Chief epidemiologist to retire

12.05.2022 - 13:14
Mynd: Grímur Jón Sigurðsson / RÚV
Iceland’s chief epidemiologist, Þórólfur Guðnason, says the time has come for him to step down. He will be 70 next year and Iceland in a good position today with regard to the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking to RÚV this lunchtime, he was in a happy mood: "There are a lot of self-appointed epidemiologists and infectious diseases specialists in this country, so I think this should be a good opportunity for very many people who think they have a role to play in this,” he said.

Þórólfur has been working in his field for many years, and was appointed the nation’s chief epidemiologist in 2015—a relatively little-known role in the public consciousness at the time, but one of the best-known people in the country today. Þórólfur says that his departure does not mean the pandemic is over, and emphasises that various things could still change. 

He says he does not regret many things during the pandemic, and that he has worked with many fantastic people who are excelling in their field. “We have been working with information in real-time. There are various things one would have liked to have done differently, but I think we can all be proud of our work.”  

COVID-19 is not the only risk, though, he says. Just like Iceland’s volcanoes, another pandemic is always waiting round the corner and it is hard to predict how and when events will play out. 

Þórólfur says he has kept a diary throughout the pandemic and that the time will hopefully come to tie things up: a statement that could be interpreted as a promise to release a book on the pandemic in the future. A competent musician (though one who diligently stops short of describing himself as a good musician), Þórólfur says he looks forward to blowing the dust off his guitar in the hope of maybe becoming a regular on television as a musician rather than as a doctor. 

Þórólfur says he loved the sense of solidarity that formed during the pandemic, at home and overseas, but admits he occasionally wondered what he was doing. “That was not often, though. There were many various voices of criticism, some professional, some unprofessional. I just allowed the latter ones to wash over me.” He says he has been considering retiring for some time and is sure the job will be put into highly capable hands. 

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