Iceland’s National Hospital has once again converted the infectious diseases ward into a COVID-19 ward to address a rise in COVID-19 cases, RÚV reports. Iceland’s 14-day COVID-19 incidence rate has more than doubled over the past month, from 108.3 four weeks ago to 241.3 as of yesterday. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason says the development gives reason for concern.
“In recent weeks, there has been a fairly rapid increase in the number of diagnosed COVID-19 infections in Iceland,” Þórólfur wrote in a statement published on Iceland’s official COVID-19 website. “The infections have been diagnosed in almost all regions of the country, around 50% were in quarantine at the time of diagnosis and about 50% were fully vaccinated.” Þórólfur continued on to say that hospitalisation rates due to COVID-19 had also risen: “In recent weeks and months, about 2% of those diagnosed have been admitted to hospital, 0.4% have been admitted to the intensive care unit, and about 0.2% have required the assistance of a ventilator.”
Personal infection prevention not enough to control pandemic
Þórólfur underlined that there is “every reason to be concerned about the current development of COVID-19 in Iceland,” adding that the spread of infection has increased hand-in-hand with the loosening of restrictions, and “it is clear that personal infection prevention is not enough to control the pandemic. Although widespread vaccination prevents infection, and especially serious illness, it does not seem to be enough to stop the current wave nor to prevent hospitalisation of those who are seriously ill.”
The Chief Epidemiologist encouraged locals to practice personal infection prevention measures such as handwashing in order to reduce the need for social restrictions. He also reminded the public that higher hospitalisation rates impact not only the care of those with COVID-19 but also other hospital services.
Iceland is set to lift all domestic restrictions on November 18. Þórólfur stated today, however, that if the situation worsens significantly he would consider recommending harsher restrictions. He added that he did not know how the government would react to such recommendations.
Hospital affected by COVID-19 outbreak
The National University Hospital has not only been impacted by rising case numbers in the wider community recently, but also within its walls. Five patients and one staff member in the hospital’s Cardiac and Pulmonary Ward tested positive for COVID-19 this week. At least 30 other staff members are in quarantine and some of them are expected to test positive, stated Már Kristjánsson, head physician of the Infectious Diseases Ward.
Seasonal viruses were also hitting children harder than usual this year and the Hringur Children’s Hospital was over capacity, Már stated. He encouraged the public to continue personal infection prevention such as handwashing and using masks in public spaces. “The healthcare system’s infrastructure is in a weak position when facing these major shocks.”