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648 COVID-19 cases in Iceland: 24 March update

24.03.2020 - 13:53
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 Mynd: RÚV - Rúnar Ingi Garðarsson - RÚV
The latest figures just released show that there are 648 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Iceland to date, 8,205 people in quarantine, and 13 in hospital. One woman died as a result of the virus yesterday. The stricter assembly ban is now in force. Gyms, swimming pools, hair salons, beauty parlours, museums, libraries, museums, and more are closed for the foreseeable future as a result.
  • A woman aged around 70 died at Reykjavík’s Landspítali university hospital after being sick with the virus for a week, her son revealed in a public post on social media. She is the first Icelandic citizen known to have died from the coronavirus, and the second individual in Iceland.  
  • deCODE genetics scientists have sequenced some 40 mutations of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Iceland to date and have discovered one individual who was infected with two types at the same time
  • The new harsher assembly rules came into effect at midnight and mean that gatherings of over 20 people are now banned; as are gatherings and services where a gap of at least two metres cannot be ensured between people. This means a lot of shops, restaurants, and bars have decided to close, as well as all hair salons, swimming pools, gyms, museums, libraries, beauty parlours, and many other services. IKEA has also decided to close and is directing customers to its website instead. Religious services and ceremonies are included in the ban. Subscriptions to pools and gyms will be lengthened to make up for the closures, and fines will not be applied to library books returned late. 
  • Vinnumálastofnun (the Directorate of Labour) is closing all of its service centres, but will continue to help people online and by phone. The head of the Directorate, Unnur Sverrisdóttir, says online applications for wage top-ups for people on reduced hours during the crisis will be made a simple and fast as possible. Applications for the State help are not yet being taken.  
  • The Klettagarðar sewage treatment plant in Reykjavík is currently out of action and raw sewage is being pumped into the sea temporarily. The treatment plant is clogged up with antibacterial wet wipes which the city utilities company reminds residents are NOT suitable for flushing down the toilet and should instead be thrown away after use. 
  • The much-publicised shortage of swabs for virus testing could be alleviated by a stockpile of 100,000 swabs manufactured in Iceland by Össur. They are not of the same quality grade as the 5,000 ordered from overseas, but initial results indicate they might be good enough. 
  • In more positive news, nursing homes in East Iceland yesterday put out an appeal on social media for donations to buy six new oxygen machines in preparation for any coronavirus outbreak among the region’s elderly and vulnerable. Thanks to local companies, clubs, and individuals, the appeal reached its funding target in just half an hour. 
  • And Iceland’s banks, savings banks, and pension funds have jointly agreed to allow struggling companies to suspend loan repayments while the crisis continues. The action, according to a press release, is to save companies and therefore save jobs. 

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