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Ministry of Health

COVID-19: Stricter domestic measures to counter the rapid spread of infections

COVID-19: Stricter domestic measures to counter the rapid spread of infections - myndStjórnarráðið

The general restriction on numbers will be 20 persons and the distance rule will be 2 metres instead of 1 metre, with certain exceptions. Restaurants and nightclubs, pubs and other places that have an alcohol licence must close no later than 21.00h (9 p.m.). Public swimming pools and spas, gyms and ski areas will be permitted to accept 50% of their maximum allowed capacity. Events requiring rapid tests will be limited to 200 persons. Remote working will be encouraged, to the extent possible. This is the gist of the stricter domestic measures decided by the Minister of Health in keeping with the recommendations of the Chief Epidemiologist to counter the rapid spread of COVID-19 infections. A regulation to that effect will enter into force on Thursday, 23 December, and will remain in force for three weeks.

COVID-19 infections have been increasing rapidly in Iceland in the last few days and there have been, on average, around and over 200 per day. On 18 December, some 150 persons had been diagnosed with the Omicron variant of the virus, which is at least twice as infectious as the Delta variant. It is now spreading rapidly within our neighbouring countries. It is now the cause of around 30% of all infections in Denmark, with between 8,000 and 11,000 cases being diagnosed every day. The result is a rise in hospitalisations Denmark, and according to the Chief Epidemiologist’s memorandum, it looks like a new record will be set soon. Omicron is expected to become the dominant variant of the epidemic in Iceland in the coming weeks, much as it has done in other countries. Although there are indications that Omicron causes a milder illness than Delta does, it is probable that its rapid spread will mean that a great number of people will have to be hospitalised, even though serious cases are less frequent than due to the other variants. The Chief Epidemiologist also points out that according to the research, two vaccinations provide little to no protection against the Omicron variant. A booster vaccination increases the protection considerably, but it is unclear how good that protection is and how long it will last. The Chief Epidemiologist states: “I therefore consider it inevitable to impose stricter domestic measures as quickly as possible, before the rise in infections causes an emergency situation in hospitals and other infrastructures.” 

The main content of the new disease prevention rules is as follows:

  • The general restriction on numbers will be 20 persons, including children.
  • The rule on social distancing will be 2 metres. Children born in 2016 and after will be exempt from this rule. The social distancing rule in restaurants and among guests at sit-down events will be 1 metre.
  • Mask requirement: The general rule is that a mask shall be used if the 2 metre distancing rule can not be respected, and masks must be work inside shops and shopping centres. Children born in 2006 and after will be exempt from using face masks.
  • Events requiring rapid tests: Organised events may be held with up to 200 persons in each disease prevention compartment, subject to the use of rapid tests.
  • Sit-down events without rapid tests: The maximum number of people is 50. Examples include performing art events, film shows, sports events and sit-down ceremonies held by religious and life stance organisations.
  • Shops and museums may receive 50 persons in each compartment. This number includes children. Five customers may be added for each 10 m2, up to a maximum of 500. Masks must be worn inside shops and shopping centres.
  • Opening hours of restaurants, etc. Restaurants and other venues that are permitted to serve alcohol are forbidden to receive customers after 21.00 h (9 p.m.) and all customers must have left the venue by 22.00 h (10 p.m.). The same applies to private parties at venues that have an alcohol licence. The social distancing rule for seated guests in restaurants is 1 metre.
  • Swimming pools, spas, gyms and ski areas: They are permitted to admit 50% of their maximum capacity. Children born in 2016 and after are not included in that number. 


  • The maximum permitted number of children/students at all school levels is 50 in each compartment.
  • The maximum permitted number of staff in the same space will be 20, and staff members may move between compartments.
  • Social distancing: The general rule is a distance of 2 metres, but masks must be used if the 2 metre rule is can not be respected. Pre-school children are exempted from social distancing.
  • Mask requirement: The general rule is that face masks are required if the 2 metre rule is can not be respected. Children born in 2006 and after will be exempt from using face masks. 

Performing arts and choirs

  • Rehearsals and shows where people touch are permitted with up to 50 workers on stage. Masks shall be used to the extent possible, except during a performance, and efforts must be made to respect the 2 metre rule.
  • Audience numbers: Up to 50 audience members may be received into each compartment, with every person wearing a mask and subject to numbered seating. 100 children in addition to 50 adults may be allowed into the same compartment without requiring rapid tests. Up to 200 audience members may be received, subject to the rule on rapid testing. The 1 metre social distancing rule must be maintained among seated audience members.
  • Intermissions: Intermissions during performances are permitted, but the audience members must be urged to remain seated.
  • The serving of alcohol at performances is forbidden, whether before, during or after the performance.

Sports practice and competitions for children and adults are permitted, both with and without touching, for up to 50 persons.

Remote working

  • Workers shall be urged to make use of remote working as much as possible.



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