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1,086 COVID-19 cases in Iceland: 30 March update

30.03.2020 - 15:19
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Lögreglan
There are now 1,086 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Iceland, 9,236 people in home quarantine, 30 in hospital (including ten in intensive care), and 157 are registered as having made a full recovery. With only a couple of flights a day, it is becoming harder and harder to bring Icelandic residents overseas home again. The government has contracted with Icelandair to keep air links open and will pay to cover the losses incurred.
  • Icelandair will fly to Boston in North America and London and/or Stockholm on the European side, with at least six trips to each destination over the next three weeks. The Icelandic government will cover any losses the airline incurs on the trips. Both sides agree it is important to keep links open, even though demand for air travel remains very low. There is only one scheduled departure from Keflavík International Airport today: the afternoon Icelandair flight to Boston. 
  • Alvogen has decided to give 50,000 doses of the Hydroxychloroquine malaria medication to Landspítali university hospital. Robert Wessmann, director of the company, says the medicine is expected from India within the next few days and will be a gift to the Icelandic people. The drug has been used as part of the treatment of COVID-19 in various countries, including China, France, the USA, Belgium, and India. 
  • Húnaþing vestra county in northwest Iceland is being released from its special state of lockdown and will be subject to the same restrictions as the rest of the country. The special restrictions were put in place following a spate of cases of the virus in the area. 
  • Immigrants in Iceland are benefitting from more information in languages other than Icelandic, but many missed out on the crucial first few weeks during which Icelandic speakers cemented their trust in the country’s civil protection authorities, according to head of the Reykjavík intercultural council and Samfylkingin (Social Democrat) councillor Sabine Leskopf. This, combined with inevitable comparisons to responses in people’s coutries of origin, has led to lower trust and more anxiety in some sector of the immigrant community. Iceland’s civil protection agency has today started sessions in English after its daily press conference, which are also translated into Polish. 
  • With more people home more of the time, the City of Reykjavík is having to increase refuse collection services, as households are throwing away around a third more than normal. Sales of weights and gym equipment are massively increased, as are sales of alcohol. Vín búðin is selling twice as much red and white wine as at the same time last year, for example. Medical chiefs warn against alcohol as a coping mechanism during difficult times, as it does more long-term harm than good for mental wellbeing. The peak in sales does not necessarily mean people are drinking more, however, because most bars and cafés are closed, meaning Vín búðin is often the only option. The same is true for exercise equipment, as gyms and swimming pools are closed. 
  • On the subject of personal welfare, the Icelandic Red Cross reports the number of calls to its 1717 helpline have increased rapidly during the coronavirus outbreak. Many people are worried about the disease and about the social isolation of quarantine and social distancing, but many others are worried about the financial implications. The jump has been from around 250 phone calls a week before the outbreak to over 3,000 now. 
  • Three out of four respondents in the latest Gallup poll said they trust the authorities in their response to the virus outbreak. When the government is taken out of the question, 95 percent said they trust the civil protection agency and the health authorities. Only three percent of respondents think the government is going too far in its economic response to try and save businesses and jobs during the crisis. 
  • The prime minister and the chairperson of the Alþingi economic affairs committee have both said in interviews this weekend that companies taking advantage of emergency provisions to survive the crisis will not be allowed to pay their shareholders dividends on any profits later in the year. “That would be completely unreasonable and unfair,” said Óli Björn Kárason. 

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