Border concerns as nation prepares to relax COVID rules

11.01.2021 - 12:28
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Guðmundur Bergkvist - RÚV
The prevalence of COVID-19 within Iceland continues to decrease, at the same time as most other European countries are in the grip of the worst of the pandemic crisis to date. As Iceland prepares to slightly relax anti-contagion rules this Wednesday, attention is focused on the border and making sure people entering the country respect testing and quarantine rules.

The assembly limit is set to rise from ten to 20 people on Wednesday and cinemas, theatres, and other cultural venues will be allowed up to 100 adults and 100 children, with strictly allocated seating and face masks worn at all times. Gyms and sports clubs will also be allowed to re-open under strictly controlled conditions, for group sessions and classes. Competitive sports will be allowed to resume, but without spectators. Licenced premises that do not sell food, meanwhile, will remain closed while the latest rules are in place from 13th January to 17th February.

From Wednesday, people entering the country who do not want COVID testing at the border followed by quarantine and a second test five days later will instead be made to spend their 14 days of quarantine at a Red Cross quarantine centre. This is to prevent people deliberately ignoring quarantine rules. Children entering Iceland will now quarantine alongside their parents (though not be tested), unlike now, when they can return straight to school. 

Ten new COVID-19 cases were diagnosed domestically on Friday, including nine already in quarantine. Three new cases were diagnosed meanwhile on both Saturday and Sunday—all of whom were already in quarantine. 14 cases were identified yesterday in border testing (five active), and three positives were recorded in secondary testing, five days after people arrived in Iceland and went into home quarantine.

Þórólfur Guðnason, chief epidemiologist, used this morning’s press briefing to ask people in Iceland to avoid all non-essential overseas travel at this time. Keeping new coronavirus cases out of the country is vitally important now, both because of the virus's current rapid spread in other European countries, and because Iceland is about to relax its rules. 

The new rules will be under constant review and could be tightened quickly if the infection rate rises significantly in the coming weeks. 

The country now expects at least 38,000 vaccine doses by the end of March and experts predict herd immunity could be reached by the summer, if the distribution of vaccines goes well.

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