COVID-19 in Iceland: Regulations on Mask Use Amended

mask use social distancing

Icelandic authorities released a notice amending the COVID-19 regulations yesterday. The regulations took force at midnight last Saturday, setting a 200-person gathering limit and one-metre social distancing, among other rules meant to curb the spread of infection. Iceland lifted all domestic restrictions on June 26, but imposed them again last weekend after a rise in cases attributed to the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2.

The notice outlines two changes to the regulations. Firstly, the gathering limit of 200 will apply to children born in 2016 or earlier. The second change entails removing a clause about ventilation, which “proved somewhat unclear and therefore difficult to carry out.” The clause stated that masks were required in businesses and services where one-metre distancing couldn’t be carried out or there was inadequate ventilation. According to the amendment, business operators must decide whether it is possible to maintain one-metre distancing on their premises, and if not, masks must be worn.

More information about Iceland’s current domestic restrictions can be found here.

Icelandic authorities will hold a COVID-19 information briefing at 11:00 AM today, which Iceland Review will live-tweet in English on our Twitter page.

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.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Tightened Restrictions Have Taken Effect

sundhöll

Gatherings must be limited to 20 people in Iceland and gyms, bars, and clubs are closed as of midnight last night. Tightened restrictions took effect in the country today and will remain in effect until at least October 19. The Department of Civil Protection declared a national state of emergency yesterday due to the current spread of SARS-CoV-2. Iceland has reported 630 new domestic cases of COVID-19 between September 15 and October 4.

Bars, clubs, slot machine parlours, and gyms have been closed under the new regulations. Pools will be allowed to remain open but must operate at half capacity.

Only 20 people are allowed to assemble at once, down from the previous 200. Nevertheless, the updated regulations outline several exceptions to this limit. Secondary schools and colleges may have up to 30 students together in each classroom. Funerals are permitted to have 50 guests in attendance, and larger stores are allowed to admit 100 customers at once. Parliament, courts, and emergency response teams (police, firefighters, search and rescue, and healthcare workers), are also exempt from the 20-person limit.

Regarding cultural events, theatre performances will be allowed to continue in spaces with a maximum of 100 audience members and mandatory mask usage. Spectators will be allowed at outdoor (but not indoor) athletic events as well. In both cases, seats must be numbered. Up to 50 can take part in competitive sports, subject to guidelines.

The general distancing guideline remains at 1 metre. Masks are required whenever it isn’t possible to maintain that distance between people who do not share a household, including on public transport.

Children born in 2005 or later are exempt from distancing and assembly limits. There will be no restrictions placed on preschool or primary school operations.

COVID-19 in Iceland: One Metre Rule Takes Effect

sundhöll

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.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Two Metres Reduced to One

COVID-19 Press conference Þórólfur Guðnason Alma Möller V'iðir Reynisson

Iceland will likely reduce its two-metre social distancing rule to one metre and double the national assembly limit to 200 people from September 10. Masks will still be required in situations where that distance cannot be maintained, for example in hair salons and massage parlours. The double testing and five-day quarantine required of arriving travellers will remain unchanged for the time being.

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason announced the changes in a briefing in Reykjavík today. He will also propose further changes to COVID-19 regulations to the Minister of Health, who makes the final call on their implementation. The changes include allowing swimming pools and gyms to operate at 75% capacity and permitting theatre performances with up to 200 participants and one-metre distancing. The regulation requiring bars and clubs to close at 11.00pm will remain unchanged.

Active Cases at the Border Rising

Since August 19, all travellers entering Iceland have been required to undergo testing at the border, five days of quarantine, and a follow-up test. Þórólfur says the number of active cases detected at the border has been rising despite a drop in the number of travellers. This means the percentage of active cases among arriving travellers is rising significantly, which Þórólfur says reflects the spread of the virus abroad.

Of 100 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 at the border, 84 did so in their first test and 16 in the second. The proportion of those who received a false negative in their first test is higher than expected, according to Þórólfur, and therefore shows the importance of testing those arriving from abroad twice. Around 60% of those who have tested positive at the border are Icelandic residents, who are considered more likely to spread the virus locally than tourists. Around a third have been tourists.

Border Screening Re-evaluated Next Week

Iceland’s current border regulations concerning COVID-19 are valid until September 15. Þórólfur will decide next week whether changes to the measures will be made, but stated he does not expect to recommend any fundamental changes. The Chief Epidemiologist expressed his belief that it was more logical to loosen measures within the country before doing so at the borders.

A total of 220 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Iceland since June 15. A majority of recently diagnosed cases, or around 60%, were among people who were already in quarantine. Iceland currently has 96 active cases of COVID-19 and a domestic incidence rate of 17.7 infections per 100,000 inhabitants.