A Coast Guard helicopter transported Minister of Justice Áslaug Árna Sigurbjörnsdóttir from a horseback riding outing with her dad to the consultation meeting with Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir and then left halfway through the meeting to be flown back again, Stundin reports.
The Coast Guard’s information officer, Ásgeir Erlendsson confirmed this. He said the helicopter pilot was found in the inner circle of the COVID-19 group infection at Hotel Rangá after having breakfast with his wife there on August 16th. As of this writing, he has taken one test, which came back negative.
Ásgeir emphasised that the pilot’s quarantine is not related to the fact that he flew with Áslaug after she ate at Hótel Rangá. “Otherwise, all of our crew would be quarantined,” he said.
The helicopter ride was widely criticised, especially by Rósa Björk Brynjólfsdóttir of the Left Green Party, who said it was an unwelcome use of public funds. However, an announcement from the Coast Guard said the trip incurred no additional costs or increased effort from the Coast Guard. The response capacity was not reduced as the helicopter was fully manned for a call-out.
The Coast Guard’s information officer told RÚV that there were precedents for ministers flying with the helicopter.
“The Director of the Coast Guard suggested this and said he was due to a project in the area. He assured me that this would not affect the project or the flight plan and would not involve any additional costs or efforts,” Áslaug said in her defense. Nonetheless, she has since apologised for accepting the ride with the Coast Guard. She said there is occasion to review work practices, and she does not intend to accept the same kind of invitation again.
It is rare for the Coast Guard to fly with a minister, but when it happens, it is most often related to the agency’s work or foreign affairs. In June, Áslaug attended a sea rescue exercise.
Later today, Áslaug admitted that it had been a mistake to travel in this way, RÚV reports, telling reporters that she would not be accepting offers of this kind in the future.
As ever, those looking for more information or advice should go to the Icelandic Government’s excellent COVID-19 help page.
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