All This Weekend’s Parties: Iceland Celebrates First Friday Out Since Lifting of COVID Restrictions

Bankastræti club nightlife post COVID

The lifting of all COVID-19 social restrictions on Friday, February 25 was big news for the nation, but particularly anticipated by stalwarts of the capital’s nightlife and clubbing scene, the weekly all-hours party known as the djamm. Friday was the first weekend evening since last summer that bars and clubs have been open without gathering restrictions or social distancing precautions. Vísir reports that police were prepared for an above-average number of callouts and disturbances and had increased their presence in downtown Reykjavík but say that there were actually fewer incidents than expected.

See Also: Iceland Lifts All COVID-19 Restrictions

“There were plenty of people downtown. People seemed to just be having a good time and there were only a few nightlife-related incidents that the police had to intervene in. So we’re just—the police are feeling good after the night,” remarked Ásgeir Þór Ásgeirsson, superintendent of the capital-area police.

The lifting of restrictions in neighbouring countries has led to an increase in disturbances and incidents leading to police intervention, noted Ásgeir Þór, but that was thankfully not the case in Reykjavík on Friday.

‘It’s possible that after two years, another kind of culture has emerged’

“Compared to a typical party night before COVID, there were far fewer problems than we’ve had on a night like this,” Ásgeir Þór said.

It’s possible that Friday’s poor weather played a part in the relative quiet of the evening’s festivities, but police believe that there’s another explanation, namely that two years of on-and-off COVID restrictions has actually changed Iceland’s nightlife culture for good.

“It’s possible that after two years, another kind of culture has emerged. I don’t know,” concluded Ásgeir Þór. The police were planning to maintain increased vigilance downtown on Saturday evening, but at time of writing were hopeful that Saturday’s parties would go off without major incident.

Iceland Lifts All COVID-19 Restrictions

ramps downtown Reykjavík

All COVID-19 social restrictions have been lifted as of midnight today. Individuals who test positive for the coronavirus will no longer be required to quarantine, and no disease prevention measures will be in place at the border.

Two years of restrictions

Nearly two years after imposing the first social restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Icelandic authorities have lifted all limitations on public gatherings. Rapid tests will replace PCR tests, and individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will no longer be required to quarantine.

According to a statement by Minister of Health Willum Þór Þórsson on Wednesday, the decision to lift social restrictions was unanimous among ministers – and in line with the most recent memorandum of Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason.

The memo noted that severe illness has not increased over the past few weeks – despite over 2,000 infections being recorded daily. Þórólfur believes that the best way to end the pandemic is widespread herd immunity against the virus (ca. 80% of the population is expected to have become infected by mid-March).

Approximately 110,000 individuals have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Iceland. Antibody testing suggests, however, that an equal number of people have already been infected without testing positive. Sixty one individuals have died from COVID-19 in Iceland since the start of the pandemic.

“We can truly rejoice at this turning-point, but I encourage people to be careful, to practice personal infection prevention measures, and not to interact with others if they notice symptoms,” the Minister of Health stated on Wednesday.

Bar-owners rejoice, despite poor weather

Among those who will be celebrating the lifting of restrictions are bar owners, who may now resume normal operations for the first time since July.

The nightlife in downtown Reykjavík is expected to be especially busy this weekend. The National University Hospital warns of an increased strain on its operations and encourages partygoers to exercise caution.

As noted by meteorologist Haraldur Ólafsson in an interview with Vísir, today’s forecast is less than ideal. An orange weather alert will be in effect for the capital area between 11 AM and 5 PM. Wind speed is expected to reach up to 25 m/s with sleet and rain. The storm will have mostly subsided by the evening.