1.2 Physical distancing
On January 8th 2021 new rules were announced to take effect on January 15th. The relaxations were proposed by the Chief Epidemiologist in view of the good results achieved in recent efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Iceland. Noting that the pandemic has surged in various countries, due partly to the emergence of a new variant of the virus which has so far not spread to any significant extent in Iceland, he proposed these changes, subject to the possibility of review in response to a worsening of the pandemic in the country.
i. The general restriction on numbers at gatherings will be 20 persons.
ii. Health and fitness centres: These will be permitted to operate, subject to strict conditions. The maximum number of guests will be half of that specified in the operating licence; in cases where no number is specified in the operating licence, it will be half of the number for which the changing facilities are designed. Only organised group sessions may be held, in which the maximum number in each group will be 20 and the names of all guests will be recorded. Changing facilities will be closed. Children born in or after 2005 will not be counted in guest totals. The Chief Epidemiologist will issue detailed instructions on measures to be taken against infection in health and fitness centres.
iii. Sports practices: Sports practices, for children and adults, will be permitted, both indoors and outdoors, whether or not they involve physical contact. Not more than 50 persons may occupy each separate area.
iv. Sports matches/competitions: Competitions and matches, for both children and adults, will be permitted, but without spectators.
v. Skiing facilities: Skiing facilities will be permitted to open, though subject to the restrictions. On ski-lifts, measures shall be taken to ensure that guests who are on their own do not have to share ski-chairs with others. Social distancing of 2 metres shall be maintained. The same rules on the use of facemasks will apply in skiing facilities as elsewhere.
vi. Stage performances, choirs, cinema showings and other cultural events: Up to 50 persons will be permitted on stage, both at rehearsals and at performances. Facemasks shall be worn where possible and the 2-metre social distancing rule shall be observed to the extent possible. Audiences of up to 100 adults and 100 children born in or after 2005 may be admitted; they shall be seated in numbered seats with their names recorded, and adults must wear facemasks.
vii. At funerals, up to 100 persons may attend, while general restrictions apply to funeral receptions, i.e. 20 persons.
On February 5, 2021, the Minister of Health announced further easing of restrictions to take effect on February 8th. The minister approved proposals from the Chief Epidemiologist regarding cautions relaxations to the restrictions on gathering sizes as from 8 February. The general limit on the number of persons in a gathering continued to be 20, but with more exceptions than have been allowed up to that point. The 2-metre social distancing rule and the obligation to wear facemasks remained in place. Nightclubs, bars, gaming establishments and slot machines were able to open again, subject to certain conditions (see below). Audience numbers attending stage performances rose from 100 to 150, and religious and life-stance associations were permitted to hold ceremonies, including funerals, attended by a maximum of 150 guests. The maximum number of customers permitted in shops rose to 150, taking account of the floor area; the same will apply to visitors to museums and galleries. Fitness centres were permitted to open their changing facilities again, and guests were able to use their exercise equipment, subject to certain restrictions. The new regulation allowing for these changes was issued and remained in force until 3 March 2021. It had been planned that no change to the previous regulation would be made before 18 February; however, in his memorandum to the minister, the Chief Epidemiologist explained that in view of the great decline in the incidence of COVID-19 in Iceland he considered an early easing of the restrictions to be justified. Nevertheless, he stressed the need for continued vigilance and caution until the stage is reached when vaccination against COVID-19 has reached more people.
Catering establishments with alcohol licences, including restaurants, cafés, bars and nightclubs, may not remain open after 10 p.m. The same applies to gaming establishment and slot machine saloons. Refreshments may only be served to seated guests. No new customers may be admitted after 9 p.m.
On February 23, 2021 the Government of Iceland announced new relaxation on COVID-19 measures. The general limit on gatherings will be raised from 20 to 50, with ongoing emphasis on distancing and other personal precautions. The new rules allow fans to attend sporting events and higher number of spectators to attend cultural events, where attendees are seated, face in the same direction, wear facemasks and the opportunities for mingling are reduced. The maximum number of people allowed cultural, religious and sports settings, as well as shops rose to 200. Bars and restaurants can stay open until 23:00, and capacity restrictions at public swimming pools and gyms have been loosened.
In sum, a) In-person attendance at sporting events is allowed again, b) Limits on attendance at cultural events raised to 200, c) Higher level education returning to normalcy, d) Low threshold testing, contact tracing, quarantine of exposed individuals and isolation of all cases remain vital tools.
