Iceland Collects Blood Samples to Track Spread of Virus

COVID-19 Press conference Þórólfur Guðnason Alma Möller V'iðir Reynisson

Starting on Monday, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason and deCODE Genetics will begin collecting blood samples from the general public in order to help determine how widespread COVID-19 infection has been within the Icelandic population, RÚV reports.

Þórólfur said he expects tens of thousands of Icelanders to voluntarily donate blood samples for the survey. People undergoing blood tests for other reasons will also be asked to donate a sample. The blood samples will also be tested for antibodies; those who give blood will be notified of their test results as soon as they become available.

During the daily COVID-19 press conference on Sunday, Director of Health Alma Möller said that there will soon be a review of how general health care services were prioritised during the height of the epidemic. Health care authorities had been concerned that people needing medical services would refuse to seek them out, but there is currently no indication that this occurred.

Alma also noted that the number of deaths in Iceland did not increase during the epidemic. Quite to the contrary, the number of deaths has gone down. There are various possible explanations for this, including a decrease in other infectious diseases and fewer accidents while Icelandic society has largely been on pause.

Gay Men May Soon Be Able to Donate Blood, Within Limits

Gay men may soon be permitted to give blood in Iceland, albeit within restricted parameters, RÚVreports. According to information from the Ministry of Welfare, epidemiologists believe that it should be permissible for gay men to give blood, although there would still be significant restrictions in place, namely that gay blood donors will be required to have been abstinent for six months prior to donation.

Per the Ministry, risk assessment of other nations has shown that this arrangement—allowing gay men to donate blood after six months of abstinence—involves little to no risk of bloodborne infection. The ministry requested an epidemiological review of the issue this summer and the previous two Ministers of Health— Kristján Þór Júlíusson and Óttarr Proppé— both expressed an interest in reviewing the current blood donation restrictions. The current Minister, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, is currently reviewing the issue and taking into account the advice of medical professionals. She’s expected to make a decision on the issue soon.

Restrictions on blood donation based on sexual history and/or orientation vary throughout the world, but while many countries have lifted permanent bans on gay men donating blood, many still require that “men who have sex with men” defer blood donation for anywhere from three months to a fullyear.