While dropping numbers are promising, Icelandic authorities say it is too early to declare victory against the country’s third wave of COVID-19. In a briefing in Reykjavík today, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason and Chief Superintendent Víðir Reynisson both underlined the importance of the public staying at home as much as possible, continuing to social distance, and practising preventative measures such as handwashing and disinfecting surfaces.
Iceland reported 42 new domestic COVID-19 cases yesterday, 74% in quarantine at the time of diagnosis. The country has 1,234 active cases in total, with 27 in hospital and 3 in intensive care. Þórólfur stated that while daily case numbers are dropping, the numbers tend to be somewhat lower on the weekends when fewer people seek out testing. The ratio of positive tests was higher than usual yesterday, at 5%.
Though the drop in new cases is promising, it is too early to relax restrictions and important to continue social distancing and other preventative measures on a country-wide basis, Þórólfur stated.
Yesterday’s numbers broke the record in cases diagnosed at the border, with 22 arriving passengers testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. No new strains of the virus have been detected since Iceland implemented double testing and quarantine for all arriving passengers on August 19. Most of the cases were among Icelandic residents on a single flight arriving from Poland.
Authorities Pressed to Clarify Regulations
While the Chief Epidemiologist’s legal role is to make recommendations to the Minister of Health regarding COVID-19 restrictions, it is the Health Ministry that determines and published the final regulations. Reporters questioned the panel regarding differences between Þórólfur’s recommendations and changes to restrictions published by the Minister of Health that take effect tomorrow. Þórólfur stated that it was normal for there to be some differences, but conceded that those differences and the reasons behind them may need to be clarified further.
The Chief Epidemiologist is working with the Health Ministry on the issue, particularly to clarify regulations regarding athletic activities. Þórólfur added, however, that it was important to stick to the spirit of the regulations rather than analyse them for loopholes.
Víðir Encourages Families to Stay Home During Winter Break
Many children are currently in isolation due to COVID-19: 143 aged 12 and under and an additional 72 between the ages of 13 and 17. When asked whether parents or caretakers need to go into isolation with their children, Þórólfur reminded the public that such guidelines are available on covid.is, the official government website for COVID-19. In short, it depends on the needs of the child.
The panel at the briefing encouraged families to stay home during the upcoming school winter break, though Víðir stressed that this was a guideline and no travel ban was in place. When we look back on this period after many years, he added, we will want to feel that we did our best. The virus is the enemy and solidarity is our best weapon, and it is still in our hands, Víðir stated.
Iceland Review live-tweets authorities’ COVID-19 briefings in English on Mondays and Thursdays at 11.00am UTC.