COVID-19: three patients, and travel takes centre stage

19.05.2020 - 13:36
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Guðmundur Bergkvist - RÚV
Marathon wage and conditions negotiations between Icelandair and its cabin crew are ongoing. They met for 11 hours yesterday and will carry on today as well. Meanwhile, debate has erupted over Iceland’s plans to test people entering the country for COVID-19 instead of quarantining them from mid-June. Some doctors are said to be angry at the plan, while the chief epidemiologist remains positive. There were 99 percent fewer passengers at Keflavík airport in April than a year earlier.
  • Yesterday was the sixth day in a row with no new COVID-19 diagnoses in Iceland. There are now only three active cases in the country and 1,789 recovered patients. 727 people are in mandatory 14-day quarantine, mostly after arriving from overseas. 
  • In separate but loosely-related news, Iceland’s nurses remain without a contract after voting to reject a recent deal. Two out of three nurses say they would be prepared to embark on some sort of strike action to help push their cause. 
  • Icelandair needs to complete new contracts with all remaining employees before its investors’ meeting on Friday. At that meeting it hopes to agree a financial restructuring package. If successful, the government has promised a state guarantee on loans to the struggling airline. After agreeing deals with pilots and mechanics, Icelandair has met significant resistance from its cabin crew members, who claim the proposed cuts to pay and conditions are too much to stomach. The two sides met for 11 hours yesterday and will continue their efforts to close the gap today as well. 
  • Icelandic credit and debit card holders spent 11 percent more at Icelandic shops (including online) this April than they did last April, even though total card use was down by 13.6 percent. Less money spent overseas in person and online is part of the explanation, as was a collapse in card use for items including fuel, medical and beauty services, clothing, and more. Foreign card use in Iceland had never been lower in any month since records began in 2002. 
  • The number of passengers using Keflavík International Airport this April, meanwhile, was 99.3 percent lower than in April 2019. The slowdown at hotels between years was 97 percent. Foreign tourists injected 284 billion krónur into the Icelandic economy in 2019, which was roughly one fifth of all private consumption in the country. 
  • “Super discounts” on offer at Icelandic hotels this spring and summer seem to be drawing in domestic travellers as planned, but the hoteliers’ association warns the prices on offer are not sustainable. They are helping to minimise losses, but hotels are still out of pocket.  
  • Iceland’s chief epidemiologist, Þórólfur Guðnason, says doctors should step back and look at the bigger picture before criticising plans for re-opening Iceland to international travel in June. He says the closed borders have brought their own significant problems, adding that he looks forward to having constructive ongoing conversations with medical colleagues. Everybody has the right to have opinions and only time will tell. He is personally of the opinion that now is the right time to be taking these measures. 
  • Icelandair’s head of sales and customer service has confirmed that last week’s news has brought a spike in enquiries from people who potentially want to visit Iceland this summer, if they can do so without 14 days’ quarantine. Birna Ósk Einarsdóttir says interest is primarily coming from Europe, but also some from Asia. Interest from North America is also up, but it is not yet clear when Americans will be able to travel again.  
  • Finally today, Helga Guðmundsdóttir from Bolungarvík received flowers from prime minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir on her birthday this weekend. As previously reported, Helga was born during the First World War, lived through the Spanish Flu and the Second World War and has now beaten both tuberculosis and COVID-19. She turned 103 years old this Sunday.

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