Record Number of Coronavirus Deaths Since Start of 2022

vaccination Laugardalshöll

Deaths from COVID-19 have hit a record high, Vísir reports, with 188 people having died from the coronavirus since the beginning of 2022. According to Chief Epidemiologist Guðrún Aspelund, the effect of COVID-19 far outweighs the effects of other infectious diseases such as influenza.

Mainly individuals 70 years and older

Deaths from COVID-19 have surged since the start of 2022, Vísir reports. Thirty-one people died from the coronavirus in 2020 compared to eight in 2021. During the first ten months of 2022, however, that number has risen to 188.

According to Chief Epidemiologist Guðrún Aspelund, this upswing in cases owes primarily to the highly infectious Omicron variant and the fact that no social restrictions are in place. Deaths have mainly occurred among individuals seventy years and older.

“Which is why we’re encouraging older people, everyone sixty years and older, and those who are at risk, to get their booster shots. That’s the best form of protection,” Guðrún remarked, adding that protection from vaccines diminishes over a period of a few months.

“We’ve also got new vaccines now that offer protection against the original variant of coronavirus and Omicron, which offers better protection. We need to repeat these vaccinations to enter into winter with good protection.”

Read More: Long-form Interview with former chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason

Guðrún observed that Iceland’s neighbouring countries have also been seeing a rise in cases in 2022. “Confirmed deaths from COVID-19 are believed to be around six and a half million. But there are many who believe that those figures are at least twice as high – thousands of people are still dying from coronavirus every week.”

According to Guðrún, deaths from coronavirus are significantly higher than deaths from influenza. Coronavirus deaths in Iceland are, however, lower when compared to other countries, with Iceland having the lowest death toll among the Nordic countries.

When asked to speculate why, Guðrún pointed to Iceland’s speedy vaccination campaign, its social restrictions, and the fact that the healthcare system had responded well. “I think we can chalk up this achievement to these factors along with the participation of the citizenry.”

What’s the status of COVID-19 vaccination in Iceland?

bólusetning mass vaccination Laugardalshöll

Iceland received the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine on December 28, 2020 and vaccination began the following day. As of April 2022, 79% of Iceland’s total population has been fully vaccinated, or 82% of the eligible population. Iceland began administering booster shots in late 2021 and offering vaccination for 5- to 11-year-olds in January 2022.

 

COVID-19 vaccination is optional and free of charge in Iceland. Vaccines were initially administered according to priority groups defined by health authorities, but the priority groups were abolished in June 2021 once all residents aged 16 and over had been offered vaccination.

All foreign residents in Iceland have access to vaccination regardless of residency status or whether or not they have a local ID number (kennitala). 

Icelandic data shows that vaccinated individuals are less likely to contract the SARS-CoV-2 virus and that vaccines are very effective at staving off serious illness and hospitalisation due to COVID-19. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has stated that booster shots could help Iceland reach herd immunity. Local data shows that a third dose may increase protection against COVID-19 infection, transmission, and serious illness by 90%, as compared to just two doses.

Vaccines Through European Union 

Iceland and other EFTA countries are guaranteed the same access to vaccines as member states of the European Union. The European Commission has signed contracts with six vaccine manufacturers, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna. The Commission negotiates the number of doses it receives from each manufacturer and they are divided among countries proportionally. Each individual country also makes contracts with vaccine manufacturers and EFTA member states such as Iceland do so through Sweden.

Below is the latest information on the status of all COVID-19 vaccines expected in Iceland.

This article will be regularly updated.

 

Our Latest news articles on COVID-19

What’s the status of COVID-19 in Iceland?

Þórólfur Guðnason

The Icelandic government has lifted all domestic restrictions due to COVID-19 as of February 25, 2022. Despite high infection rates, local data shows that rates of serious illness and hospitalisation have remained low in the current wave.

Over 78% of Iceland’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or 91% of those 12 years of age and over. A campaign to administer booster shots is well on its way, with more than 54% of the nation already having had their third shot. Vaccination of children aged 5-11 began in January 2022.

Local data shows that vaccinated individuals are less likely to contract the SARS-CoV-2 virus and that vaccines are very effective at staving off serious illness and hospitalisation due to COVID-19. Read more about COVID-19 vaccination in Iceland here.

Read more about Iceland’s border restrictions here.

The following are the latest statistics regarding COVID-19 in Iceland.

