No new cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus were diagnosed in Iceland yesterday, more Germans and Scandinavians want to visit Iceland when the borders open, most tourism businesses plan to open this summer, more people are engaged in home improvements than ever, including plenty of complete novices, and lots more in today’s round-up.
- There were no new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in Iceland yesterday for the 11th day so far this May. The number of active cases in the country dropped from 12 to ten, which is the same number of people who have died from the coronavirus in Iceland to date. There are 1,782 people registered as recovered. The number of people in quarantine, however, rose yesterday from 681 to 751.
- Facilities to analyse blood samples for COVID-19 antibodies are now operational at Landspítali national university hospital, though Heilsugæslan (which runs the capital region’s healthcare centres) will not start sending samples for analysis until it becomes explicitly clear which agency will have to pay.
- After yesterday’s cautiously positive economic forecast from Íslandsbanki, Landsbankinn has released its own latest forecast, and it is somewhat more cautious. Landsbankinn predicts peak unemployment of 13 percent this August and September, as the three-month notice period of many laid off during the crisis comes to an end. The bank believes the rate will not dip below ten percent for at least the rest of this year. The forecast nine percent recession this year will be sharper and deeper than during the banking crisis, but with the blessing of five percent growth next year—something that did not happen so quickly a decade ago. Landsbankinn predicts unusually high unemployment in Iceland until 2023.
- Meanwhile, the film production company True North says it is working on the very serious prospect of four major Hollywood productions coming to Iceland this summer; with filming periods up to a month or more. Some reportedly also want to film in Icelandic film studios, which is new for a country used to appearing in foreign films primarily for its landscape. With just a month to prepare, True North is heralding an unprecedented opportunity.
- 15 percent of retail and services companies are reporting takings so far this year that are better than last year. Among them are DIY stores, as it appears more people are engaged in home improvements than ever before. Sales of paint in Iceland are up by as much as 40 percent year-on-year, and the head of the Málning paint company says he has never helped so many complete novices with advice for their first ever decorating tasks.
- The government and the Icelandic association of market garderners have agreed to work on a new contract that will see a 200 million króna increase in State assistance to the industry in exchange for a 25 percent boost in the production of Icelandic fruit and vegetables.
- A North Iceland Marketing Office poll reveals that 90 percent of tourism service providers in the region plan to open this summer, including more than 60 percent that plan to be open this winter as well. Nearly 80 percent of respondents believe it is quite likely or very likely that their companies will survive the current crisis.
- The Smyril Line ferry company, whose ship Norröna connects Iceland with the Faroe Islands and Denmark, has reported a spike in interest from Germany and Scandinavia as soon as the announcement was made this week that Iceland will bring in more flexible quarantine rules on or before 15th June. The head of the company’s Iceland office says it is clear people overseas are following the news here and are interested in visiting.
- Finally today, the ASÍ Confederation of Icelandic Labour has put forward the idea of companies taking more than 100 million krónur in State aid potentially falling into partial government ownership. The confederation exists to stand up for workers’ rights, but for that there need to be jobs, which also means operational businesses. Director Drífa Snædal said yesterday that the State would be more likely to invest more money into saving more companies if it got something in return for taxpayers. She suggests all aid over 100 million krónur during the COVID-19 crisis coming at the cost of a stake in each company for the State.