COVID-19 in Iceland: Group Infection Linked to H&M

H&M miðborg downtown Reykjavík

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist encouraged customers who had visited H&M’s downtown Reykjavík location in recent days to proceed carefully and monitor their symptoms in a briefing this morning. A group outbreak has emerged involving at least two employees at the clothing store, but as the shop followed infection prevention regulations well, it is unlikely any customers were infected. The store’s customers do not have to go into quarantine as a result of the outbreak.

Over 20% of Iceland’s population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while over 42% have received at least one dose. Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason underlined that while these numbers are good, they are not enough to prevent large group outbreaks. Þórólfur stated the outbreak was a reminder that the nation must proceed slowly when it comes to relaxing restrictions. The current restrictions, which cap gatherings and 50 people and mandate 2-metre social distancing, expire on May 27.

Pressure on Border Control

The number of cases at Iceland’s borders has been decreasing in recent weeks, which Þórólfur attributes to the government’s current border measures. The rising number of tourists does present a challenge for officials, who must review vaccination and antibody certificates as well as conduct testing of all arriving travellers. The Ministry of Health has asked biopharmaceutical company deCODE genetics to help process PCR tests through June, which will relieve pressure on the National University Hospital, according to Þórólfur.

Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson encouraged the public to tread carefully in the next 4-6 weeks, which he referred to as the “final sprint” in the COVID-19 pandemic. Authorities stressed the importance of ongoing individual infection prevention as well as groups such as athletic organisations doing their part to prevent infection spread. Icelandic athletes heading to the Olympics will be vaccinated with a special delivery of doses from vaccine manufacturer Pfizer.

The following is a lightly-edited transcription of Iceland Review’s live-tweeting of the briefing.

 

On the panel: Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason and Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson.

Yesterday’s COVID-19 numbers have been updated on covid.is:
Domestic cases: 4 (3 in quarantine)
Border cases: 2
Total active cases: 50 (3 in hospital)
Vaccinated (at least one dose): 156,058 (42.2% of pop)
Fully vaccinated: 76,259 (20.6% of pop)

The briefing has begun. Víðir starts by mentioning quarantine monitoring, a recently-started initiative. He says it has largely been successful partly thanks to a diverse staff with varied language skills.

Þórólfur goes over the numbers, stating that yesterday’s four infections were mostly among people who had very recently gone into quarantine. All cases diagnosed yesterday were connected to a workplace group infection. Widespread testing around the people who tested positive today and yesterday has begun and Þórólfur exects more cases to surface. “It’s clear the virus is still out there and we must continue to expect small group infections to occur,” Þórólfur says.

Infections at the border continue to decline, Þórólfur believes that is due to the government’s border measures. The new domestic cases are of the British variant. While the Indian variant has been detected at the border, authorities have not detected any domestic spread of that variant. Þórolfur mentions that an increase in tourism is expected over the coming weeks, leading to increased pressure on border testing staff.

Þórólfur believes that by mid-June, vaccinations will be widespread enough for further relaxations of border measures if nothing unexpected comes up. In June, we will have data and experience from current restrictions allowing us to make informed decisions on changes to border regulations. The Ministry of Health has asked deCODE genetics to help process PCR tests throughout June which will lighten the load for the National Hospital. Þórólfur thanks the company for their help. (deCODE will be helping with processing border tests.)

Þórólfur mentions research into serious side effects of vaccinations in Iceland, which will be performed by independent parties. The Icelandic Medicines Agency has received around 20 reports of deaths and 20 reports of blood clot issues in Iceland following COVID-19 vaccination. Most are among elderly people with underlying illnesses and therefore unclear whether there is a link to the vaccination. There has been no general increase in blood clots within the population since vaccination began in Iceland. That’s a good thing, says Þórólfur, though the reports will be investigated further.

We can realistically be hopeful for brighter times ahead by mid-June, says Þórólfur. We should be in a good situation by then and be able to relax restrictions. While vaccination is progressing well, we’re seeing younger people test positive and be hospitalised, so widespread group infections could still have serious effects.

The panel takes questions. Þórólfur is asked about relaxing restrictions, including mask use. He replies that loosening mask requirements is one of the relaxations we can start to implement soon. While requirements will be lifted, Þórólfur believes that there will still be a group of people who want to wear masks. Authorities will continue to lift restrictions despite low numbers of new cases. What’s most important now is individual infection prevention/individual behaviour, says Þórólfur.