Domestic restricions

Currently, there are no infection prevention measures due to COVID-19 in place. There are no limits on gatherings, bar and restaurant opening hours or mask requirements. Neither are people required to quarantine or isolate after coming into contact with COVID-19 infected individuals. People are still encouraged to practice personal infection prevention measures and to keep to themselves if they suspect they’ve been exposed to the disease or they test positive.

Travelling to Iceland

Currently, Iceland’s government has no disease prevention measures in place at the border. When travelling between Iceland and other countries, people still need to consider that airlines, airports and other countries might have different regulations in place.  

Can I Travel to Iceland in 2022 Post COVID-19?

Preventing and reporting infection

Hand washing, avoiding touching of eyes, nose, and mouth, and avoiding handshaking are key factors in reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection. Poor ventilation may also be a risk factor.

Visit the government’s official website for up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Iceland.

This article will be regularly updated.

Our Latest news articles on COVID-19

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.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Tightened Restrictions Have Taken Effect

sundhöll

Gatherings must be limited to 20 people in Iceland and gyms, bars, and clubs are closed as of midnight last night. Tightened restrictions took effect in the country today and will remain in effect until at least October 19. The Department of Civil Protection declared a national state of emergency yesterday due to the current spread of SARS-CoV-2. Iceland has reported 630 new domestic cases of COVID-19 between September 15 and October 4.

Bars, clubs, slot machine parlours, and gyms have been closed under the new regulations. Pools will be allowed to remain open but must operate at half capacity.

Only 20 people are allowed to assemble at once, down from the previous 200. Nevertheless, the updated regulations outline several exceptions to this limit. Secondary schools and colleges may have up to 30 students together in each classroom. Funerals are permitted to have 50 guests in attendance, and larger stores are allowed to admit 100 customers at once. Parliament, courts, and emergency response teams (police, firefighters, search and rescue, and healthcare workers), are also exempt from the 20-person limit.

Regarding cultural events, theatre performances will be allowed to continue in spaces with a maximum of 100 audience members and mandatory mask usage. Spectators will be allowed at outdoor (but not indoor) athletic events as well. In both cases, seats must be numbered. Up to 50 can take part in competitive sports, subject to guidelines.

The general distancing guideline remains at 1 metre. Masks are required whenever it isn’t possible to maintain that distance between people who do not share a household, including on public transport.

Children born in 2005 or later are exempt from distancing and assembly limits. There will be no restrictions placed on preschool or primary school operations.

COVID-19 in Iceland: National Hospital Capacity Key to Third Wave Response

National University Hospital Páll Matthíasson

The National University Hospital can handle the projected strain of the current wave of infections, though some reorganisation will be necessary, according to its Director Páll Matthíasson. Páll discussed the hospital’s strengths and weaknesses in tackling the current uptick in COVID-19 hospitalisations at a briefing in Reykjavík this afternoon. Iceland’s current wave of infection will rise slower, fall slower, and last longer than its first wave last spring, says Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason.

Spread of Infection Likely Slowing

Þórólfur stated that the number of daily infections in Iceland and the number of those diagnosed outside of quarantine both appear to be dropping, though slower than expected. Exponential growth of the local pandemic had been successfully avoided, and thus he believes it is unnecessary to impose harsher restrictions, though the situation is being re-evaluated on a regular basis. On the other hand, he stated it was likely that restrictions would be maintained over the coming months as “this virus is not going anywhere.”

Hospital Needs to Free Up Resources

The Chief Epidemiologist’s Office and the National University Hospital have been in communication regarding the challenges the hospital faces in tackling the current wave of COVID-19 infection. Páll stated that while the hospital has many strengths, including well-trained staff and new knowledge and experience in treating COVID patients, it needs to decrease pressure in other wards of the hospital in order to free up resources to deal with the pandemic. The hospital also needs to ensure it is flexible in its organisation and its reserve force of healthcare staff are ready to respond to emergencies. Space and staffing are the biggest challenges currently facing the institution.

Nursing Homes in Good Shape

Most nursing homes and disabled care homes in Iceland are in good shape, according to Þórólfur, and measures implemented to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 have been largely successful. He added that there have been few severe COVID-19 cases among the elderly and at-risk in this wave of infection.

Chief Superintendent Víðir Reynisson ended the briefing by reminding the public of their personal responsibility in tackling the pandemic. “It is normal to be tired and bored of COVID and want our normal lives back. But we need to stick together to protect those most vulnerable.”

