‘Mom Training’ Workout Groups in High Demand

A new exercise regimen and community is in high demand among new mothers in Reykjavík. Vísir reports that there has been a spike in the popularity of so-called mömmuþjálfun, or ‘Mom Training’ classes, in which new moms work out with each other and bring their kids along, too. Mom Training sessions focus on areas of the body that were directly impacted by childbirth and give new mothers a rejuvenating activity outside the house during their maternity leave.

Mom Training is the most popular offering at Afrek Functional Fitness, with three classes already sold out and a standing waitlist.

Screenshot, Stöð 2

“We just started with one class in January, but since then, in order to meet demand, we added classes in February and again in March,” said Hildur Karen Jóhannsdóttir, a trainer at Afrek who is also herself a new mother.

“It’s insanely fun,” said Andrea Björk Harðardóttir, a mom who takes part in the classes. “The exercises are varied and there’s something for everyone. Her fellow classmate Jónína Einarsdóttir agreed: “It’s necessary and so much fun. You get so much out of it.”

Screenshot, Stöð 2

Moms are able to ride exercise bikes, do step exercises, lift weights and more—and all while their babies watch from nearby carriers or loll about on the mats around them. A small playpen is also set up in one corner of the gym.

‘One of my goals is that they walk out sweaty’

Hildur Karen credits a recent boom in births with the course’s popularity, but not entirely. “I think women are looking for something more. One of my goals is that when they come in here, they walk out sweaty and having had a bit of an outlet.”

The participants enjoy opportunity to get out of the house during their maternity leave and to “get back into the shape you were in,” says Andrea Björk.

The fact that new moms can bring their children with them while they exercise is also key.

“I couldn’t come work out if I couldn’t bring her with me,” said Jónína, bouncing her new baby. “And she thinks it’s fun, too.”

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: Domestic Regulations Relaxed on April 15

mask use social distancing

Iceland will raise its national gathering limit from 10 to 20 people on Thursday and reopen gyms, bars, and swimming pools. The relaxed domestic restrictions, recommended by the country’s Chief Epidemiologist and approved by Iceland’s cabinet this morning, will remain in effect for three weeks.

The main changes that will take effect on April 15 are as follows:

  • Gyms and pools will reopen 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.
  • Performing arts activities, including choirs, 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 93 active cases of COVID-19 and one of the lowest infection rates in Europe. Only one patient is currently in hospital due to COVID-19. A total of 28,056 have been fully vaccinated (7.6% of the population) and an additional 33,078 have received their first dose (8.97%).

The updated regulations are in line with the Chief Epidemiologist’s recommendations, Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir stated in an interview today. No changes will be made to border regulations at this time.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Gyms Higher Risk Than Swimming Pools, Says Chief Epidemiologist

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In a briefing in Reykjavík this morning, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist addressed criticism of the new social restrictions that took effect today. The restrictions allow swimming pools to open and operate at 50% capacity, but mandate gyms to remain closed. Gym owners have expressed consternation at the decision, with some even considering taking legal action against authorities. Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated that the number of infections in Iceland that have been traced to gyms is sevenfold the number that have been traced to swimming pools.

Authorities also reviewed guidelines for holiday gatherings in the briefing, encouraging locals to limit their socialising to a closed, 1o-person bubble over Christmas and New Year’s.

 

Below is a lightly edited transcript of Iceland Review’s live-tweeting of the briefing.

On the panel: Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, Director of Health Alma Möller, and Assistant to the Director of Civil Protection Rögnvaldur Ólafsson.

Yesterday’s numbers have been updated on covid.is. Iceland reported 4 new domestic cases, and 2 at the border. Total active cases have dropped to 183. 32 are in hospital and 3 in intensive care.

The briefing has begun. Rögnvaldur begins by saying that this year has been different for all of us and that we must accept that Christmas and New Year’s will be different as well. Updated regulations that took effect today will be in effect until next year, Rögnvaldur reminds the public. He encourages everyone to stick to their “Christmas baubles” and meet only a small, closed group over the holidays (of 10 people). That number of 10 for Christmas baubles does not include people who have recovered from COVID or children born 2005 or later.

