The US Embassy is accusing Fréttablaðið of spreading “fake news” after it published a story stating that COVID-19 had broken out within the Embassy building. The Embassy does not deny this, but added some assertions of their own that do not hold up to scrutiny.
The story, which covered the US Embassy’s completing the move to a new address over this weekend, mentioned the diagnosis of COVID-19 in one of the employees of the Embassy over the past week. Despite this, employees have been called upon to help with the move to the new Embassy quarters this Sunday, Fréttablaðið’s source told reporters.
Kristin Gildsdorf, the Embassy’s information officer, said that she did not know about the case when asked about the infection. The reporter was referred to the Embassy’s security team, which had not responded to the reporter at the time of the writing of the first article.
The US Embassy denied the allegations, asking, “Has Fake News Arrived in Iceland?” on a Facebook from the Embassy. The post goes on to say that “long after the dedication [of the new premises], a single case of COVID-19 was caught by a local employee. The source of the infection was traced back to an Icelandic school outbreak”. The post contends further that “Iceland has tragically one of the highest COVID-19 rates in Europe”, and laments that “It is terrible and sad that Fake News Fréttablaðið would be so unprofessional and disrespectful in using COVID-19 for political purposes during this crisis.”
Fréttablaðið posted an article in response, pointing out that while the Facebook post does not state when the new Embassy dedication took place, the Ambassador’s own Twitter page has a pinned post celebrating the dedication tweeted on October 20th, which was indeed last week.
Further, the contention that Iceland has “one of the highest COVID-19 rates in Europe” is not accurate. According to readily available data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, as of October 30th, there are only 10 countries in the EU, EEA and the UK with a lower rate of infection than Iceland: Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, Norway, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Cyprus. The remaining 20 countries, excluding Iceland, have higher rates of infection.
Correction: The original version of this article stated that there were only four countries with a lower rate of infection than Iceland. This article has been amended to reflect the reality.
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