COVID-19 outbreak still growing, bigger than first wave

14.10.2020 - 15:32
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 Mynd: Almannavarir
Þórólfur Guðnason, Iceland’s chief epidemiologist, says it is clear the current coronavirus outbreak is not yet past its peak. “I think it’s fairly clear that this wave is shaping up to be bigger than the wave last winter. It could both peak higher and last longer—it could take a longer time to break it. So, the combined diagnosed total in this wave will likely be more than last winter,” he told RÚV this lunchtime.

The 14-day active rate of infection per 100,000 people in Iceland now stands at 268.9--which is the highest rate recorded in Iceland since the pandemic first arrived in the country. The previous high was 267.2 in early April. There are currently 1,132 people in isolation and 3,409 in precautionary quarantine. 24 people are in hospital, including three in intensive care.

Þórólfur says it is hard to predict how much additional pressure will come to bear on Landspítali and other hospitals in the coming days and weeks. “We’re not seeing much additional pressure on the hospital now, but that can change very quickly, especially when so many are joining the group,” he adds. 

Þórólfur plans to submit his latest memo to the health minister tomorrow with recommendations on the next steps. He believes it is not yet time to relax the current restrictions. “I think, on the other hand, that these measures that are now in force, that we have not started to see any incontrovertible proof yet that they are working. I also think it could take a longer time to see the results,” he says. 

Asked whether the rules could still be strengthened further, he says: “Yes. Everything is still under consideration”. 

In light of the number of children in quarantine, Þórólfur could recommend restrictions on pre- and primary schools; though he told RÚV this lunchtime that the number of cases among young children now is not strikingly different to this spring—especially when one takes into account how many more children are being tested at the moment. He also says that there are still relatively few cases of children passing on the coronavirus at school. Most are infected by adults outside of school. 

Iceland never closed its schools and doing so now would negatively impact essential services and the wider economy by forcing parents to stay home. Þórólfur says it is important to continue looking at the whole picture. 

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Alexander Elliott
Project manager
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