Government of Iceland January 8th 2021. News, Ministry of Health. Relaxation to the restrictions on gathering sizes to apply from January 13th. https://www.government.is/news/article/2021/01/08/COVID-19-Relaxations-to-the-restrictions-on-gathering-sizes-to-apply-from-13-January/
Government of Iceland February 5th 2021. News, Ministry of Health. COVID-19: Cautious easing of restrictions on gatherings as from 8 February. https://www.government.is/news/article/2021/02/05/-COVID-19-Cautious-easing-of-restrictions-on-gatherings-as-from-8-February/
Government of Iceland February 23rd 2021. News, Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Ministry of Health, Prime Minister´s Office, Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Significant easing of domestic restrictions in Iceland to take effect tomorrow. https://www.government.is/news/article/2021/02/23/Significant-easing-of-domestic-restrictions-in-Iceland-to-take-effect-tomorrow-/
On September 18, 2020, the Minister of Health accepted a proposal from the Chief Epidemiologist to close clubs, bars and pubs temporarily for 4 days from September 18 to September 21. This measure was taken to hamper the spread of COVID-19 and avoid a new outbreak. The reason, as stated by the Chief Epidemiologist, was 38 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in the 3 days prior to the closure and that at least 25% of them can be traced to people visiting one particular pub in Reykjavik a prior. The decision applied to clubs, bars and pubs in the Capital Region only.
September 21st 2020
The Minister of Health approved a proposal by the Chief Epidemiologist to extend the temporary closure of bars and nightclubs up to and including Sunday, 27 September. The closure continued to affect bars and nightclubs in Reykjavík, Mosfellsbær, Hafnarfjörður, Garðabær, Kópavogur, Kjósarhreppur and Seltjarnarnes.
September 25th 2020
The Minister of Health approved a proposal from the Chief Epidemiologist obliging all premises with alcoholic beverage licences to provide seats for all guests, with guests to be seated as is the case in restaurants and cafes. A regulation setting this out took effect on Monday, 28 September, which also signaled the lifting of the temporary closure of bars and nightclubs in the metropolitan area, though with the condition that such enterprises observe the seating requirement. In accordance with the Chief Epidemiologist’s recommendations, the other restrictions on gatherings have been extended without amendment for the next three weeks, until and including 18 October.
October 5th 2020
New regulations setting out stricter measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 were approved by the Minister of Health and took effect at midnight on 4 October. With certain exceptions, the size of gatherings is now restricted to 20 persons. Following below is a summary of the main changes:
Gatherings are restricted to 20 persons. Fitness centres, bars, nightclubs and gaming establishments are closed. The number of guests in swimming pools may not exceed 50% of the maximum permitted in their operating licences. The social distance requirement remains 1 metre; where it is not possible to maintain this, the use of facemasks is obligatory.
Exemptions from the 20-person limit on gatherings:
Exemptions from the maximum of 20 persons at a gathering are as follows. Here, as elsewhere, the use of facemasks is obligatory where it is not possible to meet the social distance requirement of 1 metre.
• The functioning of the Althingi (parliament) is exempt from the restriction on numbers.
• Courts of justice are not subject to the restriction when exercising their judicial functions.
• Response teams, such as the police, fire brigades, search and rescue teams and health service workers, are not subject to number restrictions when engaged in their work.
• The maximum permitted number attending funerals is 50 persons.
• Shops with premises smaller than 1,000 m2 may admit up to 100 persons into the same space at any one time and one additional customer for every additional 10 m2 of floor space over 1,000 m2, though never more than 200 people in total.
• Performing arts: Events may be held where the audience is divided into groups of up to 100 persons together in separate areas. Seats are to be numbered, the names of those sitting in them must be recorded and all members of the audience are obliged to wear face-masks.
• The maximum size of classes in upper secondary schools and universities is 30 persons.
Competitive sports involving physical contact are permitted, with a maximum of 50 participants, subject to certain conditions.
Spectators at sporting events: Spectators are not permitted at indoor sporting events. Spectators may attend outdoor sporting events, divided into groups of up to 100, sitting in separate areas. Seats shall be numbered, the names of those sitting in them must be recorded and all spectators are required to wear facemasks.
Pre-schools and junior schools: No number restrictions apply to children born in 2005 or later. For those born prior to 2005, the maximum of 30 persons applies to each class, with a social distance of 1 metre; facemasks shall be worn if it is not possible to observe the social distance rule.
