Health Minister Pushes for Swift Regulations of Cosmetic Fillers

The Minister of Health, Willum Þór Þórsson, is pushing for regulations on the use of fillers in Iceland following concerns raised by the news programme Kompás. While the exact timeline remains uncertain, the Minister aims to have the regulations established this year, Vísir reports.

Hopes to implement regulations this year

The Minister of Health, Willum Þór Þórsson, is taking steps to implement regulations on the use of fillers in Iceland, aiming for clear restrictions by this year. This move comes after the investigative news programme Kompás highlighted the risks associated with the current lack of regulations on who can administer fillers.

As noted by Vísir, doctors have long advocated for such regulations, but their calls have gone unanswered. Yesterday, Minister Þórsson acknowledged the urgency, stating, “I have instructed the ministry to promptly utilise the regulatory authority found in the Medical Devices Act, alongside looking into the Health Professionals Act. The Directorate of Health would then oversee this, determining who is authorised to use these substances and ensuring they have the necessary expertise. That’s what’s missing.”

“Simultaneously,” the Minister added, “I’ve requested that we look at comprehensive legislation, similar to Sweden’s approach, though it might take longer.”

When asked about the specifics, the Minister couldn’t provide an exact date but emphasised the need for swift action. He hopes the regulations will be in place this year.

Welfare Committee Chair Calls for Regulation of Cosmetic Fillers

Injectables

The Chairperson of the Parliament’s Welfare Committee has formally inquired with Health Minister, Willum Þór Þórsson, about his plans to regulate the use of fillers and substances that dissolve them. Her concerns were prompted by an investigative report aired on Kompás this past Monday.

The “Wild West” of fillers

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir, Chair of the Parliament’s Welfare Committee, expressed her concerns about the use of fillers, a topic recently highlighted by the investigative news programme Kompás. The programme described the unregulated use of fillers as the “Wild West,” interviewing an Icelandic woman who suffered life-threatening complications from a misinformed treatment.

As noted by Kompás, in Iceland, substances are being used illicitly for cosmetic procedures, and there’s no oversight of unqualified individuals who often operate under misleading job titles.

“Even though one might have noticed on the streets, young girls with rather broad and large lips, knowing that substances were obviously being injected, the extent of this ‘Wild West’ situation was surprising,” Bjarkey commented.

Seeking clarity on potential regulations

Bjarkey also revealed to Vísir that she has reached out to Health Minister, Willum Þór Þórsson, seeking clarity on potential regulations for these substances: “I’m keen to understand the oversight in terms of use and importation. It’s unclear if these substances can be sourced from foreign online platforms. I’m also wondering if the Director of Health has mechanisms to track this and if there are records of medical interventions related to these substances. This is a grave concern, and I believe we must act,” she stated.

Bjarkey hopes that the discussion won’t fade in the coming days now that it has started.

What are fillers?

As noted by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, dermal fillers are “gel-like substances that are injected beneath the skin to restore lost volume, smooth lines and soften creases, or enhance facial contours.”

Fillers, especially those made of hyaluronic acid (a naturally occurring substance in the body), can be dissolved using an enzyme called hyaluronidase.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the potential dangers of fillers include acne-like skin eruptions, asymmetry in the treated areas, bleeding from the injection site, bruising, damage to the skin leading to wounds and possible scarring, infection at the injection site, formation of lumps, the filler being felt under the skin, skin necrosis which involves ulceration or loss of skin due to disrupted blood flow, itchy skin rashes, skin redness, swelling, and the under- or over-correction of wrinkles.

“In very rare cases, the filler may accidentally be injected into your blood vessels instead of under your skin. This can block blood flow. What happens if your blood flow is blocked will vary depending on where the block is. If your skin is affected, you might have skin loss or wounds. If your eye is affected, you might lose your eyesight or go blind.”

Justice Minister to Authorise the Use of Electroshock Weapons

Jón Gunnarsson Alþingi

The Minister of Justice has decided to authorise the use of electroshock weapons among the police. Clear rules will be set for their application and police officers will receive special training, RÚV reports.

An unfortunate but necessary measure

Over the past few months, the Ministry of Justice has reviewed the possibility of authorising the use of electroshock weapons among police authorities.

