Iceland COVID outbreak had few sources

15.10.2020 - 13:53
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Iceland’s capital is experiencing a major coronavirus spike traced to a few specific places.

As Iceland’s COVID-19 figures reach levels not seen since the spring, it is clear that this third wave of infection is centred on the capital region, and that it can be traced back to a few specific times and places.

Contact with family, friends, and colleagues is a much greater risk than strangers out in the shops, data suggest. 

In the third wave of infection, which started a month ago, more than 1,500 have been diagnosed with the virus. The infections have almost all been in the capital region.

The single biggest outbreak came from a group infection at a boxing gym in Kópavogur. A total of at least 235 cases have been traced back there.

On Thursday 1st October, a member of the boxing gym was diagnosed with the virus after having practiced at the facility. Five days later, 20 cases had been linked to it; both among boxing practitioners and those who had been in close proximity to them. The following day, nearly 70 cases had been traced there. That number has nearly quadrupled in one week.

That one boxer could have caught the virus at a bar in central Reykjavík. “The exposure which took place that weekend in the city centre, connected to the bars, that was the start of this wave, in actual fact,” says Jóhann Björn Skúlason, head of contact tracing at the civil protection agency.

Most are infected by those closest to them: family, friends, or colleagues. “It is most likely droplet infection. There may be some contact infections but usually these are, as we are seeing from the data, concurrent events," Jóhann says, adding: "Whether it’s a bar, a club, a confirmation party, wherever people come together, there can be a big outbreak, wherever we see big groups form. Coincidental infections around shops and services we are really not seeing.”

Such 'coincidental infections' are rare because people are generally following the rules on face masks and sanitiser in shops and other public spaces. The low rate of infection among retail staff backs the data up.

Sequencing has revealed that at least 1,120 people have contracted the so-called 'blue virus', while the so-called 'green' variant of the coronavirus that caused the smaller second wave in late summer has all-but disappeared from Icelandic society.

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Alexander Elliott
Project manager
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