After receiving suggestions from Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir has decided to significantly tighten infection prevention restrictions to contain the fast spread of COVID-19. The regulations go into effect at midnight tonight. Gatherings will generally be limited to 50 people, but events requiring rapid tests can have 500 people per compartment. Restaurants and bars will be allowed to remain open until 10 pm, and swimming pools, ski resorts, and gyms will operate at a 75% capacity. The regulations will remain in effect until Dec 8.
The Ministry of Health cites a sharp rise in domestic infections, with an increasing strain on the healthcare system and contact tracing teams as the main reason for the tightened restrictions. “Due to the situation, the National Hospital’s services have been interrupted, and they’re facing a staff shortage,” the Chief Epidemiologist’s memorandum to the Minister of Health stated. “The same goes for other healthcare institutions.” The Chief Epidemiologist has stated that tight infection prevention restrictions are necessary while working on reaching widespread communal immunity with the booster shot program that’s already underway. Approximately 160,000 people will be called in for their third vaccine shot by the end of the year.
For the past three days, new cases per day have ranged from 162-192. Authorities have stated that for the National Hospital to handle the strain, bringing new cases per day down to 40-60 or less would be ideal.
Restrictions taking effect at midnight:
- A general gathering limit of 50 people, not counting children born in 2016 or later.
- A social distance of 1 metre is required between unrelated individuals. If the distance can’t be kept, the use of masks is required. Despite this, sports training will be allowed for children as well as adults. Pre-school aged children and elementary school students from 1-4. grade are exempt from mask use.
- Masks should be worn wherever the 1-metre social distance can’t be kept, e.g. in shops, public transport and during services requiring proximity, such as hair and beauty salons. Children born in 2006 or later are exempt from mask requirements.
- Events requiring rapid tests for every guest born in 2015 and earlier can admit up to 500 people per compartment. If the 1-metre social distance can’t be kept, guests should wear masks, such as when seated. Guests should be registered with a seat number, name, personal identity numbers (kennitala), and phone number. Selling refreshments during intermission is not allowed. School events for elementary and upper secondary schools requiring rapid tests are exempt from social distance rules and mask requirements.
- Swimming pools, spas, gyms, and ski resorts can operate at 75% capacity, not counting children born in 2016 or later.
- Restaurants and other establishments selling alcohol are not permitted to admit new customers after 10 pm, and all guests should have left by 11 pm. Drinks shall be served at tables, and all guests should be registered. Private parties in establishments with a license to sell alcohol are not permitted after 11 pm.
- Shops and museums can admit up to 50 people keeping a social distance of 1 metre and wearing masks if that distance is not maintained. Larger spaces can admit an additional five persons per 10 m2, never exceeding 500 people.
- Generally, there’s a gathering limit of 50 people, excluding children born in 2016 or earlier. Children born in 2006 or later are exempt from mask requirements.
- Pre-school staff is not required to wear masks around the students.
- Elementary school teachers are permitted to take off their masks once the class is seated.
- Students and teachers in upper secondary schools (menntaskóli) are permitted to remove their masks when seated in classrooms.
- Mixing groups during school sessions is permitted at all school stages.