There are no indications at the moment that vaccines are ineffective against certain variants. If that becomes the case, it will be necessary to impose restrictions once more. That could prove difficult as people start to travel again.

Þórólfur is asked about the latest group infection. He states that he expects more cases to surface but infection prevention in the workplace (a downtown clothing shop) was adequate and he hopes that will prevent further infections. H&M customers will not need to quarantine but are encouraged to monitor their health and get tested if they have even the mildest of symptoms.

Group infections in small communities such as those that have come up in Þorlákshöfn and Skagafjörður can be contained relatively easily, it’s harder to contain them in the city, Víðir says. There’s always a risk of contact tracing and curbing the virus spread taking longer in Reykjavík than in less populated communities. Víðir is asked about infection prevention in sporting events, stating that he’s unhappy after seeing images of improper mask use and lack of infection preventions at sporting events. As sporting events start up once more, sports clubs will have to rise to the challenge of ensuring proper infection preventions. They need to do better. Þórólfur agrees, adding that the sports industry put great pressure on authorities to lift restrictions on athletic events and now they have to show that they can do so safely.

Þórólfur is asked about priority vaccinations granted to Iceland’s Eurovision Song Contest delegation. He stated that the government was sending a group of people on Iceland’s behalf to a high-risk area where groups from across Europe gather and spend a long period together. Their assessment was that it was risky for the delegation, and the assessment proved correct as two members of the delegation have contracted the disease. It would have been better to vaccinate them sooner as the vaccine had not yet reached full efficacy to prevent infection but hopefully it would help these two individuals stave off serious illness.

As for other groups in similar situations, such as athletes set to compete abroad, Pfizer doses are being imported to Iceland specifically for athletes headed to the Olympics. These doses are an addition to the vaccine allocated to Iceland through contractual agreements. Þórólfur believes he was right in granting the Eurovision delegation vaccinations before their trip but of course, people can and will have differing opinions.

Þórólfur is asked about women under the age of 55 who have already received a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine before its use was restricted to outside their age group. They have the option to accept the second dose of AstraZeneca or receive a dose of another vaccine instead. Þórólfur will not give out specific advice for these women but notes that people with underlying conditions shouldn’t get their second shot of AstraZeneca. If everything went well the first time, it’s highly likely that the second shot poses no threat. If not, they should choose another vaccine. It’s OK to get two doses of different vaccines but there’s an increased possibility of mild side effects such as muscle aches & fever.

Víðir closes the briefing, calling the next 4-6 weeks the “final sprint.” Let’s stick it out, he says. Go get tested if you’re experiencing even the most minor symptoms.
Let’s watch out for each other and have a good day.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Widespread Testing to Determine Scope of Virus Spread

Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, Director of Health Alma Möller

Iceland’s health authorities will conduct both targeted and randomized SARS-CoV-2 testing in the coming days to help establish how far the virus has spread in the community. The results of the testing will determine whether harsher restrictions are necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19. Iceland reported a spike in cases over the weekend linked to two group infections, which can be traced to individuals breaking traveller quarantine.

Iceland reported 27 new domestic cases of COVID-19 yesterday, most connected to a group outbreak at a Reykjavík preschool. Authorities stressed the importance of getting tested immediately when experiencing even the mildest symptoms that could point to COVID-19 and staying home until a negative result is received. Symptoms of COVID-19 can be very mild and can include fever, fatigue, cough, muscle aches, breathing difficulties, vomiting, diarrhoea, and sudden changes to sense of taste or smell.

The following is a lightly-edited transcription of Iceland Review’s live-tweeting of today’s COVID-19 briefing.

 

Stay tuned for a live-tweeting of Icelandic authorities’ COVID-19 information briefing, beginning shortly at 11.03am. On the panel: Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, Director of Health Alma Möller, and Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson.

Numbers have been updated on covid.is. Iceland reported 27 new domestic cases yesterday (just 2 out of quarantine) and 2 at the border. Total active cases: 97; 3 in hospital. 29,686 have been fully vaccinated, 8% of the population. Most of yesterday’s cases are connected to a group outbreak at Jörfi preschool in Reykjavík, according to a representative of the Civil Protection Department.

The briefing has begun. Víðir says authorities are tracing the group outbreaks that are ongoing. He encourages the public to not judge everyone based on the actions of a few, although those actions have had consequences.

Þórólfur goes over the numbers. Several people tested positive over the weekend in two group infections, one linked to a preschool in Reykjavík. Both group infections can be traced back to people breaking quarantine and going to work while experiencing flu-like symptoms. Many people were tested yesterday and even more will be tested today but the situation shows that just one infection can set off a wave of new infections if people aren’t vigilant.