October 7th 2020
The current procedure of double screening for COVID-19 at the border for all passengers arriving in Iceland is to remain in place until 1 December, unless circumstances warrant earlier easing. These precautions are considered appropriate in light of an increased number of domestic cases diagnosed in Iceland in the past two weeks. Further decisions will take into account the status of the pandemic domestically and internationally, as well as other criteria identified by the Chief Epidemiologist (including testing capacity, the severity of the disease, status of the health care system and other measures and developments ).
The Minister of Health accepted the recommendations of the Chief Epidemiologist for stricter limits on the size of gatherings in the metropolitan area. These took effect on 7 October. The restrictions announced on 5 October remain unchanged in other parts of the country. The restrictions announced here remain in force until 19 October.
The metropolitan area includes: Reykjavík, Seltjarnarnesbær, Mosfellsbær, Kjósarhreppur, Hafnarfjarðarkaupstaður, Garðabær and Kópavogur.
Restrictions under the new rules are as follows:
a) Social distance of 2 metres: People not closely related or connected are required to maintain a social distance of 2 metres. This also applies in all schools, though not to pupils born in or after 2005.
b) Services requiring physical contact or close proximity: Activities and services that call for physical contact, or involve the risk of contact between persons, or close physical proximity, are prohibited. This applies, for example, to hairdressers’ salons, beauty parlours, massage parlours, tattoo parlours and other comparable activities. These restrictions do not apply regarding health service workers when giving their services; however, they are required to use facemasks when doing so.
c) Shops: Where it is not possible to ensure a social distance of 2 metres between persons who are not closely related or connected, the use of facemasks in shops is obligatory.
d) Swimming pools and bathing establishments: Swimming pools and bathing establishments are closed.
e) Indoor sports and physical fitness activities are prohibited. Fitness training, bodybuilding, sports and comparable activities that involve physical contact or the risk of physical contact, or close proximity, or where the shared use of equipment could entail a risk of infection, may not be pursued indoors.
f) Outdoor sports: Outdoor sporting activities are permitted, but spectators at outdoor sporting events must be divided into separate groups of not more than 20 persons. They must wear facemasks and sit in numbered seats.
g) Performing arts: Audiences at performances in venues such as theatres, cinemas, concerts, etc., may not consist of more than 20 persons. They must wear face-masks and sit in numbered seats.
h) Restaurants: Restaurants that are permitted to open (NB bars and night-clubs are to be closed) may not remain open after 9 p.m. (21.00).
For children born in or after 2005:
• School swimming lessons: Notwithstanding the general closure of swimming pools, school swimming lessons may go ahead for children born in or after 2005.
• Sports, and youth and leisure activities for children born in or after 2005 are permitted.
• Competitive events: Competitive events for children born in or after 2005 involving a risk of contact between groups that do not normally meet for practices are not permitted.
• Social distancing and restrictions on numbers: As before, no social distancing rules or restrictions on gathering sizes apply to children born in or after 2005.
October 21st 2020: New regulations took effect laying down restrictions on the size of gatherings and certain school activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The regulations remained in effect until 10 November (inclusive), with the exception of interim provisions applying to the metropolitan area, which applied until 3 November 2020. The changes introduced by the new regulations are summarised below.
Restrictions applying outside the metropolitan area – principal changes:
• The social distance between individuals was increased to 2 metres.
• The use of face masks became compulsory in places where the 2-m social distance cannot be guaranteed, including shops.
• At events: a maximum of 20 persons may occupy each separate area, sitting in numbered seats allocated to them by name.
• Sports that do not involve physical contact, in which it is possible to observe the 2-m social distance and a maximum of 20 participants in each separate area, are permitted, both indoors and outdoors.
• Notwithstanding the 2-metre social distance requirement, physical contact is permitted between sportsmen at practices and in competitions held by the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland (ÍSÍ), but they are to observe the 2-m social distance rule in changing rooms and other parts of the premises when not taking part in competitions or practices. Notwithstanding the general maximum of 20 persons, up to 50 persons may gather at practices and competitions organised by the Association.
• No spectators are permitted at sporting events, either indoors or outdoors.
• Sports and fitness activities: subject to certain conditions, sports and fitness activities may be organised and pursued providing that these are structured group sessions in which all participants are registered, with the maximum size of each group being 20 persons. In these cases, the 2-metre social distance rule shall be observed, participants may not exchange equipment during the session and all equipment must be disinfected between sessions. Shared use of equipment that is fixed to the floor, ceiling or wall, or of large items of equipment (e.g. in fitness and body-building centres) is prohibited.