“We’ve reviewed the use of these weapons in neighbouring countries and have found that they have proven a great success,” Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson told RÚV this morning. “As a result of this review – which has been ongoing, as I’ve reported to the media – we’ve decided to implement their use in Iceland, especially considering that police departments and police officers have called for it.”

Jón noted that it was unfortunate that such a step “needed to be taken.” Given the state of affairs, however, it was imperative to ensure the safety of police officers, who have observed a growing threat from the use of weapons in Iceland. The frequency of accidents involving police officers has been on the rise.

Jón maintained that the use of electroshock weapons in neighbouring countries had significantly reduced the number of accidents involving police officers and suspects alike. In light of this, the Minister of Justice plans on amending regulations to authorise their use.

When asked about the hazards of such an amendment, Jón replied that every weapon came with its risk: “But we believe that that risk, when it comes to bodily harm, is not as great when compared to the resources that the police currently have at their disposal, such as batons.”

Jón added that strict and clear rules would be set regarding the use of electroshock weapons, noting that the latest models were equipped with cameras that would make their employment easy to monitor. Furthermore, Jón noted, experience had shown that it was often “enough that the weapons were available,” although they did not always need to be used, for there to be an effect. He expects that the police authorities could begin using these weapons as early as the middle of next year, although such a thing would depend on contractual bids and the training of police officers.

When asked if there was a consensus about this amendment within the government, Jón responded thusly: “It’s not been discussed formally. But I have, of course, discussed this repeatedly in the media over recent months and announced that preparations were underway. We’re at a turning point now.”

COVID-19 in Iceland: Domestic Regulations Relaxed on April 15

mask use social distancing

Iceland will raise its national gathering limit from 10 to 20 people on Thursday and reopen gyms, bars, and swimming pools. The relaxed domestic restrictions, recommended by the country’s Chief Epidemiologist and approved by Iceland’s cabinet this morning, will remain in effect for three weeks.

The main changes that will take effect on April 15 are as follows:

  • Gyms and pools will reopen at 50% capacity.
  • Sports competitions and athletic activities with or without contact will be permitted among adults and children. The maximum number of adults in such activities is 50. Children are subject to the same gathering limits as in school activities.
  • Performing arts activities, including choirs, are permitted with up to 50 performers and maximum 100 guests in each separate section.
  • All shops can accept up to 5 guests for every 10 squared metres of space up to a maximum of 100 people, in addition to 20 employees in the same space.
  • Nightclubs, pubs, and slot machine venues may operate under the same conditions as restaurants. They must close by 9.00pm.
  • Driving and flight lessons are permitted to restart.
  • The general distancing rule for schools will be reduced from two metres to one metre. Preschool and primary school children will be permitted to engage in sports and recreational activities.

Iceland currently has 93 active cases of COVID-19 and one of the lowest infection rates in Europe. Only one patient is currently in hospital due to COVID-19. A total of 28,056 have been fully vaccinated (7.6% of the population) and an additional 33,078 have received their first dose (8.97%).

The updated regulations are in line with the Chief Epidemiologist’s recommendations, Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir stated in an interview today. No changes will be made to border regulations at this time.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Domestic Regulations Relaxed Today

skiing ski lift Iceland

Updated COVID-19 regulations take effect in Iceland today, raising the gathering limit from 10 to 20 people and allowing gyms and skiing grounds to reopen. The new regulations are set to remain in effect until February 17. Icelandic authorities are investigating whether stricter border regulations such as mandatory testing for arriving passengers are supported by Icelandic law.

While the COVID-19 pandemic grows in most of its neighbouring countries, Iceland has managed to keep domestic case numbers at a minimum. Total active cases have hovered around 150 for several weeks and Iceland currently has the lowest incidence rate of all countries reported on by the European Centre for Disease Control. In a briefing on Monday, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist stated it was time to relax domestic restrictions, while expressing concern at the risk presented by the high number of cases diagnosed at the borders.

Changes to Domestic Restrictions

As of today, the national gathering limit is 20, up from a record low of 10 which has been in effect since October 31. In addition, various activities and events have been granted exceptions to this general gathering limit. Gyms are permitted to reopen at 50% capacity with certain restrictions in place. Skiing grounds may also reopen. Athletic activities for adults and children are also permitted with a maximum of 50 participants and with certain restrictions in place. Athletic competitions are also permitted without a live audience.

