Relaxed COVID-19 restrictions for swimming pools, gyms, restaurants, and bars will take effect in Iceland tomorrow. The current gathering limit of 20 will also be raised to 50. The changes were announced by Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir following a cabinet meeting this morning.
Iceland reported no new domestic cases of COVID-19 yesterday and total active COVID-19 cases in the country number just 17. The nation’s incidence rate is by far the lowest in Europe, and the country’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason announced that the domestic success in containing the pandemic warranted a relaxing of restrictions within the country. It’s a different story at the borders, where last week Icelandic authorities tightened regulations. All travellers arriving from abroad must present a negative PCR test certificate before departure in addition to undergoing double testing and five days of quarantine upon arrival.
Up to 200 May Gather for Sports, Performing Arts
“Probably the most important thing that stands out is that we’re raising this general gathering limit from 20 to 50,” Svandís told reporters after the cabinet meeting. “We still have the two-metre rule and masks and these general precautionary principles. We expect to allow up to 200 in certain activities, there we’re talking about museums and the like, but also performing arts and sports events where it is possible to ensure that there is one metre between unrelated parties and where it is possible to register information on each person. That is in order to ensure contact tracing if necessary.” Sports events may have up to 200 audience members, subject to the same seating and distancing conditions outlined above. Audience members at sports and performing arts events are required to wear masks.
Restaurants and Bars Open Later
In addition to being able to welcome more guests, restaurants and bars may remain open one hour longer starting tomorrow: until 11.00pm instead of the current 10.00pm limit. No new customers may be admitted after 10.00pm, however. All customers must be seated and served at their tables. Bar service is not permitted. Swimming pools and gyms will also see relaxed restrictions starting tomorrow. Both may operate at 75%, up from the current 50% limit.
Restrictions are further relaxed in schools, where up to 150 people may gather together and the general distancing guideline is one metre rather than two. Adult visitors will be once again permitted to enter primary and preschools.
The updated regulations will be valid for three weeks, though conditions are regularly reviewed by authorities. This is the third time general restrictions have been relaxed in Iceland since the beginning of the year. Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has stressed the importance of maintaining personal infection prevention such as handwashing and mask use to prevent another spike in infection if new domestic cases emerge.