COVID-19 in Iceland: Swimming Pools and Bars Reopen

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New domestic regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 take effect in Iceland today, a slight relaxing from the regulation of the past three weeks. The general gathering limit has been doubled from 10 to 20, while gyms, bars, and swimming pools are permitted to reopen. The relaxed domestic restrictions, recommended by the country’s Chief Epidemiologist and approved by Iceland’s cabinet on Tuesday, will remain in effect until May 6.

The main changes that took effect today are as follows:

  • Gyms and pools are permitted to reopen and operate at 50% capacity.
  • Sports competitions and athletic activities with or without contact will be permitted among adults and children. The maximum number of adults in such activities is 50. Children are subject to the same gathering limits as in school activities. Athletic activities can host up to 100 seated guests.
  • Performing arts activities, including choral activities, are permitted with up to 50 performers and maximum 100 guests in each separate section.
  • All shops can accept up to 5 guests for every 10 squared metres of space up to a maximum of 100 people, in addition to 20 employees in the same space.
  • Nightclubs, pubs, and slot machine venues may operate under the same conditions as restaurants. They must close by 9.00pm.
  • Driving and flight lessons are permitted to restart.
  • The general distancing rule for schools will be reduced from two metres to one metre. Preschool and primary school children will be permitted to engage in sports and recreational activities.

Iceland currently has 83 active cases of COVID-19 and one of the lowest infection rates in Europe. Two patients are currently in hospital due to COVID-19. A total of 67,158 have received one or both doses of COVID-19 vaccine, 18.2% of the population.

No changes have been made to Iceland’s border regulations, which are in effect until May 1.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Restrictions Relaxed from December 10

Sundlaugin Laugardal

Social restrictions due to COVID-19 will be moderately relaxed in Iceland this Thursday, December 10. The country’s swimming pools will reopen at 50% capacity, while shops, schools, performing arts venues, and restaurants will also see moderately relaxed restrictions. The national gathering limit will remain at 10 people, though with several exceptions. The new regulations will remain in effect until January 12.

While Iceland saw a rise in new COVID-19 case numbers at the end of November, new domestic case numbers and overall active cases have been dropping in recent days. The country appears to have contained the current wave of cases.

Ten-Person Limit Still in Effect

Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir just announced the updated COVID-19 restrictions that take effect this Thursday, December 10, following a government meeting that took place this morning. Current restrictions mandate a 10-person gathering limit across the country and bars, gyms, swimming pools are closed.

While the 10-person limit will remain in effect from December 10, several exceptions to the rule have been granted from that date. All shops will be permitted to take in 5 customers per 10 square metres up to a maximum of 100 customers. This regulation applies to non-essential shops as well.

Restaurants may take in up to 15 guests at a time (up from 10 previously) and may remain open until 10.00pm, one hour later than current regulations allow. They may, however, not admit any new guests after 9.00pm.

Performing Arts, Sports Permitted

Swimming pools may reopen on Thursday, though only at 50% capacity. Athletic activities for adults in the top league of the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland (ÍSÍ) will be permitted to restart. This applies to both contactless and contact sports.

Performing arts, currently banned, will be permitted again from Thursday. Groups of up to 30 performers are permitted to rehearse and perform together, and can entertain up to 50 seated, mask-wearing guests, though neither intermissions nor alcohol sales are permitted at performances. Funerals may have up to 50 guests.

Children born in 2005 or later will no longer be required to wear masks in schools, shops, or other locations. Preschools will no longer be required to keep classes separate.

Consensus Within Government

Svandís stated that the regulations are slightly different from Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason’s recommendations, though the changes were made in consultation with him. The Health Minister stated that there was consensus on the updated regulations within the government.

Asked whether the regulations would be sufficient to avoid a new wave after the holidays, Svandís stated: “If everyone follows the rules then they will be sufficient.” The regulations will be in effect until January 12.