The Icelandic government has announced a ban on gatherings of 20 people or more, starting Tuesday 24 March 2020. These measures are put in place to halt the spread of COVID-19 infections in Iceland, following recommendations from the Chief Epidemiologist to Svandís Svavarsdóttir Icelands‘s Minister of Health. The advice of the Chief Epidemiologist to the Minister of Health has been to focus the response in Iceland on the swift diagnosis of COVID-19 cases.
The ban is in force until 12 April 2020. The changes today modify the previous 100-person limit, in place since 16 March 2020. Further, people must ensure that they keep a distance of at least two (2) meters between individuals. No changes are made to the organisation of schools at this point.
Main effects of the restrictions:
- All gatherings where more than 20 people are in attendance are prohibited for the duration. This includes public and private spaces.
- People must ensure that they keep a distance of at least two (2) meters between individuals.
- In all businesses and places of work no more than 20 people should share a space. This includes public transport and similar operations.
- Grocery stores and pharmacies are excluded from this rule and can have up to 100 customers at a time. Common areas shall be organised so that a distance of at least two (2) metres between individuals can be maintained. Grocery stores larger than 1000 sq. meters can add one customer per each additional 10 sq. meters up to a maximum of 200 customers at a time.
Closure of public spaces and certain operations
- Swimming pools, gyms, pubs and dance halls, slot machines and museums will be closed for the duration.
- Operations and services that require close contact between persons or risk close contact will be prohibited. This includes sport clubs, hairdressers, beauty salons, massage parlours and similar activities. This further includes all sporting activities where the use of equipment is shared between participants (including ski-lifts).
Cleaning and disinfecting of public places
- All stores, public buildings and other frequented indoor spaces must be cleaned as often as possible, especially surfaces.
- Hand disinfectant must be available at all entrances and in more frequented spaces such as at checkouts in stores.
- Measures regarding school on all levels in Iceland remain unchanged from the measures in place since 16 March 2020.
- The measures do not affect those who seek urgent or necessary medical attention.
- The measures do not affect international airports, ports or to plains or ships.
- The Minster of Health can grant exemptions from these restrictions in cases of public service or for security reasons, as well as for the protection of human and animal health.
- The Chief Epidemiologist may grant exemptions from quarantine due to socially indispensable infrastructures. These include:electricity, telecommunications, transport, health care, law enforcement, ambulances services and fire brigades.
- All previous exemptions for quarantine are now void and those who have received such in the past must apply again.
The Minister of Health will publish an advertisement in the official government gazette, setting out the measures in details. The measures will be in place until the 12 Apri 2020 and apply to all parts of the country. The Government can and may revise them.
These targeted measures have been taken to reduce the rate of infection and active communication with the public, institutions and businesses has reinforced those actions. Special consideration will continue to be given to the protection of vulnerable groups.
A ban on public gathering and events is taken to reinforce the measures already taken to reduce the rate of infection of COVID-19 and maintain the capacity of the health system during the epidemic.