The move was approved at a cabinet meeting this lunchtime and the prime minister and health minister told reporters there was unanimity in government about approving the move, which is in line with similar declarations in neighbouring countries.
Infection too widespread for restrictions
Health minister Willum Þór Þórsson told reporters this afternoon that his decision is in line with the recommendation of the chief epidemiologist and is made partly because the spread of the virus today is too widespread for restrictions to bring significant results any more.
Willum says he worries for Landspítali national university hospital every day, saying times have been hard in the health service and will continue to be. People are still being admitted to hospital with COVID-19, and others are contracting the virus while in hospital. There are many hospital staff off work due to the virus as well. All this affects hospital services and makes life complicated.
We know covid
Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister, said Iceland has learnt a lot over the past two years and people know how to approach the virus. She says she believes people will continue to behave cautiously and try to limit its spread.
“We are reclaiming a normal life, though the virus is still with us,” Katrín said. Many more people have yet to catch it, and that could still cause problems at workplaces, health facilities, and in the lives of everybody in the country, but, she said, society has reached the point of it being possible to live with the virus.
"Til hamingju með daginn”
This is the third time all domestic restrictions have been removed (though the first at the border) and the relaxations were short-lived on previous occasions. Both previous times occurred in the summer and both times people hoped the virus was little more than a memory—but it proved not to be. Katrín said today the authorities are prepared for the possibility of a new variant becoming dominant that could require the swift reintroduction of restrictions. “We will not stop monitoring the progress of the pandemic here at home and overseas,” she said—but added that she hopes this was the last such press conference her government has to give.
The health minister ended the press conference saying “til hamingju með daginn” (congratulations with the day), which is a common greeting during holidays and times of celebration.