From Iceland — COVID-19 Update: 2 More Deaths, Half Of Cases Asymptomatic

COVID-19 Update: 2 More Deaths, Half Of Cases Asymptomatic

Published April 6, 2020

Poppy Askham
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A round up of the weekend’s COVID-19 developments in Iceland including two new deaths, the results of random sampling, and Icelanders’ level of confidence in the government.

Bridge star dies

Sigurður Sverrisson, a renowned Icelandic bridge player, has become the fifth person to die after falling ill from COVID-19 in Iceland. The 67-year-old died last night at Landspítali, Vísir reports.

Sigurður had been battling the virus for several weeks and had been put on a ventilator, but following a sudden improvement in his symptoms he was discharged from hospital last week. Tragically his condition rapidly deteriorated and he was re-hospitalised before his death last night.

Sigurður’s wife, Mary Pat Frick, died on March 8th shortly before he caught COVID-19.

Sigurður will be remembered as a legendary bridge player and a chess enthusiast. Many Icelanders have taken to the Facebook page ‘Icelandic Chessmen‘ to express their sorrow and celebrate his talent.

Sixth Person Dies

A resident of a nursing home in Bolungarvík in the Westfjords with COVID-19 died yesterday. The death was announced in a Facebook post by the Westfjords Health Institute. BB has named the victim as Gunnsteinn Svavar Sigurðsson who was born in 1938 and was the first COVID-19 patient in the home. Two more residents have tested positive for the virus and three are in isolation. Five staff are also infected and the majority are isolating.

There are currently 35 infections and 343 people in quarantine in the Westfjords and a 5-person gathering ban has been put in place in northern parts of the region over the weekend. Suðureyri, Flateyri, Þingeyri and Súðavík have also announced school closures in response to a rapid rise in cases in recent days.

Overwhelming trust in health authorities

Gallup has announced the latest results from its survey conducted between March 27th and April 1st, Vísir reports. Around 96% of Icelanders trust the civil defence and health authorities to tackle COVID-19. This is a remarkable vote of confidence for officials like Alma Möller and Víðir Reynisson who have been guiding Iceland’s response. By contrast only 75% support the government’s economic response to COVID-19. In mid-March 15% had full trust in the government’s handling of the economy, but now that has slipped to just 11%.

The data also revealed that many people are struggling with their mental health during the pandemic. The amount of Icelanders experiencing severe anxiety increased by almost 10% since mid-March to reach 36.8%. Conversely around a third of Icelanders reported little to no anxiety.

Random sampling results

deCODE’s new random sampling initiative has revealed that the incidence of COVID-19 in the general population in Iceland is 0.6%. Of the 2,300 people selected at random from the capital area, 13 have tested positive positive for COVID-19. This is the most reliable indicator of the virus’ spread in the general population to date. Read more on this finding here.

Half of cases asymptomatic

Around half of all those who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been asymptomatic according to comments made by the Chief Epidemiologist, Þórólfur Guðnason, Vísir reports.

It is unclear what proportion remain asymptomatic and how many go on to develop symptoms later after testing. The data may be an indicator that testing is being carried out efficiently on those who have been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, meaning the infection is caught in the earliest asymptomatic stage.

However, the high level of asymptomatic cases is also somewhat concerning. Asymptomatic cases are very difficult to track and it is impossible to ensure all asymptomatic individuals are quarantined immediately without unrealistically rigorous testing. As Þórólfur explained its hard to locate all asymptomatic individuals unless every single person is tested multiple times a week.

Infection tracking app released

Over 75,000 people had downloaded the new COVID-19 infection tracking app by Friday, Vísir reports. The app uses GPS data to locate individuals who may have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus, making infection tracking much more efficient. In order for the app to be sufficiently effective around 60% of the population, about 216,000 people, need to download it. Read more about how the app works here.

Latest data

There are currently 1,562 confirmed cases in Iceland. Hospitals are currently treating 38 patients, 12 of whom are in intensive care. Six people have died to date.

On a more positive note, 460 people have recovered and for the first time in Iceland 3 patients have recovered enough to be taken off ventilators this weekend.

Iceland continues to set an impressive example when it comes to COVID-19 screening. Over 27,000 samples have been tested by deCODE and the public health service.

As ever, those looking for more information or advice should go to the Icelandic Government’s excellent COVID-19 help page.

Tune into our daily COVID-Cast for a deeper dive into the day’s developments.

Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.

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