COVID Roundup: Tightened Restrictions Now In Place, Tourism Industry On Defensive

COVID Roundup: Tightened Restrictions Now In Place, Tourism Industry On Defensive

Published March 25, 2021

Photo by
Pixabay/Hvesna

New domestic restrictions are now in place and will continue to be until at least April 9th. The new infections have hit schools especially hard, but the tourism industry is also on the defensive as they fear that their hopes for a profitable summer may be drying up.

Schools hit hard

As reported, 11 children at Laugarneskóli primary school tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday. Infections were also detected in three other primary schools: Hlíðaskóli, Vesturbæjarskóli, and Laugalækjarskóli. Further, a child who attended a children’s theatre production last weekend also tested positive for the virus. As a result, hundreds of children, parents and school employees are now in quarantine.

As is always the case when active domestic cases are on the rise, Icelandic discussions about the virus have become very polarised. As people search for answers, blame is assigned to people not abiding domestic restrictions, or arrivals to Iceland—whether tourists or residents returning home—not abiding quarantine between testing. Factually speaking, both of these factors probably play a part, but it bears emphasising that Jóhann Björn Skúlason, who heads the contact tracing team in Iceland, told RÚV that the origin of this new wave of infections is unknown at this time.

Tourism industry worried

This hasn’t stopped tourism industry leaders from going on the defensive, though. Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, the managing director of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association, told Vísir that he believes domestic behaviour is more the blame than border policy, saying, “Even if an infection slips through the border, it’s naturally us here in the country that spread it carelessly. So I believe that as always, like in the first wave, this is a giant reminder to us that this isn’t over and we need to protect ourselves.”

Tourism industry workers are decidedly pessimistic, after getting their hopes up that this summer would make up for losses experienced last summer. As Björn Ragnarsson, the managing director of Reykjavík Excursions, told Vísir, “We were starting to see an increase in bookings, especially now that [the country] has opened to countries outside of the Schengen area, and the domestic market was starting to come together, too. This is quite the great disappointment.”

What’s the hold up with the vaccinations?

Most of all, vaccines are a hot topic of discussion as well. Last February, the Icelandic government quite confidently stated that they expected to vaccinate some 190,000 people by this summer. As it stands now, only just over 20,000 people are fully vaccinated.

When this was brought up to Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, she told RÚV, “That plan is still valid. Nothing in itself has changed regarding what we’ve said, but regardless I feel that [the vaccinations] might go faster.”

While the EU has placed a ban on exporting vaccines to non-EU countries, Iceland apparently has nothing to worry about. Being a part of the European Economic Area, we will still continue to receive vaccines, and the Ministry of Health is also exploring bringing the Sputnik V vaccine into distribution.

Today’s numbers

Eight new domestic case of the coronavirus were detected yesterday, according to the latest data from covid.is. All of them were in quarantine at the time of diagnosis. Five cases were detected from border screening.

One person is currently hospitalised with the virus. 695 people are currently in quarantine, with another 89 in isolation. The 14-day incidence of infection per 100,000 people is now 9.3, up from 7.6 yesterday, while incidence at border screening is now at 13.9, up from 12.5 yesterday.

20,325 people have so far been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, with 19,153 vaccinations underway. 39,478 people have received at least the first dose, while 59,903 have received both shots. Note that “fully vaccinated” means at least two weeks have passed since receiving both vaccinations.

The schedule of which demographics are getting the vaccine and when can be found here (available only in Icelandic for now).

More statistics and information can be found at covid.is or below.

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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