Icelandic health authorities confirmed the country’s first case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 yesterday evening, mbl.is reports. The individual who tested positive with the variant did not recently arrive from abroad, indicating that there are more cases of omicron within Icelandic society. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist has not recommended tightening Iceland’s border restrictions but encourages travellers to monitor global border restrictions closely if they plan to travel over the holiday season.
In hospital with moderate symptoms
The omicron case was confirmed yesterday evening by Már Kristjánsson, Head Physician at the National University Hospital. A PCR test from the individual in question – an adult male – showed unusual diagnostic curves. Sequencing carried out by deCODE genetics confirmed that the infection was caused by the omicron variant. The man is currently in hospital with common COVID-19 symptoms, which are said to be moderate. He is fully vaccinated.
Contact tracing of the case is currently underway. Már stated that considering developments abroad, the omicron variant can be expected to spread more rapidly than earlier variants of COVID-19, and as a result, case numbers can be expected to grow. The man in hospital is in a special isolation unit within the infectious diseases ward.
Chief Epidemiologist: global border restrictions can change quickly
Many Icelandic residents travel over the holidays, while Icelanders living abroad often return home during the Christmas season. Þórólfur Guðnason, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist, told RÚV he does not see reason to tighten Iceland’s border restrictions specifically in response to the omicron variant. He recommends, however, that locals planning to travel monitor border regulations closely in the relevant countries, as they can change quickly.
“I think there is good reason for people to consider where they’re going and what the conditions are like in the countries they are going to,” Þórólfur stated, pointing out that the European Union has encouraged countries to tighten border regulations due to COVID-19. He added that Icelandic authorities set a warning against international travel months ago that remains in effect. “It hasn’t been particularly followed, actually, but as it is I don’t see reason to issue especially strict advice to people to not travel. I think it has to depend a bit on how this new variant will be.”