Third Quarantine Hotel Opens in Reykjavík, Staff Needed

Fosshotel quarantine Reykjavík COVID-19

There are currently 320 guests at Reykjavík’s quarantine hotels and 145 of them are in isolation with an active COVID-19 infection, RÚV reports. The remaining guests have either been exposed to an infected individual or are completing travel quarantine. A third quarantine facility has been opened in Reykjavík and the director of the facilities says staff are sorely needed.

Not all residents or visitors in Iceland have access to adequate facilities to quarantine or isolate in the case of COVID-19 infection or exposure. The Icelandic authorities and the Icelandic Red Cross provides such housing to those who need it at hotels in Reykjavík and elsewhere in Iceland. The third Reykjavík quarantine facility was opened yesterday and 15 guests are currently staying there, though Director of the facilities Gylfi Þór Þorsteinsson says he expects the number to increase in the coming days.

Most guests have mild symptoms

Currently, most of the guests at the facilities have mild symptoms. “Fortunately there are not a lot of symptoms now but there are always some among some of our guests,” Gylfi stated. “It seems to be the case that people start showing symptoms in the second week, maybe at the end of the first week symptoms begin to appear. Fortunately they pass quickly for most people, in maybe two or three days. But then there are always some who need more monitoring in hospital and unfortunately, at least two guests have had to be hospitalised for a short period.”

Just seven staff members were attending to 130 guests at the facilities, Gylfi stated in an interview yesterday. “We’re having a lot of trouble with staffing. We need staff and are advertising for it on Alfreð among other places. It is quite clear that this will only get worse in the coming days and not much else we can do than just attend to those who are staying with us as well as possible.”

Delta variant spreads despite vaccination

Icelandic authorities lifted all domestic pandemic restrictions on June 26, after a majority of the population had been vaccinated against COVID-19. Case numbers began rising a few weeks later, however, leading the government to reimpose a gathering ban and social distancing regulations. The country now reports 612 active cases of COVID-19, most among vaccinated individuals. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist has stated that vaccinations are not proving as effective at stopping transmission of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 as experts had hoped. So far few have been hospitalised due to COVID-19 infection in this wave so there is evidence that vaccines are effective in preventing serious illness. However, as the current wave is still on the upswing, hospitalisations could still increase.

Hospital staff in quarantine and isolation

While there are just two individuals in hospital now due to COVID-19, the current spike in infection has caused some strain on the healthcare system in a different way. Staff of the National University Hospital as well as other healthcare centres have been placed in isolation and quarantine, creating staff shortages during the peak summer vacation season. Hospital administration has confirmed that so far staff members’ infections can all be traced to the community and there has been no spread of infection within the hospital.

New Quarantine Hotel Opened for COVID Patients

red cross iceland

The Red Cross has opened new facilities for people with COVID-19 as the current quarantine hotel is at capacity. RÚV reports that the National and University Hospital of Iceland’s Epidemic Committee has also tightened mask-wearing requirements at all of its sites. These measures have been taken in advance of an anticipated increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the coming days.

Forty-four positive cases were diagnosed on Tuesday, 38 of which were domestic and six of which were diagnosed at the border. This is the highest number of cases to be diagnosed in a single day so far this year. There are now 163 people in isolation and 454 in quarantine and these numbers are expected to go up presently.

See Also: Uptick in infections marks “a new chapter in the fight”

A statement on the website of the National and University Hospital explains that in light of widespread infection and many isolated events that are directly connected to the hospital, the Epidemic Committee sees no other option but to immediately tighten mask-wearing regulations within its facilities. Hospital employees are now only allowed to take off their masks when eating.

The same rules apply to hospital visitors and others with business at the hospital. Inpatients are not required to wear masks, however, unless they are leaving their wards for tests or procedures.

Increased measures to stem the uptick in infections are also being taken elsewhere. For one, capital-area police have begun to wear masks when on the job. Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir has decided to require all travellers to Iceland to present a negative COVID test before entering the country. Residents and people with connections in Iceland are also advised to get tested in Iceland upon arrival in the country, even if they don’t present any symptoms.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Relaxed Border Measures Take Effect

Keflavík Airport

Travellers arriving in Iceland from defined high-risk areas are no longer required to complete their quarantine at government-operated facilities. The Minister of Justice’s ban on unnecessary travel to areas with a high risk of COVID-19 infection has also expired. Quarantine facilities operated by the government will remain open for those who do not have access to adequate facilities in which to complete their required quarantine or isolation.

