COVID-19 infection is spreading faster than in any of the country’s previous waves, Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson told RÚV yesterday. Iceland reported 56 infections on Tuesday and Víðir stated he expects yesterday’s number to be even higher. Icelandic authorities announced tightened border restrictions earlier this week to curb the virus’ spread, but have not yet imposed any domestic restrictions.
Considerable leakage at the border
Iceland’s total active cases now number 223. Of the infected individuals, 100 are aged 18-29 and another 47 are 30-39 years old. That means that 66% of active infections, or nearly two thirds, are among people 18-39 years old.
Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has stated that most cases can be traced to either Reykjavík nightlife or a group of locals that travelled to London for the UEFA tournament. “Most of the cases are linked to nightclubs in Reykjavík, in Bankastræti, and also to a group that came from London,” Þórólfur stated. “There are also many different variants, which tells us that there are many people that have crossed the borders that have brought an infection with them. There is considerable leakage of infection at the border into the community.”
Infections spread despite vaccination
Local experts have expressed disappointment that infections are rising despite the high vaccination rate: 68.17% of Iceland’s population is fully vaccinated while another 4% is partially vaccinated. While most vaccinated individuals with COVID-19 in Iceland are only showing mild symptoms, one fully vaccinated individual has been admitted to hospital due to COVID-19 infection.
Þórólfur has stated that locals who have been vaccinated with the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine will likely receive an additional shot. These vaccinations will likely begin in mid-August, when staff return from their summer vacation.
Undecided if or when domestic restrictions will be imposed
Iceland lifted all domestic restrictions last June 26. The Chief Epidemiologist has stated that no decision has been made on if or when domestic restrictions will be imposed once more, but authorities are evaluating the situation. The decision will be in part based on how many are seriously ill and how many hospitalisations are expected. “It’s also clear that if we are going to be successful in curbing the domestic spread it’s better to [impose restrictions] sooner rather than later, it will be more difficult to manage it as time goes on,” Þórólfur added.
Festival weekend looming
The July 30-August 1 weekend is the biggest domestic travel weekend in Iceland, with festivals across the country expected to bring together crowds in the thousands. While one festival in Flúðir, South Iceland, has been cancelled in light of the rise in infections, organisers of the Þjóðhátíð festival in the Westman Islands have stated that there are no plans to cancel the festival at this time.
Iceland Review will live-tweet authorities’ COVID-19 information briefing at 11:00 AM UTC today.