Iceland extends gathering restrictions as Delta variant continues to drive domestic cases

A file photo of the Geysir hot spring area, one of the major sites on Iceland’s Golden Circle route. The country is extending gathering limits across the country as the Delta variant continues to drive domestic infections. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

With the Delta variant continuing to drive local COVID-19 cases, Iceland has extended its gathering restrictions until August 27.

The 200 person limit for gatherings, and the one-metre distancing rule, will remain in place until that time.

The limits were supposed to be lifted on August 14, but the government said it was too soon to do so.

“Since the end of June there has been an uptick in domestic infections due to the spread of the Delta variant,” the government said in a news release on Wednesday. 

So far, most cases have been in people that are fully vaccinated and have few or no symptoms, it said. 

Earlier this week, Iceland also announced it would implement new COVID-19 border testing regulations for travellers with ties to Iceland starting August 16. On that date, fully vaccinated passengers will be required to undergo a COVID-19 test with 48 hours of arriving in the country.

An image from the deCODE genetics laboratorium in Reykjavik, Iceland on January 12, 2021.  Scientists here work to sequence every single positive sample from those taking Covid-19 tests to determine both its strain and origin. Starting August 16, travellers with ties to Iceland will have to undergo a COVID-19 test within 48 hours of arrival, after 90 per cent of new infections were found to be amongst people with Icelandic personal ID numbers.  (Halldor Kolbeins/AFP via Getty Images)

The measure applies to Icelandic citizens, individuals living in Iceland, individuals with an Icelandic work permit or individuals applying for a work permit or for international protection in Iceland

The new rule was initiated after recent data found that approximately 90 per cent of people infected with COVID-19 since July 1, have been people with Icelandic identification numbers.

As of Thursday, Iceland was reporting a 14- day incidence of 420.0 domestic infections per 100,000 people, and 5.5 cases per 100,000 people at the border.

Write to Eilís at eilis.quinn@cbc.ca 

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: COVID-19 vaccination coverage in Nunavik, Quebec remains low at 28 per cent, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Greenland health authorities investigate four new COVID-19 cases in Sisimiut, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Santa joins former Eurovision winner Lordi at Lapland vaccination clinic to help boost jab uptake in Finland, Yle News

United States: Cruise ship arrives in Skagway, Alaska after passenger flown home with COVID-19, CBC News

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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