802 COVID-19 cases in Iceland: 26 March update

26.03.2020 - 14:25
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 Mynd: Lögreglan
There are now 802 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Iceland, 9,889 people are in home quarantine, and 15 in hospital, including three on ventilators. 68 are registered as having made a full recovery. 4,500 people requested for wage top-ups yesterday, the first day the Directorate of Labour started accepting applications.
  • The latest computer model jointly compiled by the University of Iceland, the Directorate of Health, and Landspítali university hospital predicts a total of 1,500 to 2,300 people in Iceland will contract the coronavirus during the current outbreak. The model predicts the epidemic will peak in the first week of April and that strain on the health service will peak in the middle of the month, when around 60 people could be in hospital with COVID-19 at any time. 
  • 58 percent of the 4,500 people who applied for State wage top-ups yesterday applied for the full amount; meaning that their working hours have been cut by 75 percent. The State will pay up to 75 percent of people’s wages during the COVID-19 crisis. Unnur Sverrisdóttir, head of Vinnumálastofnun (the Directorate of Labour) says a large number of applications came from Icelandair employees, unsurprisingly, and that she hopes a lower proportion of applications will be for the full 75 percent in the coming days.  
  • Medical staff at the civil protection agency have been working with Landspítali to find suitable buildings to use as temporary hospital wards if the need should arise. The latest model predicts 100-160 people will need hospital treatment in Iceland; including up to 60 at the same time during the peak. The model is regularly updated, however, and authorities are working to a range of different scenarios. 
  • Results on the suitability of 20,000 testing swabs offered by Össur are not yet out, but the head doctor on the bacterial and viral infections ward at Landspítali says it looks positive. His department has also stumbled upon a store of 6,000 swabs that had been largely forgotten. That means there are currently 9,000 useable swabs in the country, with more on order. Testing proceeds at pace, with over 900 people tested yesterday. 
  • In business news, Valitor has decided to increase its card processing charges to businesses using its services. This is because it charges customers interest between the time of card transactions and funds being received from consumers’ accounts. Recent Central Bank of Iceland interest rate cuts mean that the company’s earnings on interest have decreased. Its competitors KORTA and Borgun do not plan to increase their transaction charges, however. 
  • Several meat wholesalers have started charging retailers up to five percent more because the weaker exchange rate of the Icelandic króna has pushed up production costs. Wholesalers say they hope the króna regains strength and that they will be able to lower their prices again. It is not yet clear whether the price of meat in supermarkets will go up, or by how much. 
  • Finally, tune in to Rás 1 or RÚV 2 at 19.30 this evening, and every Thursday evening during the assembly ban, for recordings of Iceland Symphony Orchestra concerts from Harpa in Reykjavík. The orchestra traditionally performs on Thursday evenings, and RÚV hopes the recordings of some notable performances will tide music fans over. There are also performances from selected orchestra members every day at 11.00, live on Rás 1 and RÚV 2.

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