Þórólfur: These group outbreaks show the importance of going to get tested when experiencing even the slightest symptoms. Go and get tested if experiencing even the mildest symptoms and stay at home until you receive your results. Both group infections involve the British variant of the virus. At the moment, it’s not clear if we need to tighten restrictions but Þórolfur reminds the public that the infections we’re discovering now occurred before changes were made to border restrictions.

Authorities are conducting broad testing to determine the spread of the virus including randomised testing to see if the virus has spread further into the community. The results of these tests will help determine if tighter restrictions are needed.

Vaccinations continue this week: 10,000-15,000 are scheduled to receive a dose this week. The AstraZeneca vaccine will continue to be used for people over the age of 60.

Þórólfur urges the public to keep up their personal infection prevention practices and get tested as soon as they experience even the slightest symptoms. Alma takes over, calling the development of cases over the weekend “a disappointment. We can’t let this get us down, instead let’s focus on what we need to do and what we need to do better.”

She repeats Þórólfur’s statement about people needing to get tested when experiencing even the slightest symptoms and goes over the list of possible symptoms of COVID-19. Symptoms can include fever, cough, muscle aches, breathing difficulties, vomiting, diarrhoea, and sudden changes to sense of taste or smell. Some people can experience very mild symptoms. Alma reminds people to stay at home after the test until they receive their result. The easiest way to book tests is online at heilsuvera.is but you can also contact your local healthcare clinic or call 1700.

We’re still learning about this British variant, says Alma, and healthcare authorities have a feeling, albeit unconfirmed, that the British variant isn’t detectable as early as the other variants we’ve seen here. This hypothesis is based on the data that shows more people are now testing positive in the second border test than the first one.

Companies should be ready to support people who need to stay out of the workplace due to symptoms. While the majority of people testing positive yesterday were in quarantine, most of them hadn’t been quarantined for long so there’s a possibility that they infected others before going into quarantine.

The panel takes questions. Þórólfur is asked about the need for requiring travellers to quarantine in government-run hotels. Þórólfur states that the quarantine regulation infractions occurred before the increased surveillance of home quarantines began. Þórólfur still believes, however, that requiring people to quarantine in quarantine hotels would have minimised the risk of people breaking quarantine. Capital Area Police are looking into the case of the person who broke quarantine, Víðir does not have information on if they will be charged.

Police are not yet making home visits to people in quarantine but they’re making more calls and there’s a “low threshold” for police reaction if there’s the slightest indication that people are breaking quarantine. There are ongoing legal procedures to verify the legality of home visits to enforce quarantines and the police want to be extra sure there is a legal basis for making home visits.

Teachers will be vaccinated around the start of next month and preschool teachers will likely take precedence as preschools are strategically important for keeping society running. Authorities reacted as soon as they learned of the quarantine breaker but the disease doesn’t reveal itself until a week or two has passed since the infection, making it hard to suppress. At this point, we don’t know how the future with the virus looks. We might have to vaccinate annually but we don’t know at this point.

Asked if the quarantine period between border tests is too short, Þórólfur states that the cases of people testing positive after two negative border tests are so rare that it’s not necessary to start thinking about changing border procedure (for ex. requiring longer quarantine). 70% of those who test positive upon arrival from abroad have presented a negative PCR test certificate before departure.

Víðir ends the meeting by stressing the importance of getting tested if you’re feeling even slightly different from normal. When experiencing the slightest symptoms, such as an upset stomach, dry throat, unusual fatigue, or headache: get tested. Víðir: “Let’s not relax now.” The briefing has ended.

 

Iceland Review will live-tweet authorities’ next COVID-19 briefing here.

Customers of “The Icelandic Bar” from April 9 Invited for COVID-19 Testing

Íslenski barinn the Icelandic Bar

All customers of the Icelandic Bar on Ingólfsstræti in Reykjavík on April 9 have been invited to undergo a COVID-19 test. A COVID-positive individual went to the bar on that day. Bar guests do not have to go into quarantine but are asked to keep to themselves until they receive their test results.

Over 20 people tested positive yesterday, a spike compared to case numbers in recent days. Most of the cases are linked to a group outbreak at a Reykjavík preschool. It has yet to be confirmed how many of the cases were in quarantine at the time of diagnosis.

Icelandic health authorities will hold a COVID-19 briefing at 11.03am UTC today, which Iceland Review will live-tweet here.

