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.

1 Metre Rule Takes Effect, 300 People Can Come Together

pedestrian street Laugavegur Reykjavík

Social restrictions were eased as of midnight today. The gathering limit has been raised from 150 to 300 people and the one-metre rule has replaced the two-metre rule.

As noted on covid.is, masks will still be mandatory at seated events, and the same goes for other events or places where the one-metre rule cannot be guaranteed.

Night clubs will be allowed to remain open until midnight, with guests being required to leave the premises before 1 am. Restaurants owners are still required to keep a written record of patrons but are now allowed to be open until midnight.

300 people may now attend theatres, cinemas, and other cultural events. Sports competitions are allowed, both inside and outside, but hosts must keep a written record of guests. Swimming pools can likewise open at maximum capacity, and the same holds for gyms, where up to 300 can gather in the same location so long as they adhere to the one-metre rule.

Gathering limits, social-distancing restrictions, and mask obligations do not extend to children born in 2015 or later. The obligation to wear a mask does not apply to children born in 2005 or later. Those individuals who have already been infected with COVID-19 and completed isolation are exempt from wearing a mask.

The new regulations will remain in force up to and including June 29, 2021.