COVID-19 in Iceland: Five Domestic Infections Yesterday Outside Quarantine

Update July 14, 4:20 PM: In light of the uptick in infections, authorities have scheduled a COVID-19 information briefing tomorrow morning at 11:00 AM UTC. Iceland Review will live-tweet from the briefing in English on our Twitter page.

Iceland reported five domestic infections yesterday, all outside of quarantine. Three of the infected individuals are fully vaccinated. A press statement from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management says the cases confirm there is community spread of the virus and encourage the public to act with caution in the coming days and weeks, regardless of their vaccination status. Two domestic cases out of quarantine were reported one day prior, constituting a rise in infection rates in the country.

According to the press statement, sent by Hjördís Guðmundsdóttir, the infections have been traced to nightlife as well as large friend and family events. Contact tracing is ongoing and authorities expect over 100 people to be placed in quarantine in relation to the infections. “It’s clear that there is community infection in the country and therefore it is incredibly important that everyone is cautious in the coming days and weeks, also those who are vaccinated, as it is obvious that those individuals can still contract COVID-19,” Hjördís wrote. “It’s especially important to be careful around vulnerable individuals that could become seriously ill from COVID-19 even if they are vaccinated.”

The Civil Protection Department encourages the public to continue practicing personal infection prevention and get tested if experiencing even the slightest symptoms that could point to COVID-19, whether or not they are vaccinated. The public is also encouraged to download the official contact tracing app Rakning C-19, which can help contact tracing teams in their efforts.

Chief Epidemiologist encourages healthcare centres to tighten rules

Þórólfur Guðnason, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist, told RÚV the uptick in infections was “uncomfortably reminiscent of the beginning of the third wave, I have to say. But the difference is still that now we have vaccinated quite a lot of people while no one was vaccinated when the third wave arrived. So I hope there won’t be the same upward trend as then,” Þórólfur stated. Of Iceland’s population, 66.69% are fully vaccinated while 72.17% have received at least one dose.

“I think there is reason now to encourage all at-risk individuals with underlying illnesses, as well as nursing homes and medical institutions, to be vigilant and tighten their rules now while we are seeing this upward trend,” Þórólfur stated.

Highest Number of COVID Cases to be Diagnosed in a Single Day Since April

COVID-19 test

Seventy-five domestic cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed on Friday, the highest number of infections that Iceland has had in a single day since April 1, when 99 cases were diagnosed. RÚV reports that half of those diagnosed with the virus were already in quarantine.

Young People Make Up Majority of COVID-19 Infections

Of the 135 people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 over the last week, 70 of them are aged 18 – 29 and 40 are aged 30 to 39. Seven children aged six to 12 have also been diagnosed with the virus.

Currently, all but two positive infections are located in the capital area. Roughly a third of those are connected to bars and clubs in downtown Reykjavík. People who went to the Irishman Pub on Klapparstígur on Friday, September 11 between 4pm and 11pm were asked to come in for COVID-19 testing after several cases were traced to the bar, but the pub is not the only venue that group infections have been traced to.

See Also: Capital-Area Bars and Clubs Closed Over Weekend

“The main point in all of this, of course, is that we have to do all the things now that we did so well this spring,” remarked Víðir Reynisson, Chief Superintendent of Civil Protection. “We need to be careful about who we meet. We need to avoid crowds, keep our distance, and our own disease prevention efforts are really important right now. No matter what actions are taken now [by authorities], each and every one of us needs to take our own action, and do so immediately.”

Víðir confirmed that it is likely that gathering bans and social distancing requirements will get stricter in the coming days, but said that precisely what measures would be taken was still being considered by Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason and his advisors, based on such factors as the seriousness of the current cases and further information about how the virus has spread.

“It’s clear, however,” concluded Víðir, “that these measures will primarily center around the capital area.”

One Hundred and Thirty-Five Cases Diagnosed in Last Five Days

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, positive diagnoses of the virus have exceeded 75 seven times. The highest number of cases to be diagnosed in one day was 106 on March 24.

Over the last five days, 135 cases of COVID-19 have been detected. At time of writing, 181 people were in isolation and 765 in quarantine. Two people have been hospitalized. Incidence of domestic infection is currently 41.7 per 100,000 inhabitants.

On Friday, 3,629 people were tested for COVID-19, 1,186 of whom were showing symptoms of the virus. Just under 5% of those who were showing symptoms tested positive.

 

Over One Hundred Infections Linked to Same Group Infection

COVID-19 test tubes

There have been 127 domestic infections diagnosed with COVID-19 since June 15, including six cases that were diagnosed on Wednesday. RÚV reports that 120 of the infections have the same virus mutation and have, therefore, been connected to the same group infection that emerged at the end of July.