Þórólfur takes over to review the numbers. They have been positive in the past few days: yesterday there were four new cases, three of which were in quarantine. There were fewer tests taken yesterday than usual. Þórólfur encourages those with any symptoms to go get tested. Despite the lower number of tests yesterday, the percentage of positive tests was still low, one tenth of what it was at its highest during this wave. Just two of those currently in hospital due to COVID-19 have an active case of the disease. All three in ICU are on ventilators.

We can say that the pandemic has been subsiding here and I’m happy to see how few are diagnosed out of quarantine, says Þórólfur. However, we know how little it takes for things to take a bad turn so we need to continue to be careful, says the Chief Epidemiologist.

Þórólfur discusses the new restrictions and addresses criticism that swimming pools were reopened but not gyms. Þórólfur notes that according to authorities’ data, the number of cases traced to gyms is sevenfold the number of those traced to swimming pools. Gyms are classified as high-risk for infection spread according to institutions around the world, says Þórólfur, whereas swimming pools are generally not. Furthermore, the chlorine in swimming pools kills the virus.

Concerning adult athletic training and why only professional sports are permitted under the new regulations, Þórólfur answers that this was a response to requests from sports organisations. Only top leagues are permitted to resume practicing and they are being cautious and easing restrictions slowly. If everyone were allowed to practice sports again immediately, that would not be a slow easing of restrictions, says Þórólfur. He reminds the public that harsh restrictions have shown results, and while the countries around us are having to tighten restrictions, we’re in a place where we can relax them.

Director of Health Alma Möller takes over. She goes over healthcare data and statistics recorded throughout the pandemic. Prescriptions of antibiotics have gone down 25% during the pandemic in Iceland. Infection prevention regulations are decreasing other infection spread than just the novel coronavirus.

The Directorate of Health monitors the public’s mental health and women are doing slightly worse than men and younger people are doing worse than older people. Emotional and mental well-being measured higher in September than during the summer. It took a dip again in October and November. The number of people who say their mental health is good has decreased: 31% in September, 27% in October and 23% in November. However, those who say their mental health is poor have also decreased in number: 6% in September, 3% in October and November. More anti-depressants have been prescribed in this wave of the pandemic than the first. We are a resilient community, we might bend but we won’t break, says Alma. I urge everyone to seek the healthcare they need, physical or mental. Covid.is has information for people who are experiencing anxiety and loneliness, Alma reminds the public.

The panel opens for questions. Þórólfur is asked about two differing figures he stated regarding the number of COVID-19 infections traced to gyms. Þórólfur says one included a group infection in a boxing facility in Kópavogur and the other did not.

Will you ease or tighten restrictions before January 12 if the situation changes? Þórólfur has no plans of altering the regulations at the moment but he’ll continue to monitor the numbers. There is a clause in the current regulation permitting changes before January 12 if necessary.

Asked about the decision to allow professional athletes to resume training but not reopen gyms, Þórólfur says the distinction between professional athletic training and gyms open to the public is that in profession training, there are limited groups that practice but gyms are open to everyone, increasing the likelihood of spreading the virus wider.

When asked about allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine, Þórólfur says authorities will look into the research and the pharmaceutical company’s directions. Allergic reactions are a known risk of vaccines but severe cases are rare. If they are around 1% that’s serious and could exclude many from getting the vaccine. This will have to be investigated further.

Asked about the timeline for vaccination in Iceland, the Chief Epidemiologist says it depends on how quickly we’ll get the vaccine doses and how many of them we receive to begin with. If we get all the doses we have ordered at once, we could vaccinate very quickly. But if we get them over several months it would take longer. What we do in the meantime (until the majority of the population is vaccinated) will remain to be seen. It depends on how the pandemic develops domestically, says Þórólfur. Current border regulations are in effect until Feb 1 and I can’t say at this moment what I will recommend, there are several different factors that will come into play, says the Chief Epidemiologist. The faster we can vaccinate domestically, the more we can relax, says Þórólfur.

