Border is biggest weakness now

14.01.2021 - 12:15
Mynd með færslu
Frá sýnatöku á Keflavíkurflugvelli Mynd: Vilhjálmur Þór - rúv
The chief epidemiologist says re-evaluation of anti-contagion rules should ideally have been complete before the New Year. He believes the ongoing legal uncertainty around actions at the border are dangerous. The infection rate at the border stands at 28.1, while it is down to 18 domestically.

A majority of the cases being discovered in first and second border tests are passengers arriving from Poland. “We have tried really hard in civil protection and epidemiology to get the message across to this group in particular. We are live-interpreting all our information briefings and we have a special liaison in this group to try and get the message across,” says Þórólfur Guðnason, chief epidemiologist. 

Þórólfur recommended the health minister change the law to remove the option of 14 days’ home quarantine and instead force all arriving passengers to take a COVID-19 test at the border, quarantine for five days, and then take a second test. That proposal was not accepted. His back-up was to request people choosing quarantine should spend the 14 days at a Red Cross quarantine centre and not at home, where they could easier break the rules. This, too, has not happened, as there is not believed to be room in the law to implement the requirements. 

Þórólfur is now recommending Iceland start demanding negative test result certificates for arriving passengers, no older than 48 hours, as well as the current double testing at the border. Many other countries are already demanding passengers have recent negative COVID test results when crossing national borders. 

Þórólfur says he thinks the review of anti-contagion rules should have been completed before the New Year, giving time to adapt laws so that his original proposals could have been implemented. 

"It is really bad to have this legal uncertainty over various actions that we are taking and advice, and so forth. It is just not good enough during this crisis, in the middle of a pandemic, for the situation to be like this, so I would most certainly have wanted this finished before the New Year,” Þórólfur told RÚV TV. 

After domestic rules were relaxed yesterday, the border is now considered the major weak point in the fight against the coronavirus, as there are confirmed cases of people entering the country, refusing testing, and then not quarantining for 14 days. Some have returned straight to work and employers are now particularly being called upon to make sure their workers adhere to quarantine rules.  

A very large majority of people opt for the two tests, which are free of charge, and this testing has revealed an infection rate above one percent, and up to ten percent on some planes. The more contagious ‘British variant’ has been uncovered 37 times so far and Iceland would quickly need to return to stricter rules if that strain makes it out into the wider community. 

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