Iceland’s government tightened border regulations on April 1 requiring all travellers arriving from areas with high COVID-19 infection rates to quarantine at government-run hotels. The regulation was originally implemented for one month but was extended for an additional month. In late April, Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir passed regulation banning all unnecessary travel from defined high-risk areas due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The regulation took effect on April 27 but expired today.

Read More: Can I travel to Iceland in 2021 Post COVID-19?

Travellers to Iceland who present proof of vaccination or previous COVID-19 infection are required to undergo a single test upon arrival and quarantine until they receive a negative result. Tests are normally processed within a few hours. Travellers who do not present valid proof of vaccination or previous COVID-19 infection are required to undergo a test upon arrival to Iceland, quarantine for five days, and undergo a follow-up test. Travellers are not charged for COVID-19 testing or stays at official quarantine facilities. These regulations will remain in effect until at least June 15.

Up to 5,000 Travellers Per Day

Activities are ramping up at Keflavík International Airport, the port of arrival for almost all travellers entering Iceland. “We see for example today, which is one of the largest days since COVID started, over 2,000 travellers are arriving in the country,” Arngrímur Guðmundsson told RÚV reporters yesterday. “There’s simply an increase in flights. We anticipate that later in the month there could be up to 5,000 travellers arriving in the country per day if everything goes as planned.” There are eight flights scheduled to land at Keflavík Airport today from Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States.

To accommodate the increase in travellers, airport officials added additional reception desks last week where travellers have barcodes scanned and are doled out plastic tubes for test swabs. COVID-19 testing is carried out in modified shipping containers that have been set up outside the airport building.

Iceland currently has 41 active cases of COVID-19. Over 46% of the population have received at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine while 24.8% are fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Weekend Partygoers Reminded to Show Caution

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Make sure you register your attendance at restaurants and download the updated contact tracing app Rakning C-19: these were the two directions that Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson had for the Icelandic public at today’s COVID-19 briefing in Reykjavík. Víðir stated that he understood people’s desire to let loose particularly in light of lifted restrictions this week, but a group infection in Reykjavík proves the virus is still out there and caution remains necessary.

The following is a lightly-edited transcription of Iceland Review’s live-tweeting of the briefing.

 

On the panel: Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson and Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason.

Yesterday’s COVID-19 numbers are in on covid.is.
New domestic cases: 3
New border cases: 3
Total active cases: 39
Hospitalised: 0
Vaccinated w/ at least one dose: 169,570 (45.8% of population)
Fully vaccinated: 80,464 (21.8% of population)

The briefing has begun. Víðir begins by discussing the cases being diagnosed out of quarantine within Iceland. He underlines the importance of maintaining personal preventative measures despite regulations being loosened this week. He encourages people to take care when registering their presence at restaurants and bars as it helps with contact tracing if it becomes necessary. He also encourages the public to update to the latest version of the official contact tracing app.

Þórólfur takes over to discuss the numbers. There were three infections diagnosed yesterday, two in quarantine at the time of diagnosis. For the past week, nine people have tested positive, four out of quarantine. They are connected to the group infection at the downtown location of H&M. Around 100 people are in quarantine and Þórólfur expects more infections to arise from that group. The infections are of the UK variant of the virus. Border cases have fluctuated over the past week but there is not much increase. One person is currently hospitalised due to COVID-19, none in the ICU. In the past week, one person died after a month in hospital due to COVID-19. That brings the total number of Iceland’s COVID-19 fatalities to 30.

A recent wave of infection in the Faroe Islands has led Icelandic authorities to remove the Faroe Islands from the list of low-risk regions. Restrictions were relaxed considerably in the past week and Þórólfur has noticed some unrest and worry among the public. Þórólfur says that authorities believe that if people continue to mind their personal infection prevention, we should be fine and should be able to tackle the group infections that will occur. Vaccinations are going well though fewer were vaccinated this week due to smaller shipments. They should increase again next week, says Þórólfur.