In performing arts, up to 50 people may rehearse and perform together for up to 100 adults and 100 children in the audience. Audience members must have assigned seating and wear masks, and no intermissions are permitted during performances. Performers are also required to wear masks whenever possible.

Funerals are also excepted from the national gathering limit and may have up to 100 guests present (children born 2005 or later are not counted within this limit). Masks are mandatory. Funeral receptions may not host more than 20 people, however.

Mask use remains mandatory in shops, on public transport, and in all situations where two-metre distancing cannot be maintained. The two-metre social distancing rule also remains in effect. Bars and clubs remain closed.

Changes to Border Restrictions

One change to border restrictions also took effect today: children returning to the country from abroad are now required to quarantine along with their parents or guardians. Children were previously not required to do so, even while residing with others in travel quarantine. Children born in 2005 or later remain exempt from border testing, barring exceptional circumstances.

All travellers entering Iceland may choose between 14-day quarantine without testing, or a border test, five-day quarantine, and a follow-up test. While the vast majority of travellers opt for double testing, there have been indications of individuals in 14-day quarantine breaching regulations. Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has expressed concern that travellers arriving from abroad could spread the virus into the community, leading to a surge in domestic cases.

As a result, Icelandic authorities are considering making border testing mandatory for all travellers, or requiring those who refuse testing to serve their 14-day quarantine at government-run facilities. It remains unclear, however, whether Icelandic law supports such regulations. Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir has stated that a conclusion on the matter will be reached by the end of the week.

Criticism of Finance Minister After He Breaks COVID-19 Regulations

Bjarni Benediktsson kynning fjármálafrumvarp 2021

Opposition MPs have called for Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson’s resignation after he broke COVID-19 regulations by attending a gathering of 50-60 people on December 23. While several government ministers have expressed disappointment with Bjarni’s actions, none have suggested it warrants the dissolution of the governing coalition.

In the early hours of December 24, media received logs from Reykjavík Capital Area Police describing how officers had broken up a large gathering in downtown Reykjavík the previous night. The gathering was at a public venue and occurred after the mandated closing time of 9.00pm. “Between 40-50 guests were gathered in the hall, and one honoured Minister of the Icelandic cabinet among them,” the log stated. Iceland’s national gathering limit is currently 10 individuals and social distancing of 2 metres is mandatory in most public situations.

Guests Drinking and Kissing

“There was considerable drunkenness at the gathering and most of the guests had alcohol in hand. Police noticed that none of the guests wore face masks. Policemen stated that distancing regulations were barely respected by anyone.” Police then notified the event organisers that the incident would be reported and ordered the guests to leave. “Many guests took leave of each other with hugs and some with kisses. One of the guests was dissatisfied with the police intervention and compared us to Nazis,” the log concluded.

Minister Apologised for Not Leaving Immediately

Though police did not identify which minister was at the gathering, it came to light soon after that it had been Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson, who is also Chairman of the Independence Party. In a Facebook post published on the morning of December 24, Bjarni stated that he and his wife were downtown the previous evening and received a call from some friends asking them to stop by the venue in question and say hello. “When we came in and went up into the hall last night I should have realized that there were more people there than rules allow.” Bjarni stated that he had been at the gathering for 15 minutes when police arrived to break it up. “The right response would have been to leave the art gallery immediately as soon as I realised that the crowd was above limits. I did not do that and I sincerely apologise for that mistake,” the Minister concluded in his post.

Á heimleið úr miðborginni í gærkvöldi fengum við Þóra símtal frá vinahjónum, sem voru stödd á listasafninu í…

Posted by Bjarni Benediktsson on Thursday, December 24, 2020

 

Parliament Responds

Several government ministers have responded to the incident. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated that Bjarni’s attendance of the event damaged trust in the government, but did not call for his resignation. Transport Minister and Progressive Party Chairman Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson called the incident “unfortunate,” and stated that it did not set a good example, but added that it would not affect co-operation in the three-party coalition government.

The Chief Epidemiologist also responded to the incident, saying: “It is just very bad when the nation’s leaders don’t follow these rules,” adding that it was “a shame” that the incident had happened.

