Pandemic fatigue is setting in among Icelanders, Director of Health Alma Möller stated during authorities’ COVID-19 briefing in Reykjavík this morning. Tightened social restrictions took effect in Iceland today, limiting gatherings to 20 people (down from 200) and closing bars, clubs, and gyms. At the briefing, authorities addressed criticism of the restrictions and emphasised the importance of working together to tackle the current wave of SARS-CoV-2 infection, which continues to rise.
Iceland’s Department of Civil Protection declared a national state of emergency yesterday due to the current spread of SARS-CoV-2. The country has reported 689 new domestic cases of COVID-19 between September 15 and October 5. The number of active cases continues to rise, though Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated growth is mostly linear (not exponential).
Authorities Respond to Criticism of Restrictions
At the briefing, Þórólfur addressed criticism of the newly-imposed restrictions. Some have dismissed them as too harsh while others have stated they don’t go far enough. The Chief Epidemiologist stated that discussion and disagreement were normal, but stressed that at some point decisions had to be made using the information at hand.
One particular criticism of the restrictions is that they have been imposed across the entire country, while most active COVID-19 cases are in the capital area. (Just over 79% of current active cases are in or near Reykjavík.) Þórólfur argued that if restrictions were not imposed unilaterally, we could end up chasing outbreaks from region to region and it could take longer to contain the virus.
Pandemic Fatigue Sets In
Director of Health Alma Möller stated that “pandemic fatigue” was setting in among the Icelandic population. She stressed that it was normal to be tired of restrictions and for some people to disagree with authorities’ decisions. However, it is important for the nation to stick together and remember how solidarity helped tackle Iceland’s first wave.
Alma underlined the importance of washing hands with soap for at least 20 seconds and using hand sanitizer before entering stores to protect others, as well as after to protect ourselves. She urged the public to avoid crowds, stick to their nearest and dearest for companionship, and stay home if experiencing symptoms. She thanked all those who were following regulations.
Police Did Not Store Bar Patrons’ Data
Reporters questioned authorities on group outbreaks that had occurred in several Reykjavík bars and restaurants. Following the outbreaks, card companies provided the Office of the Chief Epidemiologist with information on patrons from several venues where outbreaks had occurred. The companies came to the conclusion that providing this information was in compliance with their data protection policy. The information was used to contact those who had been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 at the venues and request they come in for testing. The police did not receive the data and are not storing it.
Víðir closed the briefing by reminding the public of the small actions they can take to prevent the spread of infection, such as sanitising commonly-used surfaces. He encouraged the public to contact those who live alone as well as those in nursing homes and organise fun events to help them cope. “Endurance and perseverance will get us through this,” he stated. “Small victories lead to success. Let’s take this one day at a time.”
COVID-19 briefings will take place at 11.00am UTC on Mondays and Thursdays from now on. Iceland Review live-tweets all briefings in English on our Twitter page.