COVID-19 has already begun to have economic effect, abroad as well as here at home, and the Icelandic government is taking steps to ensure it does as little damage as possible. RÚV reports that Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson held a press conference today where they announced what steps the government plans to take to keep the economy moving despite the virus.
COVID-19, of which there are now 69 confirmed cases in Iceland at the time of this writing, has already begun to have economic effects. Icelandair has announced that they will be reducing their flights to Iceland by combining an undetermined number of them; restaurant owners have experienced an unusual loss of revenue; some events have been cancelled; and even cab drivers are experiencing fewer fares.
Katrín opened the conference by saying that the government’s role was to determine the effects of COVID-19 both at home and abroad, while emphasising that Iceland is still in very good shape. However, prevention is the best medicine, and so some economic steps will be taken to head off further cooling on the market.
This is where Bjarni stepped in. He announced that their economic plans would extend until at least mid-May. Amongst their plans are to ease up on taxes and fees on companies which are experiencing a crunch due to the coronavirus. It will also be possible to forego special fees and taxes on aspects of the tourism industry, and the government will be working with different tourism companies to that end in the coming days.
A more detailed plan, published on the official site of the government offices, also says that the government will work more closely with financial services companies and banks to give them more flexibility in terms of the loans that they can offer people and companies alike.
Although the government has full authority to do so, there are as yet no plans to close off the country, in whole or in part. As stated by the Directorate of Health, there will also be no screenings for tourists entering the country, either, primarily for two reasons: first, because tourists are unlikely to come into contact with the most vulnerable members of Icelandic society, such as the elderly and the infirmed; and second, because such screenings are effectively useless unless someone is already displaying symptoms.
The Directorate of Health also has a handy FAQ on how to prevent catching COVID-19. If you are worried you may have COVID-19, have been to any of the high-risk areas or in contact with anyone who has within the last 14 days, you are urged to call 1700 from an Icelandic phone number or +354 544 4113 from any other phone, where a health care professional will give you further information and guidance.
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