Precisely two years of covid: all the latest

Mynd: Lögreglan / Lögreglan
While Iceland’s first COVID-19 case was recorded on 28th February 2020, it was on the 27th January that the country declared a civil protection uncertainty alert. Fast forward two years and the government will present its plan to remove all restrictions tomorrow. Yesterday was yet another record day for new infections, but hospital admissions remain comparatively few.

During the past two years, 61,737 people have tested positive for the virus, during the course of over a million PCR tests processed domestically and counting; border tests not included. 709 have been admitted to hospital, including 109 to intensive care. 78 percent of the nation aged 5 and older is fully-vaccinated. 188,800 have had booster shots as well. 

The biggest wave of infection so far is currently in progress, and a new record of 1,567 people tested positive yesterday and the 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 people is now approaching 5,000. 

33 covid patients are currently in hospital in Iceland—the lowest number in a week—and three are in intensive care; two on ventilators. A woman in her 80s died with the virus yesterday. 46 have died in the country to date. 

Two years but end hopefully in sight 

After two years of restrictions on daily life that have come and gone several times, the chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason told reporters yesterday he agrees with many people, including some vocal politicians, that restrictions should now be relaxed despite record case numbers, because of the milder symptoms that generally accompany the Omicron variant which is now dominant.  

Thousands of people were released from quarantine at the start of yesterday, when the rules changed. Now, only people exposed to possible infection at home need to quarantine. Those exposed outside the home need to enter a period of smitgát (more details here) but can carry on daily life. Schoolchildren are exempt from the rules altogether. 

Half the number of people went for testing yesterday than in recent days, but the number is expected to rise again as the new rules likely mean more people will catch the virus and go for testing due to symptoms, rather than to end quarantine. 

Relaxations announced tomorrow 

The timetable for relaxation of restrictions has not been discussed publicly and will be revealed after the government meeting tomorrow. Þórólfur wants them to be removed in several steps, but politicians including several Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn (Independence Party) ministers have said openly that the legal premise for keeping restrictions in place on public safety grounds no longer exists. It will therefore be interesting to find out what the plan will be. 

Landspítali national university hospital is still working on an emergency footing and 219 staff are in isolation with active infection—the highest number so far. The hospital will not lower its state of emergency until next week at the earliest. 

Twice as many infected 

Kári Stefánsson, CEO of deCODE genetics, believes that while official infection figures have been in the region of 1,500 new cases per day, the real number, including people who do not go for PCR testing, is probably 2,000-3,000. He makes the claim based on results from the first stage of his company’s research into the spread of the Omicron variant in Iceland. 

According to the new research, around 20 percent of people under 40 had already had covid four weeks ago. That is double the number shown by official figures. Kári notes that the official numbers have increased over the past four weeks, so the number of unrecorded cases has probably shot up too. 

Kári now supports removing restrictions because Omicron is much more infectious and also much milder than previous variants.  

Þórólfur Guðnason broadly agreed with Kári’s assessment when speaking about the new data from deCODE, adding that after six to eight weeks, it is possible up to 80 percent of the nation will have had covid, and that that could spell the end of the pandemic in Iceland.  

He added, however, that the unexpected has often happened throughout the past two years and could do again—such as, for example, yet another new variant that changes the picture. 

Click to follow RÚV English on Facebook.

27.01.2022 - 14:31