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason says that authorities have not yet managed to connect more than 30 clusters of infections. “This virus often causes little to no symptoms and it can be very difficult and it can be very difficult to find one individual who has infected two, unconnected individuals. It can be really tricky and I’m not sure how it’s going to work out.”

One man in his thirties was on a ventilator in intensive care but has now improved enough to be transferred to a general ward.

Three of the six people who were diagnosed on Wednesday were already in quarantine. All of these individuals are located within the capital area, except for one who is in the Westman Islands. A child under the age of five is among the group.

Virology staff to transfer to deCode to stay ahead of sample analysis

After this weekend, 18 employees from the National University Hospital’s virology department will move to deCode Genetics, where samples taken at the border will be analyzed, among others. deCode has better equipment for analyzing large batches of COVID-19 tests. Meanwhile, the virology department will continue to analyze samples from hospitals and health centres from outside the capital area. The virology department currently only has one machine to conduct sample analysis, but a model of the exact same make will arrive from Denmark this week. A much more powerful machine, which can process 4,000 samples will arrive in November.

Two Group Infections Active, but with Limited Spread

A group infection centred in the West Iceland town of Akranes led to extensive, random local testing on Saturday, RÚV reports. Happily, all 612 people who were tested returned negative results, indicating that the infection has not spread as extensively as was originally feared.

There are currently two active group infections in Iceland: one in Akranes, and one in Akureyri, in North Iceland. In Akranes, seven coworkers were diagnosed with COVID-19, as well as three of their family members. It is not currently known where this infection started. The random sampling in Akranes on Sunday was conducted by deCode Genetics in order to determine how far the infection had spread within the town. Authorities originally hoped to test 450 residents, but locals were quick to cooperate, meaning that an additional 162 samples could be taken – roughly 10% of the town’s population.

There are currently two people in isolation and 35 people in quarantine in and around Akureyri. Two of those who have active COVID-19 infections and 28 of those under quarantine are residents of the town. These new infections have not yet been traced, so it is currently not known if they are related.

One of the individuals in isolation in Akureyri is a tourist who arrived in the country earlier this week. The man tested negative for the virus at the border, but then showed symptoms after his arrival and a second test revealed that he had an active infection. The three members of his family with whom he was travelling are also in isolation with him in the quarantine hotel in Akureyri, where they will all remain for two weeks. The tourist’s family members do not, however, have the virus.

Thirteen community infections were diagnosed on Saturday, and one at the border, although it is uncertain as of yet if that individual has an active or old infection. At time of writing, 72 individuals are in isolation, 569 are in quarantine, and one person is hospitalised, although not in intensive care.

Iceland Delays Loosening COVID-19 Restrictions Due to New Cluster of Infections

At a bar in Reykjavík Iceland, drinking beer.

Iceland’s plan to relax the current gathering ban from 500 to 1,000 people and extend the opening hours of bars and clubs will be delayed by two weeks, RÚV reports. The changes were set to take effect next Tuesday, August 4, following one of the most travel-heavy long weekends of the year, but have now been pushed to August 18. The decision was made at a government meeting this morning following a recommendation from health authorities.

Authorities will hold a briefing this afternoon to review the state of COVID-19 in the country. There are currently 22 active cases of COVID-19 in Iceland, 12 of which are community transmissions. Contract tracing has revealed that a few of the infections have a common, as yet unidentified source. The source is believed to be a new strain of the virus that arrived in Iceland recently. Seven of those with active infections are located in Akranes, West Iceland.

New Strain of COVID-19 Identified

keflavik airport COVID-19 testing

A strain of COVID-19 that has not previously been found in Iceland was identified in a sample taken this weekend, RÚV reports.

Two cases of community infection were diagnosed on Friday. Neither of the infected individuals had been abroad recently. deCode Genetics conducted sequencing on the samples taken from the people in question and discovered a strain of COVID-19 that has not been found in the country before.

Three community infections were diagnosed on Saturday and two cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed at the border. It is not yet known if the border cases are active or old infections. One of the community infections was discovered at the ReyCup International Football Festival; this person is now in isolation, as well as those that they interacted with at the sporting event. Sixteen people who were otherwise in close contact with the infected individual have also been placed in quarantine. The origin of this infection has not yet been identified, but contact tracing is in progress.

Another of Saturday’s community infections—the person who has been diagnosed with the strain of COVID-19 that has not been seen in Iceland before—has been connected to one of those that were diagnosed on Friday. Contact tracing has been completed in this instance: one person has been placed in isolation and twelve in quarantine.