Þórólfur mentions the AstraZeneca vaccine, stating that while it is safe to get one dose each from two different vaccines, cases of serious side effects are rarer after the second shot of one vaccine. People are generally encouraged to get the same vaccine for their second shot. The vaccines we are using now protect against the Indian variant, which appears to be more infectious than previous variants of the virus. (The Indian variant has been diagnosed at the border but has not spread domestically in Iceland.)

The panel opens for questions. Þórólfur is asked about herd immunity and replies that percentages of vaccinated individuals to reach herd immunity varies for each virus but we won’t have contained the virus until global vaccinations have reached a certain point. As for other contagious diseases, such as measles, Iceland has had luck with keeping them at bay with general vaccinations and Þórólfur doesn’t think that COVID-19 will be any different.

The government has announced that mandatory stays in government-run quarantine facilities for those arriving from high-risk areas will end next month. People will still have to prove that they have adequate access to housing that fulfills quarantine requirements. Víðir notes that while mandatory stays in quarantine facilities will end, the facilities will remain open for people who don’t have access to adequate quarantine facilities at home or where they are staying in Iceland. He mentions migrant workers specifically. If people break quarantine, they will also be required to quarantine in the government’s quarantine facilities.

Þórólfur is asked about Janssen and the AstraZeneca vaccine and states that few countries have stopped using these vaccines altogether but most are using them with restrictions. That is also what the Icelandic healthcare system is doing, in order to take the utmost care. Þórólfur is asked about young women who received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine before authorities stopped using it for their demographic. Þórólfur replies that people need to make their own decision, they can get a second dose of AZ or another vaccine.

When asked about vaccination certificates for those who have received doses of two different vaccines, Víðir answers that at first, such certificates weren’t being issued due to a glitch but it has now been fixed. Everyone should now be able to get a certificate. Þórólfur adds that such certificates will be accepted among travellers arriving in Iceland and he can see no reason why other countries should reject such certificates, as many nations are using two different vaccines to vaccinate people.

Asked about vaccine side effect research in Norway, Þórólfur states that they are monitoring all such research and will proceed based on the results of investigations. Any time a large mass of people receives vaccines, it is likely that some of them will develop symptoms that could be unrelated to the vaccines. Statistically speaking, there have been no spikes in health issues overall.

Víðir states that there’s no suspicion that the current group infection can be traced to quarantine violations.

Víðir closes the briefing by warning partygoers and people who are planning to enjoy themselves this weekend to be careful, remember to register at bars and restaurants, and have the latest version of the contact tracing app. The briefing has ended.

Icelandic Authorities Appeal Court Ruling on Quarantine Hotels for Travellers

Fosshotel quarantine Reykjavík COVID-19

Icelandic authorities did not have legal grounds to require travellers to complete their quarantine at a government-run quarantine hotel when they had adequate facilities at home, according to a ruling made yesterday by the Reykjavík District Court. Icelandic authorities will appeal the decision. In a briefing today, the country’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason called the ruling “unfortunate,” saying hotel quarantine was the best way to ensure travellers from abroad do not breach quarantine regulations and risk a domestic outbreak of COVID-19.

Iceland tightened border regulations on April 1, requiring all travellers arriving from designated high-risk areas for COVID-19 to complete their mandatory five-day quarantine in designated government facilities. The rule was implemented after health authorities found travellers were breaching quarantine regulations, leading to community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Several guests required to stay in the facilities challenged the regulation in the Reykjavík District Court, which ruled in their favour yesterday. Icelandic authorities subsequently informed all guests at the facilities that they could complete their quarantine elsewhere if they had access to housing that fulfilled the requirements. A notice from authorities nevertheless encouraged the remaining guests to complete their quarantine at the hotel, “as it is the best way to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 disease.” At least three travellers staying at the quarantine hotel tested positive for COVID-19 since the facilities began operation last week.

