In Focus: Iceland’s Cabinet

Iceland is currently governed by Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s cabinet, made up of six men and five women from three different parties – the Left-Green Movement, the Independence Party, and the Progressive Party. All of the cabinet members also serve as members of parliament except Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson.

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Second COVID Test for Ministers Negative

A second COVID test for government ministers that were possibly exposed to the virus has been returned negative, RÚV reports. The ministers had been in quarantine until the first test was returned back negative. It was believed that the ministers’ were exposed to COVID-19 during a dinner in Hótel Rangá in South Iceland.

The result was revealed in a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office late last night. The first COVID test was performed on Friday, of which all returned negative. All of the ministers thought to have been exposed to the virus went for a second test this past Monday morning. Tests for three employees at the Prime Minister’s Office also came back negative.

See also: All Ministers’ First COVID Test Negative

The cabinet ministers held a meeting on the past August 18 and attended dinner together at Hótel Rangá, near Hella in South Iceland. Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir and Minister for Social Affairs and Children Ásmundur Einar Daðason did not attend the dinner. A number of covid infections were traced to the hotel.

Following the dinner, contact tracers traced two active COVID-19 infections to the hotel and immediately focused their containment efforts on three groups of guests, one of which included the ministers.

Authorities have since conducted extensive tests among hotel staff and guests; people who had breakfast during a specific window on Sunday morning have been directed to quarantine. The Directorate of Health announced on Friday that eight of the ten people diagnosed that day with active COVID infections had stayed at the hotel.





Ministers to Visit Flateyri in Wake of Avalanches

Bjarni, Katrín, Sigurður Ingi coalition

The chairmen of the three coalition parties, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Bjarni Benediktsson, and Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, will travel by helicopter to Flateyri this afternoon, RÚV reports. The ministers intend to survey the damage wrought by two large avalanches that descended upon the town this week.

Significant Damages

Just before midnight on January 15, two large avalanches fell on the town of Flateyri in the Westfjords (and one in Súgandafjörður, as well). Although no one was seriously injured, properties were damaged, and Flateyri’s small-boat harbour was completely destroyed.

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister and chairman of the Left-Green Party; Bjarni Benediktsson, Minister of Finance and chairman of the Independence Party; and Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, Minister of Transport and Local government, and chair of the Progressive Party, will travel by the coast guard helicopter to Flateyri this afternoon. The ministers will spend the day in the Westfjords, surveying the damage caused by the avalanches, before returning to Reykjavík in the evening.

Representatives from the Icelandic Red Cross and the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management will also be travelling with the ministers, including Hulda Ragnheiður Árnadóttir, director of the National Catastrophe Insurance of Iceland, and Jón Svanberg Hjartarson, director of ICE-SAR.

The Landslide Fund

As RÚV reported this morning, former mayor of Ísafjörður Halldór Halldórsson has criticised the government’s allocation of funds to avalanche protection. As a board member of the Landslide Fund, Halldór estimates that the fund has roughly ISK 23 billion, which could be used to improve avalanche protection throughout the country.

According to Halldór, plans were initially drawn in the aughts that called for the completion of mitigation measures against avalanches in 2010. Later regulation pushed back these plans to 2020. Current plans assume that these measures won’t be finalised until 2050.

“We must prioritise and act quickly … I’m glad that the government has declared that it will examine the protective barriers. Everything needs to be as safe as possible, so that future avalanches won’t flow over the barriers.”

Snow from both of the avalanches that fell in Flateyri this week flowed over two protective barriers, which were constructed following a large avalanche in 1995.

Halldór added that there is much that needs to be done in the Westfjords, in the Eastfjords, and in North Iceland: “I’ve thought a lot about how these protective measures are decided in the eyes of the law. We’re only protecting residential properties, not residential areas or harbours.”