A stricter regime of measures against the COVID-19 pandemic takes effect throughout Iceland as from midnight tonight, Wednesday 24 March 2021. Most gatherings will be limited to 10 people, not counting children born in or after 2015. Primary and lower-grade secondary (age 6 to 16), music schools, senior schools and universities will be closed until the beginning of the Easter holidays. Activities of many types involving more than 10 participants will be prohibited. The decision by the Minister of Health to impose these tougher restrictions was based on proposals from the Chief Epidemiologist for an immediate response in view of group infections that have arisen in the country over the past few days so as to limit the spread of the virus. The new rules will remain in force for 3 weeks.All the new group infections that have broken out in Iceland involve the B.1.1.7 strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is more readily transmitted than most other variants and is considered to cause rather more serious illness. In the light of the fact that the B.1.1.7 strain has been shown to have more serious implications for older children, the Chief Epidemiologist urged that the restrictions apply to children as young as six years old. Apart from this, the rules now taking effect are broadly similar to those imposed on 31 October last year, which proved effective in quelling the third wave of the pandemic in Iceland.
Principal rules now taking effect:
The social distancing requirement remains 2 metres, and the rules on the use of face-masks are unchanged. As hitherto, children born in or after 2005 are not required to wear face-masks, but are now included in the count when limiting the size of gatherings and must observe the 2-m social distancing rule. Children in pre-school (kindergarten) are not subject to the 2-m rule or restrictions on numbers sharing a common space.
- The general limit on the size of gatherings is now 10 persons, applying to all individuals born in or before 2014.
- Religious and life-stance associations may hold functions with up to 30 guests. Guests’ names, ID numbers and telephone numbers must be recorded, but they are not required to sit in numbered seats. Guests are obliged to wear face-masks and the 2-m distancing rule shall be observed. The maximum number permitted in receptions after funerals, confirmations and similar ceremonies is restricted to 10 persons.
- Swimming pools and bathing establishments are closed.
- Fitness and body-building centres are closed.
- Sports, indoor or outdoor, involving children or adults, which require participants to be closer than 2 m apart, or in which there is a danger of transmission of the virus by touch resulting from the use of shared equipment, are not permitted.
- Stage performances and comparable activities and functions, such as cinema showings, are not permitted.
- Night clubs, bars, gaming establishments and gambling machines are closed.
- Driving lessons and aviation lessons with an instructor are not permitted.
- Restaurants may stay open until 10 p.m., with a maximum of 20 guests in each separate area; details of all guests shall be registered and they shall be served when seated in numbered seats. Alcoholic beverages shall be served to seated customers. New guests may be admitted until 9 p.m.
- Shops may admit 5 persons for every 10 m2 of their floor area, to a maximum of 50 persons. Up to 20 members of staff may be present in the same area as customers. The 2-m distancing rule shall be observed, and face-masks shall be worn.
- Hairdressers’ salons, beauty parlours and comparable establishments may continue operations.
Schools and universities
Junior schools (children aged 6-10), senior schools, music schools and universities shall be closed as from tomorrow and until the beginning of the traditional Easter holidays. Regulations covering the operation of schools after the Easter break are in preparation and will be announced in the next few days.