Chief Epidemiologist Calls for Clearer Legislation

The Chief Epidemiologist expressed his disappointment with the ruling in a radio interview this morning, saying it was “thwarting one of the most effective measures that has been taken to try to prevent this virus from entering the country and spreading. We have been basing these measures on facts, what we see is lacking, and in that way try to prevent it from happening, that the virus gets in. Unfortunately, it has been the case that people have not been following quarantine. It is on that basis that I suggested [mandatory hotel quarantine measures].”

In light of the District Court ruling, Minster of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir and Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason are now determining what additional steps will be taken to minimise the risk of active COVID-19 infections entering the country. Þórólfur stated his hope that the government would clarify the legal framework surrounding quarantine hotels so that the measure could be used as intended.

RÚV reported that travellers arriving in Iceland from high-risk areas today are not being sent to the government-run quarantine facilities if they have access to private facilities that fulfil quarantine requirements. If there is reason to believe travellers are likely to break quarantine rules (for example if their stay in Iceland is shorter than five days) they are sent to the government-run quarantine facilities.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Travellers from High-Risk Countries to Be Placed in Quarantine Hotel

COVID-19 Europe European Centre for Disease Control

Travellers arriving in Iceland from European countries with high COVID-19 infection rates will now be required to quarantine at government-run hotels. This is according to new border regulations passed by Iceland’s government today. Children born after 2005, who have thus far been exempt from COVID-19 testing at the border, will now be required to undergo testing upon entering the country. These new measures take effect on April 1 and will be valid for one month.

According to the new regulations, all travellers who are arriving from or have stayed in areas in Europe where the 14-day incidence of COVID-19 infection exceeds 500 per 100,000 (according to the European Centre for Disease Control) must stay in quarantine hotels during the mandatory 5-day quarantine for all travellers. They will also be required to remain in the hotel if they test positive and must undergo isolation. The same applies to travellers from countries where information on the incidence rate is lacking. These two areas are respectively labelled dark red and gray on maps issued by the ECDC. Travellers who present a valid vaccination certificate or certificate confirming previous COVID-19 infection will be exempt from these measures.

British and Brazilian Strains in Local Cases

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason recommended tightening border restrictions after an uptick in domestic COVID-19 cases last weekend traced to cross-border infections. “I don’t think we have fully seen the end of these group infections that have been diagnosed in the last few days,” he stated. “We need to be prepared for that.” The so-called British variant of SARS-CoV-2 is responsible for the new domestic cases, while a group of cargo ship crew members that tested positive in East Iceland are all carrying the Brazilian variant. The entire crew of 19 is either in isolation or quarantine on the ship.

Though several new domestic cases were diagnosed over the weekend, Iceland only reported one new domestic case yesterday, in quarantine. Þórólfur confirmed that he would not propose tightening domestic restrictions while case numbers remained low within Iceland. Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir stated that authorities are ready to impose harsher domestic restrictions to limit the spread of the virus if necessary, but would wait to see how case numbers develop over the next two or three days.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Regulations Relaxed Domestically, Tightened at Border

keflavik airport COVID-19 testing

Iceland will relax domestic COVID-19 restrictions from Wednesday, January 13 as it tightens restrictions at the border. In a briefing today, the country’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason celebrated Iceland’s success in keeping the pandemic at bay and stated it was time to relax domestic restrictions to ease the burden on individuals and businesses. He expressed concern, however, at the high number of cases being diagnosed at the border. Þórólfur has proposed tightened border restrictions that could involve mandatory border testing or quarantine in government facilities.

Gathering Limit Up to 20

Iceland will relax domestic restrictions this Wednesday, lifting the gathering limit from ten to 20 people and reopening gyms. Additional restrictions on athletic and cultural events will also be relaxed. Though the pandemic is under control domestically, a high number of COVID-19 cases are being diagnosed among travellers arriving in Iceland. Most arriving travellers undergo testing at the border, five-day quarantine, and a follow-up test. Those who refuse testing may currently undergo 14-day quarantine instead, but there have been indications of a few individuals breaching quarantine regulations while on 14-day quarantine.

