You can always tell when a particular issue in Iceland is really getting people talking when their Facebook profile photo frames start changing. One of the biggest topics being argued about right now is the proposed Highlands National Park. On the one hand, it seems like a good idea to preserve one of the largest of Europe’s last known wilderness areas. On the other hand, the idea has been met with concerted pushback from rural municipalities and tourism industry workers, amongst others, both of whom believe the park would encroach upon small towns and small businesses alike. While the Minister for the Environment has tried to smooth things over, Parliamentary President and historic firebrand Steingrímur J. Sigfússon characterised the critics as a “whining minority” trying to get their way. And that’s why a good portion of your Icelandic friends now have Facebook profile frames which read either “I support the Highlands National Park” or “I am the whining minority”.
Much like the rest of the year, coronavirus is also a hot topic right now, and one particular flashpoint has flared up between swimming pools and gyms. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Health allowed for the relaxation of some pandemic restrictions, which included the re-opening of swimming pools—arguably more important to Icelanders than opening pubs. However, gyms remain closed, as they have been since October. Gym owners have been decidedly upset about the matter, and have even threatened to sue the state over the closures. Meanwhile, public broadcasting service RÚV reached out to a literal chemistry professor to ask whether chlorinated water, such as that found in pools, kills the virus (it does) by way of explanation as to why one would be open but not the other. When the gyms will open again is as yet undetermined.
In more optimistic coronavirus news, it looks like a vaccine will be here soon. After making a deal with Pfizer, one of the producers of a coronavirus vaccine, the Minister of Health announced that vaccinations could begin as early as before and after New Year’s. Some 170,000 doses will be made available over this period of time, which should be enough to cover 85,000 of this—not too shabby for a country of 350,000 people. The people to be prioritised include frontline health care workers, and those with conditions that make them especially vulnerable to the virus. But do Icelanders even want to be vaccinated against coronavirus? Turns out: yes, pretty much all of them, according to the most recent poll on the matter, which showed some 92% say they either will definitely or probably take it.
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