From Iceland — Chief Epidemiologist: New COVID Wave Is Here; Upcoming Festivals Uncertain

Chief Epidemiologist: New COVID Wave Is Here; Upcoming Festivals Uncertain

Published July 21, 2021

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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Following yesterday’s news that there were 44 coronavirus cases in Iceland the day before—all but 38 of them domestic, with 29 outside quarantine, today’s figures show 56 domestic cases. In fact, is back to doing daily updates, having previously taken them down to just twice a week earlier this month.

In the wake of this, chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason told reporters that a new coronavirus wave is definitely here.

“I think it’s quite safe to say that a new wave has started, and that it is for the most part amongst the vaccinated,” he said. “Fortunately, we are not seeing serious infections yet.”

High rate amongst the vaccinated

That vaccinated people are still contracting, and transmitting, the virus should not be surprising. Vaccines greatly reduce the chances of contracting the coronavirus, and also greatly reduce the symptoms in the event of an infection, but a small percentage of the vaccinated can still catch the virus and transmit it to others.

That said, over 85% of Iceland is now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, which Þórólfur says is fortunate, as without it, they would have had to take stricter measures far sooner. When asked if new domestic or border restrictions may be in the cards, he said: “I think that [the upcoming border restrictions] on their own may not be enough to dampen the pandemic. It is possible we may need to take other measures.”

Most of these new infections can be traced to Bankastræti Club and a recent group trip to London, Vísir reports. On this, Þórólfur said that while there are no immediate plans to issue new domestic restrictions, they might be in the cards. However, he added, “hopefully they’ll only last a very short time and it will be possible to relinquish them very quickly.”

August is festival month

August is home to two major outdoor festivals: Reykjavík Pride and the Merchant’s Holiday weekend. Both of these are wildly popular and heavily attended. Given the new wave, questions have now arisen on whether or not those festivals will go on after all.

As it stands now, both festivals are set to go on. However, Már Kristjánsson, chair of the epidemiology department at Landspítali hospital, told RÚV he believes it would be unwise to hold outdoor festivals at this time. Meanwhile, Björn Rúnar Lúðvíksson, the chief doctor of immunology at the same hospital, believes that the opening hours of clubs and bars should be limited.

What measures if any will be taken remains to be seen.

Today’s numbers

There were 56 domestic cases of the coronavirus yesterday, 43 of those already vaccinated. 38 were outside quarantine at diagnosis. One person is hospitalised, 538 are in quarantine, and 223 people are in isolation.

More information can be found here or below:

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