Mandatory Testing or Hotel Quarantine

To prevent the spread of cases arriving from abroad, Þórólfur has recommended making border testing mandatory for all arriving passengers. The Ministry of Health is currently reviewing whether Icelandic law supports such a measure. If it does not, Þórólfur has suggested requiring those who choose 14-day quarantine stay at government-run quarantine facilities. As of Wednesday, children arriving in the country will also be required to quarantine along with their parents or guardians (they were previously not required to do so), though they will continue to be exempt from testing barring extenuating circumstances.

First Vaccines from Moderna to Arrive Tomorrow

Iceland is expected to receive 1,200 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine tomorrow, its first doses from the manufacturer. They will be used to complete vaccination of frontline healthcare workers in the Reykjavík capital area. Moderna is expected to send an additional 1,200 doses to Iceland every two weeks until the end of March. Iceland is scheduled to receive an additional 5,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer this month.

Below is a lightly-edited transcription of Iceland Review’s live-tweeting of today’s COVID-19 briefing.

 

On the panel: Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, Director of Health Alma Möller, and Rögnvaldur Ólafsson, Assistant to the Director of Civil Protection. Special guest: Gylfi Þór Þorsteinsson, supervisor of Iceland’s quarantine hotels.

From January 13, arriving travellers who refuse testing at the border will be required to complete their 14-day quarantine in government facilities. Less than 1% of arriving travellers have refused border testing since it was implemented last year. Passengers will continue to have the option of undergoing double testing and five-day quarantine at a private location.

Yesterday’s numbers have been updated on covid.is. Iceland reported 3 new domestic cases yesterday (all in quarantine) and 17 at the border. Total active cases: 143. 20 in hospital, none in ICU.

The briefing has begun. Rögnvaldur begins by disclosing that on Wednesday, the pandemic risk colour code will likely be lowered from red to orange. Þórólfur takes over and states that the situation over the weekend was good, few diagnoses and most in quarantine at the time of diagnosis. We’re still seeing high numbers of cases at the border, says Þórólfur. There were 17 yesterday, most of them were legal residents of Iceland just as border cases have generally been. Just over 140 active cases are in isolation. None of those in hospital due to COVID-19 have an active infection.

I’m happy to see so few domestic cases and especially how few test positive out of quarantine, but I’m still worried about the number of people testing positive at the border, says Þórólfur. In light of the situation, I have presented recommendations to the Minister of Health to ease restrictions domestically. Updated infection prevention regulations take effect January 13. The actions taken have proven successful at keeping the pandemic at bay and that’s why I think it’s time to allow sports, culture and businesses to get back to normal. Þórólfur emphasises that relaxed restrictions are not an encouragement for people to gather in groups. “We must keep up our personal infection prevention.”

I have sent recommendations to the Minister suggesting that border testing be made mandatory. If that’s not possible, I recommend everyone who chooses the 14-day quarantine (instead of testing) be required to stay at quarantine hotels. Children arriving in the country will be required to quarantine with their parents from January 13. [Children were previously not required to quarantine.]

I encourage locals to not travel abroad if they don’t have a pressing need to do so, says Þórólfur. The pandemic is rising in countries abroad and people can get sick and bring infections to the country when they return.

Þórólfur goes over the numbers of vaccine doses scheduled to arrive in the next few weeks. 1,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected to arrive tomorrow. They will be used to complete vaccination of frontline healthcare workers in the Reykjavík capital area. Following that, Iceland will receive 1,200 doses from the manufacturer every other week until the end of March. They will be used to vaccinate the country’s older generations. The AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to receive conditional market authorisation in January and the Janssen vaccine sometime after, the distribution schedules will likely be made available shortly thereafter.

Alma takes over and goes over the investigation of four deaths following COVID-19 vaccinations at nursing homes. The investigation is performed in three stages. It involves a thorough investigation of patients’ medical history and nursing home death statistics. Nothing points to suspicious events or an increase in deaths due to vaccination. The Directorate of Health has also sent requests for data to other Scandinavian countries and they report no suspicious increase in deaths following vaccinations either. Alma stresses the importance of monitoring vaccine side effects as it’s a new drug on the market.