Iceland Review live-tweets Icelandic authorities’ COVID-19 briefings.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Violated Isolation and Infected Over 100

Irishman pub

Around 100 domestic cases of COVID-19 that have arisen in Iceland the past few days can be traced to a pair of French tourists that came to the country in mid-August, Vísir reports. The two were put into isolation after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, but broke regulations. Three different strains of SARS-CoV-2 are responsible for Iceland’s 281 active cases.

In the last five days, 196 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Iceland. Over half of the new infections can be traced to the Irishman pub and Brewdog restaurant, both in downtown Reykjavík. “Most of the infections in recent days originate from these two places. These are probably around 100 people or just over that,” Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated.

Þórólfur added that there are three strains of the virus currently circulating. One is the so-called “Akranes” strain, while another is the “French” strain that arrived with the aforementioned tourists in August. The French strain is the strain that infected patrons of the two establishments in Reykjavík, who account for most of the country’s recent cases.

“I have information that it was difficult to get them to follow instructions,” Þórólfur stated of the two French tourists, who were put into isolation after testing positive. “I really cannot say more.”

Those who break isolation can face a fine of ISK 150,000-250,000 ($1,100-1,800/€900-1,500), depending on the severity of the violation. It is not known whether the two tourists were in fact fined.

COVID-19 in Iceland: One Metre Rule Takes Effect

sundhöll

Less stringent COVID-19 regulations took effect today in Iceland. The 2-metre social distancing rule has been relaxed to 1 metre, and the maximum size of gatherings has risen from 100 to 200. Other changes include a rise in the maximum number of guests at swimming pools and gyms: both may now operate at 75% capacity, a rise from the previous 50%.

Physical contact is now permitted in sports activities, stage performances, and other cultural events. Audience members at these events must, however, maintain a 1-metre distance from each other. The latest closing time of bars, clubs, and restaurants (venues with a liquor licence) will continue to be 11.00pm.

The one-metre rule does not apply to individuals that have a close relationship.

These regulations will be in effect until September 27. Iceland currently has 76 active cases of COVID-19 and the number has been dropping steadily for several days.

Travel to Iceland: Authorities Consider Accepting Foreign COVID-19 Certificates

keflavik airport COVID-19 testing

Icelandic authorities are considering the possibility of accepting COVID-19 test certificates from abroad. Individuals travelling to Iceland could be exempt from testing at the border if they provide a certificate confirming they had already contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Authorities are also examining whether Iceland could accept PCR test results or antibody test results from arriving travellers as an alternative to testing at the border.

The working group’s task is considered urgent by Icelandic authorities, as is developing a system for mutual recognition of COVID-19 certificates between countries. The group’s findings would entail changes to the current quarantine and isolation rules for those entering Iceland from abroad. Presently, all travellers arriving in Iceland must undergo a five-day quarantine and two rounds of COVID-19 testing. Travellers who eschew testing must undergo a 14-day quarantine.

The working group consists of six individuals, including representatives of the Chief Epidemiologist, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and Registers Iceland.

COVID-19 Antibodies Last for Months, Icelandic Research Shows

COVID-19 test tubes

An Icelandic study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that COVID-19 antibodies last at least four months without declining. The research suggests there is little likelihood of developing COVID-19 twice. It also suggests vaccines could be effective in preventing infection over a long period, even with just one or two doses.

The study measured antibodies in samples from 30,576 people, including 1,237 who had recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection. Among those who had recovered, antibodies proved higher in older people and those who were hospitalised. Men tended to develop more antibodies than women, and there was a positive correlation between the severity of illness and the amount of antibodies. Those who showed only slight symptoms or were asymptomatic general developed fewer antibodies to SARS-CoV-2.

One- or Two-Dose Vaccine

Kári Stefánsson, CEO of DeCODE genetics, which conducted the study, told RÚV that in light of the study results, a vaccine could provide relatively long-term protection from infection. “This indicates that antibodies formed during vaccination should be able to last considerably,” Kári stated. “You do not need to be vaccinated more than once or maybe twice, but in any case, it seems to last considerably.”

Read More: Iceland to Buy 550,000 Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine

Reports of Reinfection Not the Norm

Kári stated that rare reports of cases abroad where individuals are believed to have been infected more than once should not cause alarm for the average person. “When 25 million people have been infected with this virus, it must have reached people who are diverse when it comes to the immune system. But that doesn’t mean that ordinary people who have been infected are at high risk of reinfection.”