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British COVID variant diagnosed outside quarantine

08.03.2021 - 09:29
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Viðar Hákon Gíslason - RÚV
Two people within Iceland have this weekend tested positive for the so-called British variant of COVID-19. They represent the first unquarantined cases since 1st February, and the first domestic cases with the British variant to date. Both are indirectly connected to somebody who tested positive for the virus in their second border test, on Thursday, five days after entering Iceland.

One of the new patients works at Landspítali national university hospital and that person also went to a concert at Harpa on Friday. All concertgoers are being asked to book COVID tests today (through heilsuvera.is and ticking the “Tónleikagestur í Hörpu 5. Mars 2021” (concert guests at Harpa on 5th March 2021) box. Ten people who sat closest to the new patient have already been ordered into precautionary quarantine.

There were around 700 people at the concert overall, though Harpa management say anti-contagion rules were followed to the letter. They do not plan to change the schedule or size of upcoming events unless told otherwise by civil protection authorities. 

Around 30 staff and patients at Landspítali are now in quarantine over the latest diagnoses as well. 

Chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason says this is precisely how the fourth wave of infection in the country could start, and that the next few days will be crucial in deciding whether or not a return to harsher anti-contagion rules is needed. “If it comes to light that there is some spread of the virus outside this group we are talking about now, then it will be absolutely necessary to re-examine the relaxations that have been going on, I believe.” 

Þórólfur explains that a passenger arrived in Iceland on 26th February with a negative PCR test certificate, and tested negative at the border. On the fifth day of quarantine after entering the country, he was tested again and this time was found to have the British variant of the coronavirus. 

“While he was in quarantine, this person seems to have managed to infect two people who were not in quarantine, but tracing does not show that he broke quarantine rules. This shows how contagious the virus can be,” he says. Those who became infected live in the same building and use the same stairwell as the infected man, though they do not appear to have been in direct contact. The contact tracing team is still working on how the infection spread. 

“This shows how little it takes to start a cluster of infections, and even a new COVID-19 wave; especially when talking about this new and more contagious variant of the virus,” Þórólfur says. 

A majority of Landspítali staff who were potentially exposed to the virus by the affected staff member have already been tested, and none has so far come back positive. 

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