As one of her last acts as Minister of Health, Svandís Svavarsdóttir (seen above) announced new border guidelines in the wake of the so-called Omicron variant of the coronavirus. According to the new rules, anyone who has spent 24 hours or more in Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe or South Africa within 14 days of coming to Iceland must take a PCR test, go into immediate quarantine, and then take another PCR test five days later, whether or not they have been vaccinated. This new rule went into effect on Nov. 27th. However, with the variant already detected in the UK and other parts of Europe, there may be arrivals to Iceland who never spent a second in the restricted nations who may nonetheless be carrying the variant. And indeed, the first confirmed case of Omicron was detected at Landspítali on December 1st–in an individual who reportedly has not even been abroad.
By the way, the reason why this was one of her last acts as Health Minister is because the new government was announced on the 28th. Some new ministries were created, and the Progressives increased their ministerial presence, but for the most part we’re seeing the same faces within Iceland’s ministries, albeit in different positions; only Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Bjarni Benediktsson kept their previous jobs, as Prime Minister and Finance Minister, respectively. In fact there are only three new faces: Progressive MP Willum Þór Þórsson as Health Minister, and two Independence Party MPs serving as Minister of Justice, Jón Gunnarsson for the first half of the term and Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir for the second half of the term. More details on the new government and its joint platform can be found at grapevine.is/news, but the broad strokes are that we’re getting four more years of the same.
As if things weren’t bad enough, it looks like glacial flooding from Grímsvötn may begin soon. Scientists monitoring the ice over the volcano have detected a considerable amount of meltwater, and GPS measurements show that it’s probably on its way down the mountain. Adding insult to injury, such glacial flooding is often (but not always) accompanied by a volcanic eruption. On the bright side, scientists also believe that if the volcano does erupt, it probably won’t be a devastating, flight-disrupting volcano like Eyjafjallajökull was. That said, volcanoes are notoriously difficult to predict, so the consensus remains “maybe it’ll erupt, maybe it won’t.” Keep your fingers crossed!
Lastly, the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) and Tierschutzbund Zürich have exposed deplorable conditions at so-called “blood farms” in Iceland, wherein mares are impregnated to have their blood harvested for a hormone that increases pork production. Many Icelanders weren’t even aware such farms exist. Indeed, only three countries in the world engage in this practice. Horse lovers across the country have denounced the farms, and so it might be likely that they won’t be long for this world.
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