"Pointless To Close Iceland Off" In Event Of Pandemic, Icelandic Doctor Says - The Reykjavik Grapevine

“Pointless To Close Iceland Off” In Event Of Pandemic, Icelandic Doctor Says

Published October 8, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photo by
Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Jeremy L. Grisham

An Icelandic epidemiologist has questioned the premises and practicality of new research which contends that Iceland would be amongst a few “island refuges” where humanity could rebuild itself following a deadly global pandemic, citing both historical precedent and current reality.

As reported, a new research paper, The Prioritization of Island Nations as Refuges from Extreme Pandemics, contends that Iceland is amongst the island countries of the world that could save the human race from extinction if a virulent and deadly disease were unleashed upon the world, with Australia and New Zealand topping the list of such possible refuges. Dr. Þórólfur Guðnason, an epidemiologist, told RÚV that he does not considering this a realistic idea.

Þórolfur cites the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which killed hundreds of people in Iceland before all was said and done. At the time, he points out, the virus was contained and the epidemic eradicated in Iceland by temporarily closing off connections between local communities and the outside world alike.

“But I do not think that this would work today,” he said. “It would be quite hopeless with modern transport and modern demands, the importation of foodstuffs, goods and products. It would never work.”

Þórolfur adds that in the case of the Spanish flu, Iceland needed to close itself off for a very long time, as the epidemic took a year or so to really gather strength.

“Are we to close ourselves off from the rest of the world for three years?,” he asks. “I don’t see how that would work.”

It is true that Icelandic agriculture is fairly limited in terms of what it can provide for its own populace; Icelanders need to import not just food, but medicine, clothing, building materials and other essential items in order for society to function properly. Taking on a larger surge in people while at the same time completely closing contact with the rest of the world would, at best, put a considerable strain on the sustainability of Icelandic society.

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