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COVID-19 in Iceland: Domestic Restrictions Extended

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Iceland’s current domestic restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 will be extended for an additional two weeks. The restrictions, which include a general gathering limit of 500 people and one-metre social distancing, were set to expire tomorrow, October 6, but will now remain in effect until October 20, 2021. The Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir decided to extend the regulations on the recommendation of Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason.

Current domestic restrictions in Iceland mandate a gathering limit of 500 and general social distancing of one metre. Distancing is waived at seated events, provided all guests are registered in their seats and wearing masks. The regulations do not apply to school events. Bars, restaurants, and clubs must close by midnight and all customers must have left the premises by 1:00 AM. Swimming pools and gyms are permitted to operate at full capacity. Masks are required in all situations where one-metre distancing cannot be insured, such as on public transportation and in service requiring contact (such as haircuts and massages).

Risky to relax further

Iceland lifted all domestic restrictions on June 26 after a majority of the population had been vaccinated. Two to three weeks later, the rate of COVID-19 infection began to increase as did the rate of serious illness and hospitalisation. Icelandic authorities reintroduced domestic restrictions in July, and has been slowly relaxing them as the wave of infection dies down.

While infection rates have lowered in recent weeks, the Chief Epidemiologist stated in his memorandum that he did not consider it advisable to further relax domestic restrictions in Iceland. “In light of the development of the pandemic abroad and Iceland’s experience of the full lifting of restrictions, I consider it risky to relax the domestic infection prevention measures further than those currently in force,” the Chief Epidemiologist wrote in his memorandum to the Health Minister.

Iceland is currently reporting between 30-60 cases of COVID-19 per day. The country has 361 total active cases and 8 hospitalisations. Over 75% of the population is fully vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

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