From Iceland — COVID-19 In Iceland: No New Infections, Bid To Move Parliament To Harpa

COVID-19 In Iceland: No New Infections, Bid To Move Parliament To Harpa

Published April 24, 2020

No new COVID-19 infections were recorded in Iceland on April 23rd, according to the latest figures released on the government’s database. Yesterday was the first day on which no new cases were reported since February 29th. Two patients were discharged from hospital and 33 people recovered from the virus. Over 85% of the 1,789 people who have been infected with the virus in Iceland have now recovered.

Alþingi Relocation Proposal

The Social Democratic Alliance party has submitted a proposal to temporarily relocate Parliament in order to allow the government to resume normal functions whilst maintaining social distancing measures. The Harpa concert hall was suggested as a potential new site for parliamentary meetings, Stundin reports.

The Social Democratic Alliance, Iceland’s largest opposition party, addressed the Presidium of the Alþingi yesterday to express concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on democratic processes in Iceland. The party objects to the drastic reduction in parliamentary meetings being held during the pandemic, stating that the government is now consulting the opposition far less frequently. The party believes this is fundamentally harmful for Iceland’s democracy and that it may also increase the risk of legislative errors. It also fears that urgent matters that do not relate to the virus may be overlooked due to time restrictions.

Parliament scrapped its schedule on March 20th to allow politicians to fully prioritise the COVID-19 outbreak. The number of parliamentary meetings held was also reduced to reduce the risk of infection for politicians and government employees, now there are just two meetings a week. The decision was made soon after a Pirate Party politician and several Alþingi employees tested positive for the virus. Although the Social Democratic Alliance praises the “goodwill and work of the response team and Alþingi staff” it believes that the government’s current approach to parliamentary proceedings needs amending.

The party believes “bold and creative solutions” are called for in these unprecedented circumstances. Principally, it proposes that parliament is transferred from Alþingishúsið to a larger conference hall, such as the world-famous Harpa concert hall. The relocation would allow the number of parliamentary meetings and votes to increase to pre-pandemic levels whilst keeping politicians and civil servants safe. The party claims that Harpa has all the auditory set up and technical staff required to transform the space at short notice.

The Harpa concert hall has cancelled all concerts and conferences for an indefinite period of time in accordance with the government’s gathering ban. Although some musicians have performed in the empty concert hall for internet audiences, for the most part the space is currently vacant.

Iceland’s coalition government has made no comment on the Social Democratic Alliance’s request to date.

Reykjavik Sailors’ Festival Cancelled

The Sailors’ Day celebrations in Reykjavik have been cancelled for the first time in 82 years, Fréttablaðið reports. The event was due to be held on June 7th, but due to the COVID-19 outbreak and likely legal restrictions on mass gatherings, organisers have made the decision to cancel the festivities. Around 40,000 revellers were expected to visit the city’s port on Sailors’ Day Weekend.

For a peek at what we’re missing out on this year, check the photos from the last time we headed down to the harbour side to join the festivities.

As ever information and advice about Iceland’s COVID-19 outbreak can be accessed on the government’s excellent website.

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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