COVID-19 in Iceland: 21 New Domestic Cases Over the Weekend

COVID-19 test tubes

Iceland reported 21 new domestic COVID-19 cases over the weekend. Among those infected are 10 crew members of a cargo ship that has docked in Reyðarfjörður, East Iceland. Five to six of the remaining cases were not in quarantine at the time of diagnosis. Már Kristjánsson, Head of the Infectious Diseases Ward at the National University Hospital, told RÚV it was too early to say whether a fourth wave of infection had begun in the country but the cases were “a matter of grave concern.”

Már stated that the viral samples from the infected individuals had yet to be sequenced so it was not known what variant of the virus was responsible for the cases. Whether the cases mark the beginning of a new wave of infection “depends a bit on the progression today and tomorrow. A great lot of people are going into quarantine and testing. It will become clear in the next day or two.”

One of those infected is a teacher at Laugarnesskóli in Reykjavík. Four of the school’s staff members and around 80 students have been sent to testing and are in quarantine until results are available. Members of the football teams Stjarnan and Fylkir are also in quarantine in connection with one of the cases.

Health authorities will hold an information briefing about the outbreak today at 11.00am UTC. Iceland Review will live-tweet the briefing at this link.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Domestic Outbreak Not Yet Contained, Authorities Say

Víðir and Þórólfur COVID-19

Iceland reported zero new domestic cases of COVID-19 yesterday, despite extensive testing in connection with a small local outbreak that has emerged in recent days. Four domestic cases of the highly-contagious British variant have been confirmed in Iceland in the past week, all outside of quarantine. The variant has thus far not spread extensively in Iceland. Health authorities are continuing a campaign of extensive testing and tracing with the aim of preventing a new wave of community infection.

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated that although yesterday’s testing did not reveal any new domestic cases, the outbreak has still not been fully contained. “It can take a few days for an infection to be detectable by testing and then also a slightly longer time to get symptoms. This week might have to pass concerning [the emergence of] symptoms.” Concertgoers that were exposed to one of the four cases last Friday will be tested a second time tomorrow. “The samples taken in the latter half of this week should tell us if we’ve gotten out of this or not,” Þórólfur told Vísir. A total of 193 are currently in quarantine and that number may continue to rise as contact tracing efforts continue.

All Cases Traced to a Traveller

The four cases have all been traced to an individual who returned to Iceland from abroad on February 26. While they tested negative before departure and upon arrival to Iceland, they tested positive in a follow-up test after the mandatory five-day quarantine. The traveller appears to have infected a neighbour without direct contact through use of a common stairwell in their residential building.

Before the four cases were diagnosed, Iceland had not reported a single case of COVID-19 out of quarantine for over a month. Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir stated the outbreak was a reminder of how little it takes for the virus to spread into the community.

Not Much Room for Relaxing Restrictions

Current domestic restrictions, including a gathering limit of 50, are valid until March 17. Domestic regulations have been relaxed several times since the start of the year as case numbers have remained low. Þórólfur stated it was too early to discuss his recommendations for the next stage of domestic regulations but added he doesn’t see much room for relaxing restrictions as long as the outbreak has not been contained.

 

Iceland Review will live-tweet authorities’ regular COVID-19 information briefing tomorrow, Thursday, March 11, at 11.03am UTC.

Captain’s Licence Revoked Following COVID-19 Outbreak at Sea

Júlíus Geirmundsson

Sveinn Geir Arnarsson, captain of freezer trawler Júlíus Geirmundsson, pleaded guilty when the Westfjords Police Chief’s case against him was heard in the Westfjords District Court last week, Vísir reported. Sveinn has been ordered to pay a fine of ISK 750,000 ($5,800/€4,800) and his captain’s licence has been suspended for a period of four months.

Twenty-two of the vessel’s 25 crew members contracted COVID-19 while at sea last October. The ship did not return to harbour for three weeks despite the outbreak on board. The crew later called for the captain’s resignation. Three months since the incident, some of the ship’s crew are still unable to work due to COVID-19 complications.

Sveinn was charged with violating the second paragraph of Article 34 of the Fishermen’s Act, which states: “If there is reason to believe that the crew member is suffering from a disease that poses a danger to other people on the ship, the captain shall have the patient transported ashore if it is not possible to protect against the risk of infection on the ship.”

Five labour unions also pressed charges against the captain following the incident.

