COVID-19 in Iceland: Widespread Testing to Determine Scope of Virus Spread Skip to content
Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, Director of Health Alma Möller
Photo: The so-called “troika”.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Widespread Testing to Determine Scope of Virus Spread

Iceland’s health authorities will conduct both targeted and randomized SARS-CoV-2 testing in the coming days to help establish how far the virus has spread in the community. The results of the testing will determine whether harsher restrictions are necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19. Iceland reported a spike in cases over the weekend linked to two group infections, which can be traced to individuals breaking traveller quarantine.

Iceland reported 27 new domestic cases of COVID-19 yesterday, most connected to a group outbreak at a Reykjavík preschool. Authorities stressed the importance of getting tested immediately when experiencing even the mildest symptoms that could point to COVID-19 and staying home until a negative result is received. Symptoms of COVID-19 can be very mild and can include fever, fatigue, cough, muscle aches, breathing difficulties, vomiting, diarrhoea, and sudden changes to sense of taste or smell.

The following is a lightly-edited transcription of Iceland Review’s live-tweeting of today’s COVID-19 briefing.

 

Stay tuned for a live-tweeting of Icelandic authorities’ COVID-19 information briefing, beginning shortly at 11.03am. On the panel: Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, Director of Health Alma Möller, and Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson.

Numbers have been updated on covid.is. Iceland reported 27 new domestic cases yesterday (just 2 out of quarantine) and 2 at the border. Total active cases: 97; 3 in hospital. 29,686 have been fully vaccinated, 8% of the population. Most of yesterday’s cases are connected to a group outbreak at Jörfi preschool in Reykjavík, according to a representative of the Civil Protection Department.

The briefing has begun. Víðir says authorities are tracing the group outbreaks that are ongoing. He encourages the public to not judge everyone based on the actions of a few, although those actions have had consequences.

Þórólfur goes over the numbers. Several people tested positive over the weekend in two group infections, one linked to a preschool in Reykjavík. Both group infections can be traced back to people breaking quarantine and going to work while experiencing flu-like symptoms. Many people were tested yesterday and even more will be tested today but the situation shows that just one infection can set off a wave of new infections if people aren’t vigilant.

Þórólfur: These group outbreaks show the importance of going to get tested when experiencing even the slightest symptoms. Go and get tested if experiencing even the mildest symptoms and stay at home until you receive your results. Both group infections involve the British variant of the virus. At the moment, it’s not clear if we need to tighten restrictions but Þórolfur reminds the public that the infections we’re discovering now occurred before changes were made to border restrictions.

Authorities are conducting broad testing to determine the spread of the virus including randomised testing to see if the virus has spread further into the community. The results of these tests will help determine if tighter restrictions are needed.

Vaccinations continue this week: 10,000-15,000 are scheduled to receive a dose this week. The AstraZeneca vaccine will continue to be used for people over the age of 60.

Þórólfur urges the public to keep up their personal infection prevention practices and get tested as soon as they experience even the slightest symptoms. Alma takes over, calling the development of cases over the weekend “a disappointment. We can’t let this get us down, instead let’s focus on what we need to do and what we need to do better.”

She repeats Þórólfur’s statement about people needing to get tested when experiencing even the slightest symptoms and goes over the list of possible symptoms of COVID-19. Symptoms can include fever, cough, muscle aches, breathing difficulties, vomiting, diarrhoea, and sudden changes to sense of taste or smell. Some people can experience very mild symptoms. Alma reminds people to stay at home after the test until they receive their result. The easiest way to book tests is online at heilsuvera.is but you can also contact your local healthcare clinic or call 1700.

We’re still learning about this British variant, says Alma, and healthcare authorities have a feeling, albeit unconfirmed, that the British variant isn’t detectable as early as the other variants we’ve seen here. This hypothesis is based on the data that shows more people are now testing positive in the second border test than the first one.

Companies should be ready to support people who need to stay out of the workplace due to symptoms. While the majority of people testing positive yesterday were in quarantine, most of them hadn’t been quarantined for long so there’s a possibility that they infected others before going into quarantine.

The panel takes questions. Þórólfur is asked about the need for requiring travellers to quarantine in government-run hotels. Þórólfur states that the quarantine regulation infractions occurred before the increased surveillance of home quarantines began. Þórólfur still believes, however, that requiring people to quarantine in quarantine hotels would have minimised the risk of people breaking quarantine. Capital Area Police are looking into the case of the person who broke quarantine, Víðir does not have information on if they will be charged.

Police are not yet making home visits to people in quarantine but they’re making more calls and there’s a “low threshold” for police reaction if there’s the slightest indication that people are breaking quarantine. There are ongoing legal procedures to verify the legality of home visits to enforce quarantines and the police want to be extra sure there is a legal basis for making home visits.

Teachers will be vaccinated around the start of next month and preschool teachers will likely take precedence as preschools are strategically important for keeping society running. Authorities reacted as soon as they learned of the quarantine breaker but the disease doesn’t reveal itself until a week or two has passed since the infection, making it hard to suppress. At this point, we don’t know how the future with the virus looks. We might have to vaccinate annually but we don’t know at this point.

Asked if the quarantine period between border tests is too short, Þórólfur states that the cases of people testing positive after two negative border tests are so rare that it’s not necessary to start thinking about changing border procedure (for ex. requiring longer quarantine). 70% of those who test positive upon arrival from abroad have presented a negative PCR test certificate before departure.

Víðir ends the meeting by stressing the importance of getting tested if you’re feeling even slightly different from normal. When experiencing the slightest symptoms, such as an upset stomach, dry throat, unusual fatigue, or headache: get tested. Víðir: “Let’s not relax now.” The briefing has ended.

 

Iceland Review will live-tweet authorities’ next COVID-19 briefing here.

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