While opposition MPs and others outside of Parliament have called for Bjarni to resign, Political Scientist Eiríkur Bergmann believes such a move to be unlikely. Eiríkur also stated it is unlikely the incident would lead to a dissolution of the governing coalition. He speculated that it was more likely to have a negative effect on the coalition’s Left-Green Movement than Bjarni’s own Independence Party, as Independence Party voters were more likely to forgive the Minister for his actions.

Don’t Pick Up Family from the Airport, Say Authorities

Taxis at the airport

Police at Keflavík airport will increase surveillance after becoming aware that some locals were picking up friends and relative arriving in Iceland, Vísir reports. Picking up travellers arriving from abroad constitutes a breach of Iceland’s quarantine regulations, which mandate all those arriving in Iceland to quarantine for at least five days.

Sigurgeir Sigmundsson, Chief Superintendent of Keflavík Airport Police, expressed concern about the situation, saying people at the airport had “even been kissing and hugging and taking their masks off.” There were four acceptable options for those arriving from abroad: taking a taxi or bus (which follow strict prevention and disinfection regulations), renting a car, or leaving their own car at the airport (or have it dropped off by a friend or family member). Sharing a car with a local upon arrival constitutes a breach of quarantine.

If a local does choose to pick up a family member or friend arriving from abroad, they must then quarantine with that person, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has stated.

Read More: What do I need to know when travelling to Iceland post-COVID-19?

Travellers arriving in Iceland can choose between a five-day quarantine and double testing or a 14-day quarantine with no testing upon entering the country. Limited certificates confirming recovery from COVID-19 are accepted by Icelandic authorities as an exemption from quarantine and testing.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Restrictions Relaxed from December 10

Sundlaugin Laugardal

Social restrictions due to COVID-19 will be moderately relaxed in Iceland this Thursday, December 10. The country’s swimming pools will reopen at 50% capacity, while shops, schools, performing arts venues, and restaurants will also see moderately relaxed restrictions. The national gathering limit will remain at 10 people, though with several exceptions. The new regulations will remain in effect until January 12.

While Iceland saw a rise in new COVID-19 case numbers at the end of November, new domestic case numbers and overall active cases have been dropping in recent days. The country appears to have contained the current wave of cases.

Ten-Person Limit Still in Effect

Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir just announced the updated COVID-19 restrictions that take effect this Thursday, December 10, following a government meeting that took place this morning. Current restrictions mandate a 10-person gathering limit across the country and bars, gyms, swimming pools are closed.

While the 10-person limit will remain in effect from December 10, several exceptions to the rule have been granted from that date. All shops will be permitted to take in 5 customers per 10 square metres up to a maximum of 100 customers. This regulation applies to non-essential shops as well.

Restaurants may take in up to 15 guests at a time (up from 10 previously) and may remain open until 10.00pm, one hour later than current regulations allow. They may, however, not admit any new guests after 9.00pm.

Performing Arts, Sports Permitted

Swimming pools may reopen on Thursday, though only at 50% capacity. Athletic activities for adults in the top league of the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland (ÍSÍ) will be permitted to restart. This applies to both contactless and contact sports.

Performing arts, currently banned, will be permitted again from Thursday. Groups of up to 30 performers are permitted to rehearse and perform together, and can entertain up to 50 seated, mask-wearing guests, though neither intermissions nor alcohol sales are permitted at performances. Funerals may have up to 50 guests.

Children born in 2005 or later will no longer be required to wear masks in schools, shops, or other locations. Preschools will no longer be required to keep classes separate.

Consensus Within Government

Svandís stated that the regulations are slightly different from Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason’s recommendations, though the changes were made in consultation with him. The Health Minister stated that there was consensus on the updated regulations within the government.

Asked whether the regulations would be sufficient to avoid a new wave after the holidays, Svandís stated: “If everyone follows the rules then they will be sufficient.” The regulations will be in effect until January 12.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Updated Regulations Take Effect Today

barber shop hair salon

Slight changes to Iceland’s COVID-19 restrictions take effect today, November 18. The changes are minor and mostly affect school operations and children’s activities, though hair salons and massage parlours have been permitted to reopen. Authorities have emphasised the need for continued restrictions over the coming weeks in order to avoid a resurgence in new cases.