When asked about the possibility of Christmas church services, Þórólfur states that the Health Minister has received requests for in-person services but reminds people that we must ease restrictions slowly. Restrictions are affecting everyone: businesses, shops, gyms, and he is not excited at the prospect of easing restrictions particularly for religious services.

Þórólfur says that his recommendations are based on infection prevention. A doctor always tries to cure his patients with as little treatment as possible in order to prevent harsh side effects. The best way to prevent infection would be if no one went out at all, says Þórólfur, but that would never work and everyone can see that.

When asked why the entire country was still red according to the new COVID risk warning system, despite the low number of infections in some regions, Þórólfur stated that there were several factors that decide the colour. The country was still fully red as the current wave of the pandemic is dying down and we need to remain careful to avoid a relapse. When asked if different gathering limits for funerals (50), restaurants (15) and gatherings at home (10), were too convoluted, Þórólfur answers that behaviour in these situations is different and the numbers aren’t random, rather are based on the likelihood of infection. He adds that the reality is indeed complicated and that this has happened every time that restrictions have been eased: there is unrest over who gets to gather and how. Þórólfur asks the public to look at the big picture instead of picking apart the details.

Rögnvaldur closes the briefing by reminding the public that the pandemic isn’t over, even though there are fewer new cases. “Just look at what’s happening in the countries around us. We don’t want to be where they’re at. This is in our hands: let’s use masks, disinfect, and wash our hands. Let’s do this together.”

 

Iceland Review live-tweets authorities’ briefings every Monday and Thursday at 11.03am UTC.

Iceland’s Gym and Restaurant Owners Lament Updated Restrictions

Júlían J. K. Jóhannsson heimsmethafi í kraftlyftingum

Gym, restaurant, and bar owners in Iceland have expressed dissatisfaction with the updated social restrictions that take effect in the country tomorrow, December 10. While restrictions will be somewhat relaxed for restaurants, one owner says it won’t make enough of a difference. Gyms and bars, which have been closed since October, must keep their doors shut until the new year. Vísir reports that several gym owners are considering taking legal action against authorities due to the restrictions.

Gym Owners Consider Legal Action

“I think we gym owners can agree that this is a pretty dark day for us,” stated Jakobína Jónsdóttir, one of the owners of CrossFit gym Grandi 101. She says that although she didn’t have high hopes that the new regulations would allow gyms to reopen from tomorrow, she questioned why swimming pools were allowed to do so. Locker rooms have been considered high risk for spreading infections and swimming pool guests must of course use them, Jakobína pointed out.

Jakobína says around 20 gym owners have been communicating and are meeting with a lawyer today to consider taking legal action against the restrictions imposed on their businesses. “It seems to us that this is not really legal, these closures. So we are going to dive deeper into it.”

Gyms and Bars Behind Current Wave

Last October Iceland’s Civil Protection Department told Vísir that 110 COVID-19 infections had been traced directly to gyms and other athletic activities, but had not separated the cases between the two types of activities. The figure does not include secondary cases or further cases that arose indirectly from gyms and athletic activities.

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has stated that it is perfectly normal for restrictions to be debated within society. He asserted, however, that data points to gyms being one of the main locations for infection spread during this wave. “We have seen both in our tracing data that one of the big places that is the root of this wave that we are dealing with now, there are several places, there are pubs, there is this boxing centre in Kópavogur, and then there are gyms. That’s just how it is,” Þórólfur stated. “There are very few infections traced to swimming pools here,” he added, saying that chlorinated water kills the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the European Centre for Disease Control also classifies swimming pools as much lower risk than gyms when it comes to spreading infection.

Restaurateurs Say December Season “Cancelled”

While restaurants will see slightly relaxed restrictions from tomorrow, most owners agree they are not enough to save the December season, which has effectively been cancelled. Restaurants will be permitted to accept up to 15 guests at a time as of tomorrow, up from the current 10, and to extend their opening hours from the limit of 9.00pm to 10.00pm.

Bragi Skaftason, a restaurateur of Tíu sopar in downtown Reykjavík, says the effects of the change are minimal. “The December season has effectively been cancelled,” he stated. “Fifteen from ten is indeed a jump, but when we look at the big picture it isn’t a big difference.”

