It is now more than a year since the pandemic gripped Iceland, along with most other countries, and today marks the one-year anniversary of assembly limits in Iceland. The government has implemented the chief epidemiologist’s recommendations almost to the letter throughout the pandemic and Svandís says that while there remains a great deal of solidarity, many people are unhappy under the ongoing restrictions and with the impact they have on most people’s private lives.

The current restrictions expire tomorrow, but the new ones from Thursday and for the following three weeks are no different to now. Svandís says the chief epidemiologist has recommended extending border controls to include children, as the British COVID-19 variant appears to cause more frequent illness in children than previous, less infectious strains.

Svandís says she hopes a clearer vaccination calendar for the second quarter of the year will become available in the coming days; adding that she is still confident between 180,000 and 190,000 people can be immunised before the end of July. Iceland has secured many more vaccine doses than people in the country, but their delivery schedule remains unclear—as does the future of the AstraZeneca vaccine that is currently suspended. More information on that vaccine is expected from the European Medicines Agency this Thursday.

The chairperson of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association has reacted to the Kastljós interview, saying that all the travel industry’s plans rely on changes to border procedures for entering Iceland, and she welcomed Svandís’s clarification that the government still plans to start using the colour-code system from 1st May.

Under the proposal, passengers arriving from EU/EEA countries classified as green or yellow on the European COVID-19 infection map will be able to enter Iceland without five days’ quarantine (though still requiring a negative PCR test to travel and additional testing at the Icelandic border). Current restrictions will remain unchanged for all other countries.

“It has been hinted recently by the chief epidemiologist that this was perhaps not totally decided, which shook tourism companies and those working for them a little bit,” says Bjarnheiður Hallsdóttir, chair of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association. “So it was really good to hear this from the health minister yesterday evening.”

She says it is impossible to expect many tourists while everyone arriving is required to quarantine. “It is absolutely key that this plan be implemented on 1st May because when it was announced on 15th January, all our attention became focused on that date when it came to sales, marketing, and communication with tour companies and tourists,” Bjarnheiður said this morning.

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