Iceland will further loosen COVID-19 restrictions in August, allowing gatherings of 1,000 people and extending opening hours of bars and clubs. In a briefing yesterday, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated that although reopening the country’s borders has not led to a rise in community transmission, it is clear the COVID-19 pandemic is still spreading abroad and there is no way to predict when it will end. Þórólfur emphasised the importance of forming a long-term plan to minimise the risk of domestic outbreaks of COVID-19 over the coming months and years in Iceland.
Gathering Ban Loosened
Icleand’s gathering ban will be loosened on August 4 from 500 to 1,000 people. From that date, bars and clubs may also remain open until midnight, one hour later than current restrictions allow. August 4 is the Tuesday immediately following “Merchant’s Weekend” (Verslunarmannahelgi), a long weekend and one of the busiest travel periods of the year for locals.
Þórólfur added that more states would likely be added to the list of “safe countries” in August, whose residents are exempt from both testing and quarantine upon entry to Iceland. A final decision on which countries will be added has yet to be made, however.
Managing COVID-19 a “Long-Term” Task
In a briefing yesterday, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason described Iceland as being “at a crossroads.” Until now, Þórólfur stated, local management of the pandemic has been “crisis management,” but it is now time to shift the emphasis and look at managing COVID-19 as a daily task. “It is quite clear that this pandemic is not waning globally, on the contrary, and there is no way to predict when it will end. This is a thought we need to keep in mind. I think that at this point we need to think ahead that this is a virus and an epidemic that we need to live with in the coming months or even years and we need to lay out a long term plan on how we are going to live with this pandemic abroad and what we are going to do to minimise the risk of domestic outbreaks flaring up here.”