From Iceland — Tourism Minister Under Fire For Breaking Two-Metre Rule, Denies Wrongdoing

Tourism Minister Under Fire For Breaking Two-Metre Rule, Denies Wrongdoing

Published August 19, 2020

Photo by
althingi.is

Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, Iceland’s Minister of Tourism, is under concerted criticism after photos of her with a group of friends appeared on Instagram where she is demonstrably breaking Iceland’s regulations on the two-metre rule. While many of the photos were subsequently deleted, Fréttablaðið managed to get screenshots of many of them. Since then, she has struggled to smooth things over, but denies any wrongdoing.

Iceland’s regulations on social gathering are fairly clear: the measures expressly include “wherever people gather and in all workplaces there needs to be at least two metres distance between people who do not share a home.”

However, Þórdís and a group of friends can be seen in these photos meeting downtown, going to bottomless brunch, and visiting a spa. As can be seen, two metres are not being kept between these friends.

This has been especially galling to many Icelanders in light of the fact that Þórdís herself has gone on the record emphasising the need for personal responsibility in fighting the spread of infection. For example, in response to last Friday’s new travel restrictions, she expressed disappointment on Facebook that these measures have been necessary, adding, “Personal protection against infection will continue to be the strongest tool to fight against this virus, and stronger regulations at the border will never replace that.”

When chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason was asked about the situation, he said that while Þórdís could have followed the rules better, he does not believe she broke the law, emphasising the need for “flexibility and tolerance” when it comes to the two-metre rule. Víðir Reynisson, the chief of the capital area police, took a firmer stance, saying, “I think that in general we are facing the same challenges. We all need to do our best, and of course we who are on the front lines should be models.”

For her part, Þórdís has denied any wrongdoing, but expressed regret for taking the photos.

The matter does not end at the violation of Iceland’s social gathering rules, either. The photos also showed they visited Hilton Nordica, which is under the auspices of Icelandair Hotels. Being Minister of Tourism, her job involves a lot of contact with matters pertaining to Icelandair. Article 4 of the ethics rules for government ministers expressly states that ministers “must avoid any act that might arouse suspicion that they used their position for self-interest”.

As such, RÚV asked for a copy of Þórdís’ receipts for her visit to the hotel to demonstrate that she paid from her own pocket at a regular rate. The ministry refused, stating that they did not intend “to make personal payments public documents”. When RÚV emphasised that such receipts could back up Þórdís’ claims that she paid for everything at the hotel, they ministry responded by saying that she bought food, drinks and access to the jacuzzis at the spa, with the minister adding, “I did not ask for any discounts, neither there or anywhere else, and paid for everything at a predetermined price.”

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