COVID-19 in Iceland: Domestic Restrictions Extended

mask use social distancing

Iceland’s current domestic restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 will be extended for an additional two weeks. The restrictions, which include a general gathering limit of 500 people and one-metre social distancing, were set to expire tomorrow, October 6, but will now remain in effect until October 20, 2021. The Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir decided to extend the regulations on the recommendation of Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason.

Current domestic restrictions in Iceland mandate a gathering limit of 500 and general social distancing of one metre. Distancing is waived at seated events, provided all guests are registered in their seats and wearing masks. The regulations do not apply to school events. Bars, restaurants, and clubs must close by midnight and all customers must have left the premises by 1:00 AM. Swimming pools and gyms are permitted to operate at full capacity. Masks are required in all situations where one-metre distancing cannot be insured, such as on public transportation and in service requiring contact (such as haircuts and massages).

Risky to relax further

Iceland lifted all domestic restrictions on June 26 after a majority of the population had been vaccinated. Two to three weeks later, the rate of COVID-19 infection began to increase as did the rate of serious illness and hospitalisation. Icelandic authorities reintroduced domestic restrictions in July, and has been slowly relaxing them as the wave of infection dies down.

While infection rates have lowered in recent weeks, the Chief Epidemiologist stated in his memorandum that he did not consider it advisable to further relax domestic restrictions in Iceland. “In light of the development of the pandemic abroad and Iceland’s experience of the full lifting of restrictions, I consider it risky to relax the domestic infection prevention measures further than those currently in force,” the Chief Epidemiologist wrote in his memorandum to the Health Minister.

Iceland is currently reporting between 30-60 cases of COVID-19 per day. The country has 361 total active cases and 8 hospitalisations. Over 75% of the population is fully vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Sales Boom in Material for Homemade Masks

face mask

The owner of the sewing workshop Sauma has sold material for over 8,000 homemade masks recently. A new shipment of material is expected to arrive shortly. Owner Sveinn Dal Sigmarsson says that people are more likely to sow during a recession, and that the handiwork might be an alternative source of income for some. Such was the demand that Sveinn got his mother to assist with the store.

“We’ve already sold 400 metres of this fabric. Each metre can give 20 masks, so it’s around 8,000 masks that have been pre-sold,” Sveinn told Vísir.is. He expects that number to increase to 15,000 or 16,000 next week. “There was a boom following the Merchant’s Weekend. We started to sell elastic material in the thousands per day, and all of our material was sold out. People lose their jobs during recessions, so they try to find ways to get an income. So they take out the sewing machine, make things, and sell them on Facebook.”

The material is not classified as a medical instrument but has been tested, and is only a good option for people in good health in certain conditions. “The material has been tested by the French army is probably a fine material,” said Ása Atladóttir, a project manager in disease control at the Directorate of Health. She points out that those making masks at home should make sure that they are three-layered in order to provide enough protection.

Here are instructions for the use of face masks from the Icelandic Directorate of Health.

The instructions point out that it’s preferable to use single-use masks, but that multi-use masks made from linen can be used, provided that they are washed daily, at the least. The Directorate does not recommend the general use of face masks in public, however.