Iceland says reintroduced COVID-19 restrictions may stick for 15 years

Iceland, one of the first countries in the world to abolish all COVID-19 restrictions for vaccinated tourists, may see recently reimposed safety protocols in place for 15 years, according to one of the Nordic country’s chief medical experts.

Despite the overwhelming majority of Iceland’s adult population having been vaccinated, chief epidemiologist Thorolfur Gudnason said he cannot rule out that reintroduced COVID-19 restrictions may become necessary for many years to come.

His comments come amid a rapid rise of the Delta strain, with the fully vaccinated making up a large proportion of the new infections.

“It can happen, no one knows what the future holds,” Gudnason told local newspaper Morgunbladid. “That is what we have been saying all along, that there is no predictability in this.”

Thorolfur Gudnason saidthat the COVID-19 epidemic will not end in Iceland until it is abolished all over the world.

He also admitted that the vaccine protection against infection was lower, maintained that the defense against serious illnesses was still estimated at 90 percent.

On 26 June, the Icelandic authorities chose to remove all domestic restrictions, prompting media outlets across the globe to hail it as the country that vanquished coronavirus. At that time, not a single case of COVID-19 had been registered in several weeks, and no deaths since December of last year had occurred.

At the same time, a large majority of Iceland’s adult population has been vaccinated. For people aged over 50, the proportion is close to 100 percent.

Yet, the country has since seen a rapid rise of the Delta strain, with a large proportion of the new infections among those fully vaccinated. This week, the spread of the infection reached the highest level to date, with 131 daily cases.

The new wave of infections has forced the Icelandic authorities to reintroduce restrictions, such as requirements for mask use indoors.

The European center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) labeled Iceland as “orange” in its latest report on the global COVID-19 epidemiological situation. Morgunbladid reported earlier this week that Iceland could be classified as “red” in light of the recent increase in the COVID-19 notification rate, which passed the 200 per 100,000 people mark this week.

To date, Iceland, a nation of 330,000, has seen 7,676 cases and 30 fatalities.

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