Iceland re-imposes harsher COVID-19 controls
Below is a summary of the press conference as it happened:
Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir opens the press conference, saying that ten new cases were diagnosed yesterday, one person has been admitted to hospital, and the time has therefore come to take strong and decisive action. She hands over to health minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir.
Svandís says the new rules will come into force at midday tomorrow (Friday).
The assembly limit will go down from 500 people to 100 people.
The two-metre rule will return and no longer be a recommendation.
Exemptions are made for public transport and children, though masks will be compulsory for the first time.
swimming pools, gyms, restauraunts and bars, however, will not be exempt. They are not asked to close, however, as long as they can maintain the rules.
Bars and night clubs that cannot maintain the two-metre rule may have to close again if they cannot maintain the assembly limit and two-metre rule, but they will be allowed to stay open if they can.
The current double border testing procedures will be extended from not only residents of Iceland, but also to foreign residents who plan to stay for ten days or more. The list of six "safe" countries is not changing, but harsher rules are possible if the system proves insufficient.
The justice minister, Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, told reporters that the national state of emergency is not being reinstated and that the current state of alert will remain in place for now. The harsher rules announced today are a "pull of the handbrake" to give the authorities the time and space they need to bring the situation back under control quickly.
Director of Health Alma Möller explains that people entering the country need to take extra personal responsibility for public safety. Tourists must remain extremely careful and isolate for 24 hours, after which time they can assume their test was negative. Residents and longer-term visitors need to make sure they avoid gatherings larger than ten people and maintain all possible protective measures until their second negative test around five days after entering the country.
Civil protection police chief Víðir Reynisson says the actions today are being taken out of responsibility and not because anybody is angry. He says winding things back a bit should be relativelty simple.
The authorities are not ordering anything to close down again, like in the spring, but it is being left in the hands of individuals and businesses to make sure they do all they can to stick to the rules and make sure they can be relaxed again soon.
The prime minister opens the floor to questions. The first question relates to whether or not Iceland was too quick to relax rules the first time round.
Katrín answers that, for example, it was not too early to open the borders, especially with the testing provisions. The risk was known all along and today's announcement is part of that preparedness and is taken decisively and early to make sure they can be relaxed again as quickly as possible.
Asked whether the country should be returning to emergency level, given that the situation today is the same as it was in February/early March, the justice minister says she will meet with civil protection chiefs this afternoon and that the meaasure will be taken if deemed necessary.
The presss conference ended.