Gylfi takes over to discuss the country’s official quarantine hotels. The Red Cross has operated five quarantine hotels throughout the pandemic, 3 in Reykjavík, 1 in Akureyri and 1 in Egilsstaðir. Right now, there’s only one quarantine hotel in active use [in Reykjavík], but it just filled up so another one will be opened later today. Around 1,200 people have stayed in quarantine hotels in Iceland in the past year, around 530 of them had active COVID-19 infections. Red Cross volunteers have been assisting at the quarantine hotels and they should be thanked for their efforts, says Gylfi.

The panel opens for questions. Þórólfur is asked about tightened restrictions at the border. Are they supported by Icelandic law? Þórólfur points to the Health Ministry, which issues regulations according to laws in effect.

Gylfi is asked about people who will be required to stay at quarantine hotels because they object to being tested at the borders. He does not think many people will opt for staying at a quarantine hotel or that it will be problematic to carry out.

Þóróflur is asked about vaccination distribution and political criticism of Iceland’s decision to acquire vaccines through the EU. He does not think that was a mistake and points to the Ministry of Health for further information.

This morning, it was reported that direct negotiations with other vaccine producers were ongoing and Þóróflur was asked about the status of those negotiations. He says informal discussions are ongoing with several parties but there is nothing to disclose yet.

Gylfi is asked to describe conditions in quarantine hotels. He states that people are isolated in their rooms and receive 3 meals per day and basic services. The volunteers try to supply human interaction to the extent that it is possible but it’s “no celestial stay.”

Are you making any other efforts to get vaccines than through the EU? Þórólfur replies that authorities are trying to accelerate the process as much as possible and also to supply valid scientific data to vaccine production. Þórólfur adds that he is not personally aware of all of the government’s efforts regarding vaccine acquisition but it is being worked on.

Þórólfur states that border testing has been instrumental in curbing the spread of the pandemic in Iceland. “If we hadn’t done that, things would have been much much worse.” How it will be this summer, following some vaccination, we can’t say for sure, and that’s the research we want to do and have been presenting to vaccine producers, says Þórólfur. The more people we vaccinate, the more we can relax restrictions, says Þórólfur.

How many infections can be traced to New Year’s celebrations on the one hand and Christmas on the other? Þórólfur says very few, we’ve had very few infections recently.

Rögnvaldur takes over to close the briefing: as Þóróflur says, we hope new restrictions will make life easier for people and companies. But they are not a message that we can go back to normal or throw parties. “Don’t fall into the trap of trying to interpret the rules to make them fit what you want to do,” says Rögnvaldur. If we start behaving like we did before the pandemic, the cases will go up again and we’ll have to tighten the rules again. “We know how this works and what we have to do. Let’s wash our hands and keep our distance, we’re all in this together.” The briefing has ended.

Iceland Review will live-tweet authorities’ next COVID-19 briefing on Thursday, January 14.

Icelandic Police Struggle to Reach Marginalised Group Exposed to COVID-19

Police officers in masks

A group of active drug users gathered in a house that later caught fire last week, Vísir reports. Two in the group tested positive for COVID-19 after the incident and police are working to find others in the group who may have been exposed. It’s proved a challenging task, as some of the individuals are homeless.

Capital area police have been working to find and contact nearly 20 individuals who could have been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the apartment. “We’ve been contacting their groups and trying to meet them, invite them to get tested and try to explain to them what resources are available and then also try to inform them if they have been exposed and should be in quarantine, what that means and so on,” stated Ásgeir Þór Ásgeirsson, Chief Superintendent of the Capital Area Police.

Police have offered housing to those who must quarantine in a newly-opened government quarantine facility, the third to be established in the capital area. The new facility is specifically intended to house marginalised groups such as homeless individuals and those struggling with addiction. Ásgeir stated that police are doing everything they can to reach members of the group and ensure they receive the same service as others.

Healthcare Limited for Marginalised Groups

Guðmundur Ingi Þóroddsson, chairman of prisoner’s association Afstaða is concerned about the situation of active drug users, homeless people, and former prisoners in Iceland, particularly in light of the pandemic. “They have limited access to general health services and there are no treatments available for this group,” he stated, adding that there are indications that drug use has increased, illegal drugs have become more expensive and it has become more difficult for those using drugs to access healthcare. Though he says the opening of the quarantine facility for marginalised groups is a step in the right direction, the state and other municipalities need to follow suit.