LYoung Icelanders returned to school this Tuesday morning after the Christmas holidays, a return to school delayed by 24 hours due to the epidemic situation on the North Atlantic island. At the school in Selfoss, a small town of 9,000 souls about sixty kilometers east of the Icelandic capital, pupils of 10e – last year of primary education in Iceland – had to leave their school shortly after their return to the benches. One of them, weakened, showed up to class before rushing home. A self-test carried out at her home was found to be positive, sending all her classmates home within two hours of the start of class.
“We could expect that there would be jolts like this at the beginning of the year given the news of the last few days, but not really after only two hours”, is surprised in the local press Magnús Guðmundsson, the father of one of the students placed in quarantine.
High vaccination rate
Like many countries in Europe, Iceland is facing a wave of unprecedented amplitude with record daily infections: 1,466 for the day alone yesterday, a huge part of which is attributable to the Omicron variant. A total of 12,731 new positive cases have been diagnosed in the past three weeks, or more than a third of total infections since the first officially recorded at the end of February 2020.
Faced with the rapid spread of the virus, the Icelandic government had stepped up its measures just before Christmas: the gauge of public gatherings limited to 20 people, closure of bars, restaurants and nightclubs at 9 p.m. and reception limited to 50% of maximum capacity in swimming pools and sports halls. Restrictions, the strictest for eight months, all recommended by the chief epidemiologist and followed to the letter except that of postponing the start of the school year by one week. If they increase slightly over the last two days, hospitalizations (28) and resuscitations (8) do not yet put pressure on the local health system.
Among the good performers in managing the pandemic with the lowest death rate in Europe (38 deaths in total), 77% of the population is vaccinated and more than 51% received a booster dose in Iceland. The government’s objective of injecting a third dose in 160,000 people by the end of 2021 has thus been reached while vaccination for 5-11 year olds is due to start next week.