Emergency Phase Declared and Grindavík Evacuated

Evacuation of Grindavík on the Reykjanes peninsula

The town of Grindavík on the Reykjanes peninsula has been succesfully evacuated amid concerns that the intrusion of magma, believed to extend beneath the town, may reach the surface. An emergency phase has been declared, and the Red Cross has set up three emergency relief centres.

Evacuation complete

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, in collaboration with the Suðurnes Police, has declared an emergency phase owing to seismic activity in the Reykjanes peninsula. A mandatory evacuation of the town of Grindavík has been completed. The evacuation order was put into effect amid concerns that the intrusion of magma, which is believed to extend beneath the town of Grindavík, may reach the surface. The volume of magma that has accumulated has surpassed that of the previous three eruptions in the area.

A residential facility for disabled individuals and a nursing home for the elderly, severely damaged in recent earthquakes, were evacuated last night prior to the mandatory evacuation being imposed.

Not since the Westman Islands

During a press conference after 11 PM yesterday, Víðir Reynisson, Head of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, reminded residents that the evacuation was mandatory and was being carried out with the safety of the residents in mind. The Icelandic Meteorological Office’s instruments show clear signs of magma movement towards the surface.

“It is clear that we are dealing with events that we Icelanders have not experienced before, at least not since the eruption in the Westman Islands. We faced that together, we will face this together, and we will not be disheartened,” Víðir observed.

Grindavíkurvegur, a road leading to Grindavík from Reykjanesbrautin, was also closed last night due to a large crack that formed in the middle of it. The Road Administration has completed emergency repairs, but the road will remain closed.

Three emergency relief centres opened

The Red Cross has opened three emergency relief centres. These are located at Vallarskóli in Selfoss, the sports hall near Sunnubraut in Reykjanesbær, and Kórinn in Kópavogur. Domino’s has announced that it will deliver pizza to individuals staying at relief centres.

Residents of Grindavík who do not go to the emergency relief centres are asked to report their location by calling 1717. For more information on the seismic activity in Reykjanes, click here.

This article will be updated.

Government Announces New Social Restrictions

Katrín Jakobsdóttir COVID-19 mask

With COVID cases on the rise, the government has announced new restrictions. A 500-person limit on social gatherings will come into effect next Wednesday, and masks will be mandatory in certain places starting tomorrow. A record number of COVID cases were reported today.

Mask mandate beginning tomorrow

In light of the sharp rise of COVID cases, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason submitted proposals on new restrictions to Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir yesterday. Following a cabinet meeting this morning, Svandís – speaking to Vísir – confirmed that the authorities would be tightening social restrictions next week, although masks will become mandatory in those places where individuals cannot maintain a one-metre distance beginning tomorrow.

Children 15 years and younger will, however, be exempt from the mask mandate and so willl those individuals who provide up-close, personal services (e.g. barbers, masseuses). High-school students may also remove their masks after classes begin (even if it is not possible to observe the so-called “one-metre rule).

Bars and restaurants made to close early

Starting next Wednesday (November 10), the following restrictions, among others, will come into effect:

  • The maximum number of people allowed in the same location will be 500 people.
  • The business hours of restaurants and bars will be shortened by two hours so that restaurants that serve alcohol will have to close at 11 pm, and patrons must vacate the premises by midnight.
  • Up to 1,500 people may attend an event if all guests bring a negative result from a rapid antigen test and wear masks.

These restrictions would be in effect for four weeks (until and including December 8).

According to Svandís, there is nothing preventing Christmas concerts from being held and nor do theatres need to cancel shows.

Will not have the intended effect

Despite these new regulations, it is unlikely that these measures will have the intended effect; as noted by RÚV, Þórólfur’s proposal from November 4 contained three possible sets of restrictions. The restrictions that the authorities decided to adopt – which Svandís referred to as “the middle road” – are similar to those that were in effect between September 15 and October 20. In his memo from November 4, Þórólfur stated that if the authorities chose this route, it could “be argued that infections will continue to rise;” between September 15 and October 20, the daily number of cases rose from 20 to just over 60.

A record-number of new cases

A record number of new COVID new infections were diagnosed yesterday, or 167. Not since the pandemic began have so many new cases been reported over a 24-hour period. Sixteen individuals are currently hospitalized with infections, and five are in intensive care.

“If we do nothing, things will take a turn for the worse; we’ll begin to run into real trouble in the hospitals,” Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated in a radio interview this morning.