COVID-Infected Crew Demands Captain’s Resignation

Júlíus Geirmundsson

The crew of the trawler Júlíus Geirmundsson has sent a letter to the ship’s management demanding its captain’s resignation, RÚV reports. The captain and management have been criticised for their handling of a COVID-19 outbreak on the ship, which infected twenty-three of 25 crew members. The captain will undergo a maritime inquiry next week and also faces charges from five labour unions related to the incident.

Júlíus Geirmundsson stayed at sea for three weeks despite an outbreak of COVID-19 on board. Crew members have stated there was not enough medication on board to treat ill crew members, and some were forced to continue working while sick.

Declaration of No Confidence

The letter demanding the captain’s resignation is written and signed by a majority of the ship’s alternate crew, which was not on board at the time the outbreak occurred. The crew behind the letter is the one that most often works under the captain.

The letter is described as a declaration of no confidence in the captain and demands his resignation. It states that his behaviour and decisions have created an undercurrent that has now come to light. The management of Hraðfrystihúsið Gunnvör, which operates the ship, declined to comment on the letter when approached by RÚV reporters.

Read More: “No one knew about this COVID thing”

Incident Being Investigated

An investigation into the incident by the Westfjords Police Department is now in its final stages. Last Friday, the Reykjanes District Court ruled in support of a maritime inquiry into the incident. Court proceedings will begin on Monday in the Westfjords District Court with witness testimony. The captain and the company that operates the trawler both face charges from five labour unions related to the incident.

Five Unions Press Charges Against Fishing Company following COVID Outbreak On Board

Júlíus Geirmundsson

Five unions are joining forces to press charged against a captain and fishing company for keeping a crew of 25 at sea for three weeks despite a COVID-19 outbreak on board, RÚV reports. Twenty-three of the 25 crew members became infected by the novel coronavirus in the outbreak, many developing serious symptoms. The ship stayed out at sea for several weeks contrary to guidelines from authorities and many ill crew members kept working.

The five unions are pressing charges against the captain of the freezer trawler Júlíus Geirmundsson, on which the incident occurred, as well as against the fishing company that runs the ship, Hraðfrystihúsið Gunnvör. The unions are also asking the Westfjords District Court to order a so-called “maritime inquiry” (sjópróf), a type of formal investigation conducted on incidents at sea. The purpose of such an inquiry is to determine the causes of the event in question and whether the shipowner, captain, or crew were criminally liable.

Read More: Fishing Company Under Fire for Keeping COVID-19 Infected Crew at Sea

“This is really a request for a police investigation of the case to the Westfjords Chief of Police and a request to the District Court to conduct a maritime inquiry on the case to find out what really happened on board and why and if necessary who is responsible,” stated Valmundur Valmundsson, chairman of one of the unions.

Karl Ingi Vilbergsson, Chief of Westfjords Police, stated yesterday that his aim was to finish interviewing all general crew members that day. The investigation’s next steps would be decided after that. He told reporters: “This is a grave matter and I don’t think we can live with it any other way than by getting to the bottom of it.”

The five unions are Verkalýðsfélag Vestfirðinga, Sjómannafélag Íslands, Félag skippersmanna, Félag vélstjóra og máltæknimanna, and Sjómannasamband Íslands.

The CEO of Hraðfyrstihúsið Gunnvör has responded to the incident, with a statement and interview that have been called contradictory.

“No one knew about this COVID thing,” says CEO of Company that Kept Sick Fishermen at Sea

Júlíus Geirmundsson

The CEO of a seafood company that kept COVID-infected fishermen at sea for three weeks has responded to public criticism with a statement and interview that leaves more questions than answers. Twenty-two of 25 crew members on one of the company’s ships contracted COVID-19 shortly after setting out to sea. The company has been under fire for not bringing the ship to harbour even after the crew began to exhibit symptoms and contrary to advice from doctors.

One crew member that was on the ship described the conditions in an interview with press. After the crew was informed about the first illness on board, he stated, a few sick crew members were isolated in cabins. Others were asked to continue working, even with severe symptoms. When the ship finally returned to harbour three weeks later, it was not for the purpose of testing crew members, rather principally due to bad weather.

Read More: Fishing Company Under Fire for Keeping COVID-Infected Crew at Sea

Hraðfrystihúsið Gunnvör released a statement yesterday regarding the COVID outbreak on their ship Júlíus Geirmundsson. The statement, sent to Icelandic media outlets in Word document format, had many puzzling aspects to it: though it was sent out in the name of the company’s CEO Einar Valur Kristjánsson, Microsoft Word metadata cited the author as Fisheries Iceland Director Heiðrún Lind Marteinsdóttir.

