At a press conference held today, Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir said that Iceland will be instituting a gathering ban, beginning on Monday. Universities and secondary schools will be closed. This will be in effect for at least the next four weeks. Also present was Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir; the Directorate of Health’s chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason; and Minister of Culture and Education Lilja Alfreðsdóttir.
Svandís announced that from midnight of March 15th, no more than 100 people will be permitted to gather together. She is also recommending people maintain a distance from one another of more than two metres away. This will not affect ships and airplanes, nor the international airport nor harbours, but shops will not be exempted. Major events such as concerts and conferences will likely be cancelled. This will be in effect for at least the next four weeks.
Katrín opened the conference by stating that “unprecedented times call from unprecedented response”, and that “we must all shoulder responsibility, to protect our most sensitive groups, and I believe we will all do well.” When asked what economic effects the gathering ban will have, Katrín responded that the economic effects were not as high a priority as protecting people from catching the virus.
Further, Lilja announced that university and secondary schools will be closed. Primary and playschools will be allowed to remain open, provided they fulfill certain conditions, including that children are kept in as small groups as possible.
Þórólfur emphasised that the vast majority of those diagnosed are still Icelanders who have returned from abroad, and he believes our operations have already brought results. He explained that it is important not to institute a gathering ban too early nor too late, but the time to do so is now, given the presence of COVID-19 cases within the general population.
That said, he underlined the importance of personal responsibility—to that end, the Directorate of Health and the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management have launched a helpful and informative website on COVID-19 containing everything you could possible need or want to know about the virus, including how to protect yourself, how Iceland is responding, and special information for tourists. We highly recommend giving it a look.
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