COVID rule relaxation recommendations

22.02.2021 - 15:39
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 Mynd: Almannavarnir
Chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has presented recommendations for further changes to anti coronavirus contagion rules within Iceland. Among the changes the health minister might make are allowing spectators at sporting events again. He does not recommend significantly relaxing the rules at bars and restaurants at this time, however. The prospect of summer festivals is still on the table this year, he says.

Þórólfur told reporters today he did not want to go into great detail about his recommendations to the minister, but he did give some indications. He emphasised the need to remain cautious, as a new wave of infection is a constant risk. 1-1.5 percent of arriving passengers are still testing positive at the border, and there are still new domestic cases coming up—though it is good news that there have only been two in the past week, and none outside of quarantine since 1st February.

“There has developed a strong premise for further relaxation of anti-contagion measures here inside the country,” Þórólfur said—adding that health minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir will probably reveal her decision on the next steps following the government cabinet meeting tomorrow morning. While some people will think restrictions are being eased too quickly and others not quickly enough, Þórólfur says he believes his recommendations represent a reasonable middle path. 

He specifically emphasised that restrictions on bars and pubs should be relaxed with extreme caution, after the last wave of infection started in Reykjavík bars. 

Þórólfur said he has not recommended removing face mask requirements at this time, but that the rule on masks could change soon. He hopes many people will choose to continue wearing them even if they are not compulsory. 

And what about festivals this summer? 

“I find that not unlikely,” Þórólfur responded. If things continue to go well, festivals that were cancelled last year could take place this year—especially if the plan to vaccinate a majority of the population by the end of June becomes a reality. That positive outlook is based on people continuing to be careful, even when rules are relaxed, he said: “It means we can’t live the wild good life.”  

As confirmation season approaches, many are wondering how their children’s confirmation parties might look this spring—especially as many teenagers expecting to get confirmed last year decided to postpone by a year. Þórólfur answered that he is less inclined to recommend allowing large private parties than to increase limits at organised events, such as concerts, where numbered seating and other measures can be assured.  

Many have also been disappointed that sports have not so far fallen under relaxed rules on creative and artistic gatherings, such as concerts and plays. Asked if his new recommendations include anything for sports fans wanting to attend events as spectators, Þórólfur confirmed that they do—though he would not go into specifics. 

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