Iceland tightens up COVID-19 rules and increases social distancing rule to two metres across the country

View of the University of Akureyri in northern Iceland in 2017. Social distancing guidelines have been increased from one metre to two metres across the country as COVID-19 cases continue to climb. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)
Iceland announced more stringent COVID-19 regulations on Monday, which include increasing social distancing between people from one metre to two.

Previously, the two-metre rule had only been in effect in the Reykjavik capital area, the region hardest hit by COVID-19. The rest of the country had a one-metre distance rule to be observed by people not from the same household.

Now, the two-metre rule must be observed across the country and will be in effect until November 10.

Some of the additional changes to pandemic rules across the country include facemask use in stores where maintaining a two-metre distance between people isn’t possible, a limit of 20 people at gatherings, and the banning of spectators at any sport event, even if held outside.

Additional changes for Reykjavik area

New changes specific to the Reykjavik capital area include prohibiting all sports and leisure activities which involve physical contact, including swimming, for children from kindergarten to junior school.

Iceland was one of the early success stories for its containment of COVID-19 when the pandemic began. By May, the infection rate was largely under control, a situation that continued until mid September. But since then the number of cases has shot up dramatically.

Iceland's COVID-19 case increase since mid-June

A graph showing the number of reported COVID-19 infections in Iceland over the last four months.

(Government of Iceland’s COVID-19 website)

As of Wednesday, Iceland has had 4,230 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 11 deaths since the pandemic began. Health authorities are reporting 266.2 domestic infections per 100,000 people over the last 14 days.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s PM says COVID-19 pandemic amplified housing, connectivity gaps in territories, CBC News

Denmark: COVID-19 could delay Kingdom of Denmark’s Arctic strategy, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Sámi reconciliation process gains final approval in Finland, Yle News

Iceland: Iceland extends bar, nightclub COVID-19 closures in capital area until September 27, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Are potential Arctic security threats eclipsing urgent action on climate? A new study makes its case, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Russia removes critical voices ahead of Arctic Council chairmanship, claims Indigenous peoples expert, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Twenty-five Indigenous Sami remains returned by museum are reburied in northern Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Indigenous communities in Alaska harder hit by COVID-19, Alaska Public Media

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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