Einar Valur’s statements in an interview with Vísir also seemed contradictory. Though he admitted the company “underestimated the conditions on board,” he also stated that “This is new. No one knew about this COVID thing. We didn’t know what it was. And this is, just as I say, the first COVID that comes into our company.” When the reporter pointed out that the incident occurred recently, many months after the SARS-CoV-2 virus arrived in Iceland, Einar’s response was that he had “listened to many episodes with the Chief Epidemiologist and this is of course unprecedented. We didn’t know [COVID] before and we are struggling with it. We are not looking for any culprits, rather apologising for not reacting differently.”

Einar was also questioned about the ship captain, who reportedly isolated crew members together in cabins for up to three days. He responded that it was “not possible to explain that. It would have been correct to return to harbour but this is just what happened.” Einar stated that the company was reviewing its regulations and what went wrong in the decision-making process. He denied that crew members were forbidden from contacting the press, saying there were internet and phone service onboard the ship.

Fishing Company under Fire for Keeping COVID-19-Infected Crew at Sea for Three Weeks

Júlíus Geirmundsson

Test results show that 22 out of 25 shipmates on freezer trawler Júlíus Geirmundsson contracted COVID-19 while out at sea. The ship’s management is currently under fire for not calling the ship to harbour when crew members started showing symptoms, despite repeated requests from doctors. The Federation of Icelandic Seamen’s Unions has issued a statement condemning the ship’s owners’ failure to follow guidelines for discovering the disease at sea.

Despite crew members developing flu-like symptoms one by one, Júlíus Geirmundsson didn’t return to harbour until it needed to refuel last Sunday, after three weeks at sea. During refuelling, the crew was tested for COVID-19 but left again for the fishing grounds before the results were in. They returned as soon as it was discovered that the majority of the crew had contracted COVID-19. While some have recovered and tested positively for COVID-19 antibodies, others are still in isolation and the three who did not contract COVID-19 have to go into quarantine.

A statement on the Gunnvör Freezing Plant’s website yesterday read: “The company would like to state that soon after flu-like symptoms were discovered among the crew, the Westfjord Healthcare Institute was contacted. It was concluded that there was no reason to call the ship to harbour at that time. After fishing for three weeks, it became clear (following crew testing) that there were COVID-19 infections aboard and the ship was immediately returned to harbour. In light of the knowledge we now have, the ship should have been called to harbour, and the whole crew tested sooner.”

The declaration didn’t appease critics, as some interpret it to suggest the tour got a green light from doctors to continue fishing. Hákon Blöndal, the ship’s first engineer, called out the fishing company’s explanation on Facebook, employing salty language to call the declaration an attempt to bury their misconduct and spread misinformation. “This isn’t the whole story, and people have to grow a pair and admit their mistakes,” says Hákon.“If a suspected COVID-19 infection comes up, the captain should contact the Coast Guard so they can decide the next steps. In this case, correct work processes weren’t followed; the crew didn’t get the benefit of the doubt and was put at great risk!” When Vísir contacted Sveinn Geir Arnarsson, captain of Júlíus Geirmundsson, he declined to comment.

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason was asked about the incident during yesterday’s information briefing. He wasn’t up to date with the exact details of the matter but stated that when an illness comes up at sea, the right reaction is to return to harbour and be tested. If that had been done immediately, perhaps some infections could have been avoided.

Súsanna Björg Ástvaldsdóttir is a doctor with the Westfjords Healthcare Institute and the regional epidemiologist. She told Mannlíf that her instructions always have been and always will be to go in and get tested, no matter where you are in the world. “I can confirm that that’s the communication that occurred between the fishing company and me, early on in the tour. My instructions are very simple.”

The Federation of Icelandic Seamen’s Unions issued a statement saying that considering the regional epidemiologist’s account of how her repeated requests that the boat return to harbour were ignored, the fishing company’s response shows disdain for their crew. “The company seems to have only been thinking of its financial gain, with no regard for the health and welfare of their grew. The Icelandic Seamen’s Federation condemns the disdain the company showed the ship’s crew by continuing fishing despite the sickness onboard.” They state in no uncertain terms that they consider the fishing company to have gone against best practices during pandemic times, ending their statement so: “The Federation of Icelandic Seamen’s Unions demands that Icelandic fishing companies follow guidelines on response to infections onboard to the letter and that they don’t put the lives and wellbeing of their crew at unnecessary risk during these dangerous times.”