COVID-19: 200 people together and visitors in hospital

14.05.2020 - 13:31
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Anton Brink -
The next stage of assembly ban relaxations will see up to 200 people allowed to gather in the same space, while hospitals and nursing homes are also preparing to allow visitors again. Icelandair’s future prospects rely on a chain of quite specific events. Íslandsbanki is in positive mood. And more in today’s round-up.
  • There were no new COVID-19 diagnoses in Iceland yesterday from 551 tests, and nobody at all remains hospitalised with the coronavirus. There have been just four cases diagnosed during May so far. There are 12 active cases of COVID-19 in Iceland and 1,780 recovered patients. The death toll remains at ten.
  • Chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason is proposing to the health minister that the current 100-person assembly limit be increased to 200 people from 25th May. His proposal would also allow alcohol-licenced establishments that do not serve food to open again on 25th May under the same conditions as eateries—including closing at 23.00 each night.  
  • When pools open on 18th May and gyms on 25th May, each will be limited to 50 percent of its registered maximum capacity. In other words, a pool complex usually allowed to serve 100 guests at a time will be capped at 50. They will return to 100 percent capacity on or before 15th June. 
  • Þórólfur says all of his recommendations, which the minister is highly likely to approve, are subject to there not being a significant new spike in COVID-19 infections. They can be rolled back if necessary. 
  • In interview on RÚV’s Kastljós programme last night, Þórólfur clarified that Iceland’s new system to allow people to enter the country without quarantine if they are certified COVID free could start as early as the end of this month if facilities are ready in time. There is no need to wait until 15th June if everything is ready before that time, he says. He also clarified that people submitting to testing upon arrival at Keflavík International Airport will be sent straight to their home or hotel and told to wait there without going out. Results will take around half a day and anyone then found to be positive for COVID-19 will likely be taken to the quarantine hotel on Rauðarárstígur in central Reykjavík. 
  • Civil protection chief at the State police Víðir Reynisson says that the 25th May will probably be a bigger, even more memorable milestone in relaxing controls in Iceland than the 4th May was, when the first step was taken.
  • Meanwhile, the future of Icelandair continues to hang in the balance. While the government has agreed to provide state guarantees to the company, that promise is contingent on a successful financial restructuring being agreed at the investors' meeting a little over a week from now. That financial restructuring, meanwhile, is contingent on new wage and conditions contracts being agreed with all remaining staff. The airline’s cabin crew are currently far from agreeing a deal that they call an unacceptable 40 percent cut. Cabin crew are not among Icelandair’s highest-paid workers and saving the airline should not fall on their shoulders, they say. Icelandair counters that the cumulative effect of the proposed new contract is far less than a 40 percent cut. The company director has publicly asked the flight attendants to take another look at the proposed contract.
  • Finance minister Bjarni Benediktsson yesterday told Alþingi that Iceland needs a major airline connecting Europe and North America through a hub at Keflavík and that it is unlikely any foreign airline would ever fully fulfil that role. Quashing any remaining speculation around a full public takeover, however, he also said that a new Icelandic airline would surely be able to fill the gap in the event of Icelandair disappearing. 
  • Landspítali university hospital will next week start allowing patients to see visitors again for the first time since 6th March. The visitor ban will be relaxed differently ward by ward, depending on patient sensitivity. Nursing homes are taking an even more cautious approach, but will also begin the slow process of opening to visitors again next week. 
  • Finally today, the latest economic forecast from Íslandsbanki concludes that there remains a lot to be positive about. The economy will contract by 9.2 percent this year and average unemployment will be at 9.6 percent, the bank predicts. But that will drop to 5.8 percent unemployment next year and 3.8 the year after that, and economic growth will jump to 4.7 percent next year. The bank also notes that the State treasury and Central Bank of Iceland currency reserves remain historically well-prepared to support and stimulate the economy. 

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