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Stricter anti-COVID-19 measures taking effect as from 31 October 2020

Stricter anti-COVID-19 measures taking effect as from 31 October 2020

The Minister of Health has approved proposals from the Chief Epidemiologist regarding tighter measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, which take effect on Saturday, 31 October 2020. The same rules will apply throughout Iceland. The main change introduced now is that the maximum size of gatherings is reduced from 20 to 10 persons. All sporting activities and stage performances are suspended. It is envisaged that these stricter rules will remain in force until 17 November (including that date); they will be reviewed in the light of developments with a view to whether it will be possible to relax them earlier or necessary to extend the period for a longer period.

In his memorandum to the minister, the Chief Epidemiologist noted that the level of infection in Iceland is still high, notwithstanding the tighter precautionary measures that were introduced on 20 October. Consequently, there is a danger that group infections will break out and place even more strain on the health services, which are already stretched to capacity. Landspítalinn, the national hospital, is operating under emergency rules due to the demands of dealing with the pandemic and many services planned as part of its ordinary schedule have had to be suspended until 15 November. The five quarantine centres currently in operation for COVID-19 patients under great strain, with rising numbers of cases of infection among those in isolation there. In the light of all this, the Chief Epidemiologist’s recommendation was to take firmer measures so as to limit the spread of the virus and so avoid serious consequences of a surge both of COVID-19 and other diseases.

Principal restrictions:

  • All restrictions apply throughout Iceland.
  • As a general rule, gatherings are restricted in size to 10 persons.
    - Up to 30 persons may attend funeral services, but no more than 10 in the receptions following them.
    - Not more than 50 persons at a time are permitted inside pharmacies and food shops; arrangements for larger numbers apply in some cases, depending on the size of the premises.
    - These restriction figures do not apply to public transport, coaches, domestic flights or emergency response workers in the course of their work.
    - These number restrictions do not apply to the functions of the cabinet, the Council of State, the Althingi and the courts.
  • The 10-person restriction on gatherings does not apply to larger numbers of persons living in the same household.
  • Sporting activities are not permitted.
  • Swimming pools are closed.
  • Stage performances are not permitted.
  • Bars and night-clubs are closed.
  • Restaurants with alcoholic beverage licences may not remain open after 9 p.m. (21.00).
  • Face-masks must be worn where it is not possible to ensure a 2-metre social distance between persons who are not members of the same household.
  • Children born in or after 2015 are exempt from the 2-metre social distance rule, the restrictions on the size of gatherings and the face-mask requirement. (These exemptions applied previously to children born in or after 2005.).

Authorisation for exemptions

  • The minister may grant exemptions from the restrictions in the case of parts of the infrastructure of society that are indispensable and cannot be suspended. These include the operations of the health services and the social services.
  • The minister may grant exemptions from the prohibition on sporting activities in the case of individual events, for example international matches.

New regulations covering restrictions on the operations of schools will be announced next week.