Community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus appears to be dropping in Iceland, according to the country’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason. At today’s COVID-19 briefing in Reykjavík, Þórólfur stated that social distancing and gathering restrictions would not be tightened for the time being, though the situation was being re-evaluated regularly.
Iceland is currently in its third wave of the local pandemic. The country reported 39 new domestic cases of COVID-19 yesterday, 14 of which were from a group infection on a fishing boat. Of the new cases, 87% were in quarantine at the time of diagnosis, up from around 50% over the last few days. Þórólfur says this indicates that community transmission of the virus is on the wane, meaning it was safe to go ahead with re-opening bars and clubs, which have been closed for two weeks. Þórólfur added, however, that we may not relax when it comes to personal preventative measures such as distancing and handwashing.
Hopes Serious Cases Have Peaked
The average age of active cases in Iceland is around 40. Five individuals are currently in hospital for COVID-19. The five cases range in age from their 20s to their 60s. Þórólfur expressed his hope that the number of serious cases has reached a peak.
COVID-19 infection among hospital staff has already caused disruptions to healthcare services. Nearly 300 staff members of the National University Hospital were currently in quarantine or isolation due to SARS-CoV-2 infection or exposure, Director of Health Alma Möller reported at the briefing. Authorities have compiled a reserve force of medical workers which currently numbers 211. Of those volunteers, 55 are willing to work anywhere in the country where healthcare staff may be needed.
Travellers Violating Quarantine
Víðir was asked whether quarantine violations that occurred over the weekend warranted more police surveillance of those in quarantine. Víðir responded that the question was really a question about what kind of society we want to live in. “I’m not particularly excited to have police in Iceland knocking on people’s doors and investigating whether or not they’re in quarantine, he stated. “That’s not a reality I find appealing.”
In addition to trusting that travellers will follow the quarantine rules that are in place, Víðir says authorities contact travellers who do not show up for their second test and find out why. If border police suspect that a traveller arriving to the country is likely to break quarantine rules, they explain the regulations and consequences thoroughly and follow up on the case.
Current Border Regulations are Safest Option
Iceland’s current border regulations require all arriving passengers to undergo a SARS-CoV-2 test upon arrival, five days of quarantine, and a follow-up test. (Those who do not want to be tested can opt for a 14-day quarantine.) Those regulations are valid until October 6. In a memo to the government, Þórólfur has outlined a series of options regarding border regulations from that date. He stated, however, that in light of the spread of the pandemic abroad, he considered extending the current border regulations to be the safest option.
Iceland Review will live-tweet the next COVID-19 briefing, scheduled for Thursday, October 1 at 2.00pm UTC.