The CEO of a seafood company that kept COVID-infected fishermen at sea for three weeks has responded to public criticism with a statement and interview that leaves more questions than answers. Twenty-two of 25 crew members on one of the company’s ships contracted COVID-19 shortly after setting out to sea. The company has been under fire for not bringing the ship to harbour even after the crew began to exhibit symptoms and contrary to advice from doctors.
One crew member that was on the ship described the conditions in an interview with press. After the crew was informed about the first illness on board, he stated, a few sick crew members were isolated in cabins. Others were asked to continue working, even with severe symptoms. When the ship finally returned to harbour three weeks later, it was not for the purpose of testing crew members, rather principally due to bad weather.
Hraðfrystihúsið Gunnvör released a statement yesterday regarding the COVID outbreak on their ship Júlíus Geirmundsson. The statement, sent to Icelandic media outlets in Word document format, had many puzzling aspects to it: though it was sent out in the name of the company’s CEO Einar Valur Kristjánsson, Microsoft Word metadata cited the author as Fisheries Iceland Director Heiðrún Lind Marteinsdóttir.
Einar Valur’s statements in an interview with Vísir also seemed contradictory. Though he admitted the company “underestimated the conditions on board,” he also stated that “This is new. No one knew about this COVID thing. We didn’t know what it was. And this is, just as I say, the first COVID that comes into our company.” When the reporter pointed out that the incident occurred recently, many months after the SARS-CoV-2 virus arrived in Iceland, Einar’s response was that he had “listened to many episodes with the Chief Epidemiologist and this is of course unprecedented. We didn’t know [COVID] before and we are struggling with it. We are not looking for any culprits, rather apologising for not reacting differently.”
Einar was also questioned about the ship captain, who reportedly isolated crew members together in cabins for up to three days. He responded that it was “not possible to explain that. It would have been correct to return to harbour but this is just what happened.” Einar stated that the company was reviewing its regulations and what went wrong in the decision-making process. He denied that crew members were forbidden from contacting the press, saying there were internet and phone service onboard the ship.