Is It Really Over?

Reykjavík Nightlife after COVID

LOITERING BENEATH THE AWNING OF AN ASIAN RESTAURANT Raindrops are pattering on Laugavegur, and I’m debating whether or not to invest in a disposable vape pen. I’ve recently gone frigid turkey-bird but have made the concession of vaping during nights out on the town. Despite the exhilaration inherent within this escape clause, I forgo the […]

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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 Relaxes Isolation Regulations, Permitting Outdoor Walks

mask walk outdoor covid

COVID-19 positive individuals who are in isolation in Iceland are permitted to take up to two walks per day, according to new regulations that have been implemented by the country’s health authorities. Individuals who are in special infection precaution (a lighter version of quarantine) are no longer required to undergo testing at the start and end of the precaution period.

Special precaution (smitgát) is an infection prevention measure imposed by authorities when an individual has been possibly exposed to COVID-19 but quarantine is not considered necessary. According to current regulations, people who have received three doses of COVID-19 vaccine, or who have received two doses and have recovered from COVID-19, are not required to quarantine following potential COVID-19 exposure, rather only take special precaution. Individuals in special precaution may leave their place of residence to attend work and school and to run necessary errands. They are, however, asked to skip events and avoid crowds as well people in high-risk groups.

Only 1% have tested positive in special precaution

Of the 16,488 people who were placed in special infection precaution between December 1, 2021 and January 16, 2022, only around 1% tested positive for COVID-19. In light of that data, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist recommended lifting the testing requirements for people in special precaution, and the Health Minister has now implemented this change. The measure is hoped to alleviate strain on Iceland’s COVID-19 testing centres.

The new regulations also permit individuals in COVID isolation to leave their place of isolation for walks within their neighbourhood, health permitting. They must maintain a distance of two metres from others and may not visit crowded areas. Those in isolation can take up to two walks per day, at a maximum length of 30 minutes each. According to a government notice, it is not possible to offer adults isolating in government quarantine facilities daily outdoor exercise, but children isolating in such facilities will be offered outdoor time.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Regulations on Mask Use Amended

mask use social distancing

Icelandic authorities released a notice amending the COVID-19 regulations yesterday. The regulations took force at midnight last Saturday, setting a 200-person gathering limit and one-metre social distancing, among other rules meant to curb the spread of infection. Iceland lifted all domestic restrictions on June 26, but imposed them again last weekend after a rise in cases attributed to the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2.

The notice outlines two changes to the regulations. Firstly, the gathering limit of 200 will apply to children born in 2016 or earlier. The second change entails removing a clause about ventilation, which “proved somewhat unclear and therefore difficult to carry out.” The clause stated that masks were required in businesses and services where one-metre distancing couldn’t be carried out or there was inadequate ventilation. According to the amendment, business operators must decide whether it is possible to maintain one-metre distancing on their premises, and if not, masks must be worn.

More information about Iceland’s current domestic restrictions can be found here.

Icelandic authorities will hold a COVID-19 information briefing at 11:00 AM today, which Iceland Review will live-tweet in English on our Twitter page.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Relaxed Social Restrictions Take Effect Today

Laugardalslaug Pool Reykjavík.

Iceland’s national gathering limit rose from 20 to 50 today, while regulations governing gym, pool, and business operations were also relaxed. Iceland’s government announced the changes last Friday after its busiest vaccination week, where 40,000 received a jab of COVID-19 vaccine. The restrictions will remain in effect until May 26.

As of today, swimming pools, gyms, camping sites, and ski slopes in Iceland may operate at 75% capacity, a rise from the previous 50%. Regulations were also relaxed for shops, which can now admit up to 200 customers (space allowing) and performing arts and athletic events, which host up to 150 seated guests per section, registered by name and ID number (kennitala).

Opening times were extended by one hour for restaurants and bars, which can now remain open until 10.00pm. All guests must leave the premises by 11.00pm. Two-metre distancing remains in effect, as does mandatory mask use in shops, on public transportation, and in all situations where distancing cannot be ensured.

Regulations Unchanged in Skagafjörður

The relaxations do not extend to the regions of Skagafjörður or Akrahreppur in North Iceland due to a group infection that emerged there last Friday. Seven have tested positive for COVID-19 in the municipalities, where primary schools and preschools have been closed and sports and recreational activities have been suspended.

Iceland currently has 100 active cases of COVID-19. Vaccination is progressing according to schedule: 37.6% of the population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 14.6% are fully vaccinated. Icelandic authorities have introduced a plan to lift all social restrictions by late June of this year, when a majority of the nation is expected to have received at least one dose of vaccine.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Swimming Pools and Bars Reopen

sundhöll

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.

Justice Minister “Not Out of Line” in Requesting Information from Police Commissioner

Áslaug Arna

Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir did not overstep her bounds by telephoning the Capital Area Police Commissioner after police issued a notice to media that concerned a government minister. This is the opinion of Pirate Party MP Andrés Ingi Jónsson, who requested the Justice Minister come before the Constitutional and Supervisory Committee to discuss the case. Áslaug was questioned by the committee this morning and the Capital Area Police Commissioner will also appear before it tomorrow. Áslaug phoned the Commissioner after a police notice to media stated that a minister had been among guests at an event that breached COVID-19 regulations.

On the night of December 23, police broke up a gathering of 40-50 people in downtown Reykjavík where several COVID-19 regulations were being broken. Not only was the national gathering limit 10 at the time, but the event’s guests were breaking two-metre distancing and mask use regulations as well as consuming alcohol after the mandated closing time. A media release from police stated that an “honourable minister” had been present at the gathering but omitted the minister’s identity. It later came to light the minister in question was Bjarni.

Read More: Criticism of Finance Minister After He Breaks COVID-19 Regulations

Last month, media reported that Áslaug called the Police Commissioner twice on the day after the incident. According to Áslaug, she called the Commissioner due to questions from media which concerned the police’s working procedure for releasing information. Áslaug stated that she knew the MP in question was her fellow Independence Party member Bjarni Benediktsson before she made the calls.

Formal Request Would Have Been More Appropriate

“Such communication can be on the boundary of the Minister’s supervisory role and then unreasonable interference in a case that is under investigation by the police. We just wanted to make sure that everything was on the right side of the line,” Andrés Ingi told reporters. When asked whether the calls were in fact on the right side of the line, he answered: “There is no indication otherwise, at least, but we need to review it in more detail.” After Áslaug’s testimony, the committee decided to interview the National Police Commissioner tomorrow to hear her side of the story.

While the phone calls may not have crossed beyond Áslaug’s role, Andrés Ingi did state that it “would have probably been more appropriate to skip these phone calls and submit this request for information in a formal fashion between officials.”