Iceland’s Minister of Health Willum Þór Þórsson is working on a plan for lifting COVID-19 restrictions and hopes to present it by the end of this week, Vísir reports. Current domestic restrictions, including a 10-person gathering limit and closure of all bars and clubs, are valid until February 2. The situation at the National University Hospital is improving, with data showing COVID-19 illness is shorter and less severe than in previous waves.
“Thankfully the development in this pandemic has been and this wave that the numbers are working with us and we’re always looking at the healthcare system in particular in that respect, that we can handle the situation and are providing all healthcare services in the country,” Willum stated. New data shows that the hospitalisation rate and the average length of time COVID-19 patients spend in hospital have both reduced significantly. The average length of time the COVID-19 ward has to monitor patients isolating at home has also shortened.
Before relaxing restrictions, hospital must lower alert phase
Iceland’s National University Hospital declared an emergency phase on December 28 due to strain from COVID-19 cases among patients and staff. The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management also declared an emergency phase earlier this month due to the pandemic. Authorities have since taken measures to ease strain on the hospital, including by negotiating a contract with a private healthcare clinic to address staffing issues.
Willum stressed that the Civil Protection Department and Hospital would need to lower their emergency phase before domestic restrictions could be relaxed. “As soon as we see that happen, then we can loosen restrictions,” he stated, adding that he expects the loosened restrictions to go further than raising the gathering limit to 20.
The Minister did, however, stress the importance of lifting restrictions in stages.