Restrictions applying to the metropolitan area – principal changes:
• All sports and leisure activities for children of pre-school (kindergarten) age and junior-school age, including school swimming lessons, which involve physical contact, are prohibited. Thus, sports and leisure activities that do not involve physical contact are permitted. All sports and leisure activities that do not involve mixing between groups over and above that which takes place in the classroom, e.g. breaktime activities or physical education classes in schools, are therefore permitted.
• Sports and fitness activities: Subject to certain conditions, sports and fitness activities may be organised and pursued providing that these are structured group sessions in which all participants are registered, the maximum size of each group being 20 persons. In these cases, the 2-metre social distance rule shall be observed, participants may not exchange equipment during the session and all equipment must be disinfected between sessions. Shared use of equipment that is fixed to the floor, ceiling or wall, or of large items of equipment (e.g. in fitness and body-building centres) is prohibited.
October 30th 2020: The Minister of Health approved proposals from the Chief Epidemiologist regarding tighter measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, which took effect on Saturday, 31 October 2020. The same rules will apply throughout Iceland. The main change introduced is that the maximum size of gatherings is reduced from 20 to 10 persons. All sporting activities and stage performances are suspended. It is envisaged that these stricter rules will remain in force until 17 November (including that date); they will be reviewed in the light of developments with a view to whether it will be possible to relax them earlier or necessary to extend them for a longer period.
In his memorandum to the minister, the Chief Epidemiologist noted that the level of infection in Iceland is still high, notwithstanding the tighter precautionary measures that were introduced on 20 October. Consequently, there is a danger that group infections will break out and place even more strain on the health services, which are already stretched to capacity. Landspítalinn, the national hospital, is operating under emergency rules due to the demands of dealing with the pandemic and many services planned as part of its ordinary schedule have had to be suspended until 15 November.
The following constitute the principal restrictions:
1. All restrictions apply throughout Iceland.
2. As a general rule, gatherings are restricted in size to 10 persons.
• Up to 30 persons may attend funeral services, but no more than 10 in the receptions following them.
• Not more than 50 persons at a time are permitted inside pharmacies and food shops; arrangements for larger numbers apply in some cases, depending on the size of the premises.
• These restriction figures do not apply to public transport, coaches, domestic flights or emergency response workers in the course of their work.
• These number restrictions do not apply to the functions of the cabinet, the Council of State, the Althingi and the courts.
3. The 10-person restriction on gatherings does not apply to larger numbers of persons living in the same household.
4. Sporting activities are not permitted.
5. Swimming pools are closed.
6. Stage performances are not permitted.
7. Bars and nightclubs are closed.
8. Restaurants with alcoholic beverage licences may not remain open after 9 p.m. (21.00).
9. Face-masks must be worn where it is not possible to ensure a 2-metre social distance between persons who are not members of the same household.
10. Children born in or after 2015 are exempt from the 2-metre social distance rule, the restrictions on the size of gatherings and the face-mask requirement. (These exemptions applied previously to children born in or after 2005.).
November 2nd 2020: A new regulation from the Minister of Health laying down restrictions in schools and universities as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic took effect on 3 November 2020. The aim is to interfere as little as possible with educational work, and that activities in pre-schools and the early years of compulsory schooling should proceed in full. In accordance with the recommendations of the Chief Epidemiologist, the rules on wearing face masks will be changed so that they do not apply to children born in or after 2011.
The regulation, based on the recommendations from the Chief Epidemiologist in response to the spread of COVID-19, was drawn up in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. It applies to pre-schools, junior schools (compulsory, to age 16), music schools, upper secondary schools (post-16), post-secondary education and the universities; in all cases, it covers both state-run and private establishments. It also covers activities in after-school activity centres and social centres, sporting activities, youth clubs and organised leisure activities for young people.
November 13th 2020: The Minister of Health approved recommendations by the Chief Epidemiologist for a cautious relaxation of some of the restrictions on gatherings in response to the spread of COVID-19. The changes involved took effect on November 18th 2020. The main changes are that sporting, youth and leisure activities for children in pre-schools (kindergartens) and compulsory junior schools (to age 16) will be permitted once again. In upper-secondary schools, the number of persons permitted to gather in one space will increase to 25. Services typically involving physical contact or close proximity will be permitted again. The general limit on the size of gatherings to 10 persons will continue. It is envisaged that further relaxation of the restrictions will be possible at the beginning of December.
