apparent dwindling of solidarity when it comes to proposed domestic restrictions, Svandís refused to say: “Only time will tell, of course. In conjunction with these measures, we’ll be launching a campaign of booster shots, which will hopefully increase immunity among the populace.”
According to the Minister, the primary aim of the proposed restrictions is to protect the hospital and the healthcare system. “Like all nations struggling against this new wave of the pandemic, it’s about protecting the lives and the health of citizens and preventing the curve from rising too sharply so that the system can continue to provide adequate service.”
Svandís added that easing all domestic social restrictions on November 18 was not realistic: “I think it’s apparent to all of us that the infections are spreading too quickly now.”
A historic proposal
In an interview with Rás 2 this morning, Svandís Svavarsdóttir observed that even more COVID cases had been diagnosed yesterday and would be reported today.
“We know that with the Delta variant, we can expect a hospitalization rate of ca. 2%, with a proportion of that percentage requiring intensive care. We know, given the statistics, what we are dealing with.”
Svandís added that the National University Hospital could handle approximately 40-50 infections a day; in light of the government’s most recent removal of social restrictions, however, the curve is rising too fast for the healthcare system to cope.
Finally, Svandís referred to Þórólfur’s new proposal as “historic;” in the memo, he traces the origin of the pandemic in Iceland and reviews the measures that have been taken. Þórólfur also discusses what has worked and what hasn’t, arguing that the authorities must move switftly to enact tighter restrictions: the aim being to flatten the curve back to approximately 40-50 new infections a day. The measures, according to Svandís, involve placing limits on public gathering, mask mandates, and restrictions on the operation hours of business.