From Iceland — COVID-19 In Iceland: Call To Help Vulnerable Immigrants, Westfjords Cluster

COVID-19 In Iceland: Call To Help Vulnerable Immigrants, Westfjords Cluster

Published April 20, 2020

Poppy Askham
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In yesterday’s press briefing, Þórólfur Guðnason, drew attention to the fact that just 4% of those who have tested positive for the virus have been foreign nationals, RUV reports. Given the relatively high number of foreign nationals living in Iceland, experts would expect this figure to be closer to around 14%.

The surprisingly low number of infections in this demographic may suggest low numbers of foreign nationals are coming forward to be tested. In response to this concern, Þórólfur stated that deCODE has been working on reaching out to immigrant communities and noted that, the government’s coronavirus advice and information website, is available in eight languages. However he also added that some communities may not be as aware of the website or may not speak one of the eight languages. He urged Icelanders to look out for vulnerable foreign nationals who may not be able to access the information that they require and to help organise interpreters if possible. It is his wish that no one in Iceland is denied access to vital information on account of their language.

Þórólfur also discussed the current state of the Icelandic COVID-19 outbreak. At the time of writing there are 1,771 confirmed cases and just 11 new infections were recorded on April 18th. Although numbers of new cases reported daily have remained low over the weekend he warned that the epidemic is not yet over. Vigilance for potential COVID-19 symptoms – fever, body aches, dry cough, loss of taste or smell – is still of the utmost importance. Þórólfur also pointed to South Korea and Singapore as examples of countries where complacency after early success has lead to further flare-ups.

A Quiet Weekend
There has been intense social media debate regarding alleged breaches of the gathering ban over the weekend, but reports of breeches have been refuted by the police. The chief of police, Víðir Reynisson told Visir that it was “fairly quiet in the city” and that though they had received numerous tips he believed none were legitimate violations of the ban. He did note however that “a few people may have relaxed a little too much” and reiterated that the epidemic is not yet over.

The chief concern of Icelandic medical authorities is a cluster of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Westfjords, Fréttablaðið reports. Yesterday five of the eleven cases reported were located in the Westfjords. More severe measures have been put in place in the region in recent weeks, including a five-person gathering ban and the closure of all preschools and elementary schools. According to Þórólfur, the situation in the Westfjords demonstrates just how difficult it can be to contain group infections and that the national infection rate will only fall when the situation improves in the Westfjords.

Icelandic invention
In related news, an invention by an Icelandic company is being used in a prominent US COVID-19 study, RUV reports. Nox, a Reykjavik-based sleep research company, has developed equipment that allows medical experts to accurately measure respiration and oxygen saturation rates in real time. The machine is being used in John Hopkins University Hospital, a leading medical research institute, in a study attempting to determine whether COVID-19 patients who are not on ventilators can increase their oxygen intake by lying on their stomachs.

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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