Following a summer with low COVID-19 infection rates, Iceland experienced a new wave of infection that started in mid-September. Active case numbers and the country’s incidence rate have been dropping steadily since mid-October, however.

Most Rules Have Been Extended

Most of the country’s regulations, implemented on October 31 or earlier, remain unchanged in the new regulations, which will be in effect for two weeks. A gathering ban on groups over 10 remains in effect, and bars, clubs, swimming pools, and gyms remain closed. Regulations for restaurants remain the same: they may operate but must close no later than 10.00pm.

As per the previous regulations, grocery stores and pharmacies may take in 50-100 customers at a time, where space allows for 2-metre distancing. Mask use remains mandatory in shops and on public transportation.

Changes to Gathering Limits in Schools

Most of the regulations that have been relaxed affect schools and children’s activities. Athletics and recreational activities for children of preschool and primary school age are permitted to resume from today, both indoors and outdoors. In order for such activities to take place, the mixing of different groups at this age is now permitted.

Groups of up to 50 are permitted for children in preschools and grades 1-4, whereas children in grades 5-10 may be in groups of up to 25. Mask use is no longer mandatory for children in grades 5-7 and neither is 2-metre distancing.

In junior colleges (where students are generally aged 16-19), groups of up to 25 are permitted, up from the limit of 10 yesterday. Some junior colleges have reported, however, that they will continue online teaching for the remainder of the term. Students and staff at junior colleges are required to use masks where two-metre distancing cannot be maintained.

Hair salons and massage parlours are also permitted to reopen as of today, and driving and flight lessons are permitted once more. Mask use is mandatory for all commercial activities requiring contact or close proximity. The updated regulations will remain in effect until December 1.

COVID-19 in Iceland: New School Regulations Take Effect Tomorrow

Borgarfjörður eystri

Tightened COVID-19 restrictions for schools take effect tomorrow, including mandatory mask usage for students in grade 5 and above. Tightened COVID-19 restrictions took effect in Iceland on Saturday, October 31, including a gathering ban on groups over 10 and mandatory mask usage in stores for everyone over the age of five. Preschools, primary schools, and music schools are closed today in the Reykjavík capital area in order to plan the implementation of the new restrictions. They will reopen tomorrow, November 3.

The regulations from primary schools (grades 1-10) are listed below.

  • Grades 1-4: Students are exempt from the 2-metre rule and are not required to wear masks. Up to 50 students may be in the same room. The same rules apply to after-school centres for students in grades 1-4.
  • Grades 5-10: No more than 25 students may be together in a single room. Both students and staff are required to keep a 2-metre distance from each other and use masks when distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Primary School Staff: No more than 10 staff members can be together in a single room. Staff are permitted to move between groups. Staff must maintain two-metre distancing between each other and from students in Grades 5-10. Where two-metre distancing is not possible, staff members are required to wear masks.
  • Gathering Limits and Group Separation: Students in primary schools and after-school centres shall be kept in the same groups which will remain separate. The gathering limit may be broken and group mixing is permitted in the school’s common areas as long as staff and students in grades 5-10 wear masks.
  • Athletics: Organised athletic activities and recreational programming for youth, including community centre programs for primary school children is not permitted.

Secondary Schools, Universities, and Music Schools

  • The general 10-person gathering limit applies, as well as mandatory 2-metre distancing and mask usage for universities, music schools, and secondary schools. For first-year mandatory subjects in secondary schools, groups of up to 25 students are permitted, as long as 2-metre distancing is maintained.
  • Mixing of students between groups is not permitted, but staff and teachers may move between groups. The gathering limit may be broken and group mixing is permitted in the school’s common areas as long as masks are worn.
  • Practical teaching, art, and clinical studies may be held outdoors with the same 10-person limit even when 2-metre distancing cannot be maintained. Mask use is, however, mandatory.

Teachers Oppose Exceptions for Young Students

The Primary School Teachers’ Association released a statement urging authorities to reconsider the regulations issued for schools. The statement argues that the decision to allow students in grades 1-4 to be in groups of up to 50 without requiring 2-metre distancing or the use of masks “seriously undermines” the objective of tightening COVID-19 regulations.

The association says it is not disputing research that shows children are less likely to contract and spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It points out, however, that the general regulations that took effect on Saturday are meant to apply to everyone born before 2015.