The third of Saturday’s infections, which was diagnosed in Southwest Iceland, has been traced to an individual who returned to the country on July 15. The individual has been placed in isolation and six people who were in close contact with them are now under quarantine. These individuals were also tested for the virus themselves and two are showing active symptoms of the virus.

No New Community-Transmitted Infections This Weekend

keflavik airport COVID-19 testing

There were no new cases of community-transmitted COVID-19 infections in Iceland on Friday or Saturday, RÚV reports, and significantly fewer people are currently in quarantine due to the virus.

Three people tested positive for COVID-19 at the border on Saturday, at least one of which was an old, inactive infection.

Two hundred and seventy-four people were in quarantine on Saturday. This is a significant drop from the 441 people who had been in quarantine only the day before. Such precautions were taken after a soccer player who returned from the US in mid-June tested positive for the virus days after arriving home, even though her initial border screening came back negative.

A total of 1,794 people were tested for COVID-19 at the Icelandic border on Saturday, the largest number of border tests to have been given in a single day thus far.

 

Toddler Diagnosed with COVID-19

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

A child just over the age of one was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Wednesday, RÚV reports. According to Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, the child is currently asymptomatic.

The child arrived with their mother from Albania on June 20. The woman was confirmed to have COVID-19. Ten people connected to the woman were tested as a result of her diagnosis and 15 are now in quarantine.

See Also: First Community Transmitted COVID-19 Infection in Two Months

There have been eight confirmed cases of community infection in Iceland since travel restrictions were relaxed roughly two weeks ago. Over 400 people are still in quarantine following contact with a soccer player who returned from the US in mid-June. The player tested negative for COVID-19 at the border, but after discovering that she’d been in contact with a person with COVID-19 in the US, she was tested again and the second time, her test came back positive.

Gathering bans in Iceland have now relaxed to allow as many as 500 people to gather in one place. (This excludes children of primary school age, whose may gather in larger groups.) Scheduled events such as summer football tournaments for children, expected to draw as many as 2,300 children over a weekend, are still a source of concern for authorities who stress the risks. Such large gatherings are “undesirable,” remarked Þórólfur in a press conference, but as of yet, authorities have not intervened to postpone or cancel them.

First Community Transmitted COVID-19 Infection in Two Months

Almost 70 people have been put into quarantine after being in contact with two Icelanders who have tested positive for COVID-19, mbl.is reports. One of those who tested positive is a player for Breiðablík, one of the teams in Iceland’s top-tier women’s football league; the other is an employee who works for the Ministry of Industries and Innovation. According to a press release issued by the Department of Civil Protection, it’s possible that as many as 200 people will need to be quarantined.

According to Vísir, the football player came back from the US on June 17 and tested negative for COVID-19 when she was screened at the border. She proceeded to play in several football matches after that. After it was discovered that she had come into contact with a COVID-infected person in the US, however, the player was tested again for the virus and this time, the results came back positive. She is currently asymptomatic but has gone into quarantine, as have her teammates and coaches, as well as the teams that she played against and their coaches.

The ministry employee’s infection has been traced back to the football player. This is then the first case of community infection in Iceland in roughly two months. About 15 ministry employees have also been sent into quarantine.

“We’re talking to a lot of people”

“We’re taking this really seriously,” said Víðir Reynisson, director of Iceland’s Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management. “We’re looking at this as a potential group infection and are working on it accordingly.”

Contact tracers are working diligently to identify all the people who have come into contact with both of the infected individuals.

“At the moment, we’re talking to a lot of people,” Víðir explained. “Then we’re preparing a comprehensive screening of the people who are connected with these infections.” Víðir said that this is somewhat atypical – it’s not a given that people who are sent into quarantine because they’ve interacted with COVID-infected people are definitely tested for the virus themselves. But the circumstances call for such measures, he says. The screenings began on Saturday and will continue for several days after that.

Víðir noted that the football player who the infection has been traced to has been really helpful in the contact tracing process. “She’s helped us a lot and let us know as soon as she got the information herself. Since then, she’s worked very closely with us.”

Per the announcement issued by the Department of Civil Protection, Icelanders returning from trips abroad are urged to be extra mindful and take additional precautions when coming home, even if they test negative for COVID-19 when they are screened at the border. The announcement also reminded people that if they’ve been told to go into quarantine because they’ve come in contact with a COVID-infected individual, they must remain in quarantine for the full 14 days, even if they receive a negative result to their own screening test before the 14 days are up.