Following a government meeting this morning, Health Minister Willum Þór Þórsson announced that considerably relaxed domestic infection prevention regulations will take effect at midnight tonight. Most notably, people will no longer be required to quarantine, meaning that close to 10,000 people will be released from quarantine. The new regulation will remain in effect until February 25, and barring any unexpected changes, the government hopes to lift all restrictions by the end of the month.
People already in quarantine will not be required to take a PCR test to be released from quarantine. People who have been exposed to COVID-19 will no longer be required to take special precautions, although it is still strongly advised. People with active COVID-19 infections will still need to isolate from others.
While infection regulations at the border will not change, the minister stated that a workgroup will introduce their suggestions for changes to border regulations “very soon”.
While new cases of COVID-19 in Iceland are increasing, hospitalisations have remained within a range of 25-45 since the beginning of the year. 38 are currently in hospital with COVID-19, 15 of which were hospitalised due to COVID-19 illnesses. Ten people have died from COVID-19 in Iceland this year, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Iceland to 54. Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur GUðnason’s memorandum to the government stated that following recent restriction relaxations, there are strong indications that infections are increasing.
The Chief Epidemiologist notified the government that it is likely that following recent relaxation of restrictions, new cases of COVID-19 go unnoticed. Despite low hospitalisation rates (0.1% of infected people are hospitalised due to COVID-19 illness), an increase in infections can increase the strain on the hospital.
The changes to domestic regulations taking effect at midnight:
General gathering limits will be raised from 50 to 200 indoors. No gathering limits on crowds outdoors.
Shops no longer have gathering limits.
Events of up to 1,000 people will be allowed for seated events if everyone is wearing a mask. Intermissions will be allowed again, along with the sale of food and drinks during intermission.
Masks will be required if a social distance of 1 metre cannot be upheld.
Gyms, swimming pools, ski resorts, and spas will be allowed to operate at full capacity.
Sporting events and training are permitted with up to 200 spectators per compartment.
All restrictions on school operations lapse, making schools subject only to general gathering limits, with the option of further exceptions.
Elementary and upper secondary schools will be allowed to host events for their students with no infection prevention limitations.
Bars and restaurants are permitted to extend their opening hours by one hour. Establishments will be able to accept new guests until midnight, but all guests must have left the premises by 1:oo AM.