COVID-19 in Iceland: Gyms Reopen Amid “Unclear” Guidelines

Júlían J. K. Jóhannsson heimsmethafi í kraftlyftingum

In a briefing yesterday, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason expressed his opposition to the reopening of gyms in Iceland, as they have been the source of several group outbreaks in the current COVID-19 wave. Several gyms are reopening today, however, in line with updated guidelines from the Health Ministry that permit group classes with distancing. Many have criticised the updated COVID-19 regulations, which took effect today, as unclear.

New Regulations Change Little

Tighter COVID-19 regulations took effect in Iceland today, though they present only minor changes from the rules previously in effect. A two-metre distancing rule has been implemented across the country. (Previously one-metre distancing was in effect, except in the Reykjavík area where two-metre distancing was mandated.) Bars and clubs will remain closed as per previous regulations. The rules are in effect until November 10.

Stricter rules are in place for the Reykjavík capital area than the rest of the country until November 3. These include closure of all swimming pools and all businesses that require contact (hair and beauty salons and massage parlours, for example). Restaurants in the Reykjavík area must close by 9.00pm while in the countryside they may remain open until 11.00pm. Masks are required across the country in all situations where two-metre distancing cannot be maintained, such as on public transportation.

Health Minister Modified Chief Epidemiologist’s Suggestions

In a memorandum he sent to the Health Minister last week, Þórólfur suggested that gyms remain closed. The Health Minister, however, who has the final say on regulations, decided to allow gyms to reopen exclusively for group classes. According to a notice from the Health Ministry, the Chief Epidemiologist’s October 15 memorandum suggested the continued closure of gyms but allowed “contactless sports activities be allowed with a maximum of 20 participants, where the two-metre rule is followed, disinfection is carried out, and no audience is present. The Ministry’s conclusion was that it was not possible to ban physical activity in gyms where the same conditions could be met as apply to sports activities.” The decision was therefore made on the basis of ensuring non-discrimination.

While many gyms reopen for group classes today, school boards in the capital area have unanimously decided to cancel all indoor athletics for children as well as swimming lessons for the next two weeks. The decision was made based on guidelines from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.

Stricter COVID Restrictions Take Effect at Midnight

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Stricter social distancing measures and limits on gatherings will take effect tonight, Sunday, October 4, at midnight, RÚV reports. Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir released the full guidelines today, the biggest change being that the maximum number of people who can gather together is 20, with some exceptions.

In general, only twenty people will be allowed to be in a public space at once. Exceptions will be made, however, for secondary schools and colleges, where 25 students will be allowed in a classroom together. Funerals will be allowed to have 50 guests in attendance, and larger stores will be allowed 100 customers at once. Masks are required whenever it isn’t possible to maintain a distance of one metre between people who do not share a household.

Bars, clubs, slot machine parlours, and gyms will be closed. Pools will be allowed to remain open but must operate at half capacity.

Spectators will not be allowed at athletic events, but theatre performances will be allowed to continue in spaces with a maximum of 100 audience members and mandatory mask usage.

Infection numbers ‘are frightening’

“We went over the chief epidemiologist’s memo,” Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir told reporters after a meeting with her ministers on Saturday afternoon. “He proposed very strict rules to combat the spread of the virus. And I think we were all shocked by the infection numbers today—they’re frightening.” At time of writing, 652 people were in isolation and 1,608 in quarantine. Thirteen people have currently been hospitalized and three are in intensive care. On Friday alone, 61 new COVID-19 cases were diagnosed and 39 of these individuals were not in quarantine.

“There’s also the fact that we’ve seen in recent days that far too many of those who are diagnosed [with COVID-19] are not in quarantine. Which tells us that this is a very widespread community infection. Which is why the Chief Epidemiologist’s recommendations to the Minister of Health are all about putting in place significantly tougher measures.”

It is presumed that the new restrictions will remain in place for at least two weeks.

COVID-19 in Iceland: One Metre Rule Takes Effect

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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.