Icelandic preschools and elementary schools will return to regular operation; salons, massage parlours, and museums will reopen; and gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed in Iceland starting on May 4. The Icelandic government announced in a press conference today which COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted in the first stage of loosening measures that were imposed to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has stated that the country has now passed the peak of infection.
On May 4, the current gathering ban, limiting gatherings to 20 individuals or fewer, will be raised to 50 individuals. Preschools and elementary schools, which have operated at a limited capacity, will resume regular operation, and junior colleges and universities will reopen. All schools must limit student groups according to the 50-person limit.
Swimming pools, gyms remain closed
Salons, massage parlours, and dentists can reopen on May 4, but are required to maintain a two-metre distance between customers where possible. Outdoor, organised sports activities for children will be permitted as well, provided groups remain under 50 individuals and a two-metre distance is maintained between participants. Swimming pools, gyms, bars, and slot machines will remain closed for the time being. Other organised, outdoor sports will be permitted, though groups may not exceed four persons and participants must maintain a two-metre distance between themselves.
Schengen border closures to be extended
Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir stated that countries within the Schengen territory were planning to extend the territory’s border closures until May 15, and that Iceland would participate in that decision. Áslaug added that the national state of emergency would remain if force as long as any restrictions were in place.
Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated that authorities were considering limiting tourist arrivals to the country as well as Icelanders’ travel abroad throughout the summer in order to prevent a resurgence of the virus.
Restrictions in place since March 16
Iceland confirmed its first case of coronavirus on February 28. The National Police Commissioner raised Iceland’s Civil Protection Emergency level from alert to Emergency/Distress on March 6 after the first community-transmitted infections of the virus were confirmed. On March 16, Iceland’s first gathering ban was put into place, limiting gatherings to under 100 people and ordering organisers to ensure a two-metre distance between individuals. Junior colleges and universities were also closed, moving teaching online. On March 24, the gathering ban was tightened to 20 individuals or fewer, and various gathering places and businesses were ordered to close, including gyms, swimming pools, bars, clubs, and salons.
Measures lifted in stages, each lasting 3-4 weeks
Authorities say the restrictions currently in place will be lifted in stages, each lasting three or four weeks. This approach will give response teams the opportunity to judge the impact of each set of actions and set the date for the next. Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir stressed the continued importance of the two-metre rule and proper handwashing “as long as this virus is somewhere among us.”