In his memorandum to the minister, the Chief Epidemiologist proposed that gradual relaxations be made in the coming weeks. Those that take effect on Wednesday, November 18th, are as follows:
• Activities and services that entail physical contact between people will be permitted, with the condition that they use face masks. This applies, for example, to hairdressers, massage parlours, driving and flying instructors and others offering comparable services. A maximum of 10 customers at a time applies in these establishments.
• Rehearsals, sporting activities and youth and leisure activities for children of kindergarten and junior school age (to age 16) will be permitted, both indoors and outdoors. To make it possible for such activities to take place, there will be no restrictions regarding the mixing of groups. The maximum numbers of persons in each space shall be according to the regulation on number restrictions in schools. Up to 50 children of kindergarten age and in the first four grades of junior school may occupy the same space; for those in Grades 5-10, the maximum will be 25.
• In the upper-secondary schools, a maximum of 25 pupils and staff may occupy each space instead of the 10 permitted previously; however, face masks must be used and the 2-metre social distance rule must be observed.
• Exemptions from face mask requirements are permitted in the case of persons who are unable to use them, for example due to health reasons or because they lack the maturity or understanding required to wear masks. Persons who have had COVID-19 are also exempt from the face mask requirement if they are able to demonstrate this by means of a valid medical certificate.
November 18th 2020: The Minister of Health has decided that the testing of travellers for COVID-19 at Iceland’s borders is to be free of charge, on a temporary basis, from December 1st 2020 until January 31st 2021. This is in line with recommendations from the Chief Epidemiologist. The aim of the move is to encourage people to be tested rather than to commit to a period in quarantine to reduce the likelihood that they will bring an infection with them into the country. The matter was discussed and approved at a cabinet meeting on November 17th.
In his memo to the minister, the Chief Epidemiologist expressed his concern that the recent escalation in the spread of the pandemic abroad will increase the risk of imported infections if travellers choose quarantine but then fail to observe the rules in full. There have been many cases where suspicion regarding the emergence of new infections in Iceland has involved tourists who only intended to spend short periods in Iceland. In response to this, it was proposed either that all persons entering the country be required to undergo a screening test at the border, unless medical considerations rule this out, while also dropping the fee for testing.
The minister’s decision on free tests at the border will take effect on December 1st and remain in force until January 31st 2021.
November 21st 2020: The Icelandic Government has announced that current border measures to limit the influx of COVID-19 infections will remain mostly unchanged until February 1st 2021. These measures include a choice between a fourteen-day quarantine period or a double screening process, with a five-day quarantine required between a border test and a second test.
However, as of December 10th, arriving passengers who have already recovered from a COVID-19 infection will be exempt from border measures if they can provide proof of prior infection. Further information on what kind of documentation is needed will be available shortly on the Government information portal www.covid.is.
Further decisions on border measures will be made no later than January 15th 2021.
The Government's decision is based on a memorandum from a working group on the recognition of certificates appointed by the Minister of Health, a working group on economic measures in response to COVID-19 appointed by the Minister of Finance and the recommendation of the Chief Epidemiologist.
Earlier this week, the Ministry of Health announced that testing of travellers for COVID-19 at Iceland’s borders is to be free of charge (see above).
At a press conference April 14th, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health, and the Minister of Justice introduced steps to lift the restrictions currently in place in Iceland due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Minister of Health announced her decision to ease restrictions on larger gatherings and limitations on schools and preschools.
As of 4 May, larger gatherings will be limited to 50 people, instead of 20, and service providers, such as hair salons and dentists, will be able to open their doors again. High schools and universities will reopen with certain limitations, while elementary schools and preschools will return to normal. The decision is based on the recommendations of the Chief Epidemiologist.
The Main changes from May 4th :
1. Limits on large gatherings will go from 20 to 50 people. The two-meter social distancing rule will still be in effect.
2. Schools and preschools will operate normally.
3. High schools and universities will reopen, but the 50-person limit and two-meter social distancing measures apply.
4. Various services: Hair salons, massage parlours, physical therapy clinics, beauty parlours, museums, and other similar services can reopen, but are to maintain the two-meter social distancing rule as possible.
5. Healthcare: Healthcare and dental practices (elective surgery excluded) will resume.
6. Organized sports activities for children are permitted outdoors with limitations:
a) Groups will be limited to no more than 50 children.
b) Participants are to keep two meters apart as possible, especially in older age groups.
7. Other organized sports activities are permitted outdoors with limitations:
a) No more than four individuals can train or play together.
b) Touching is prohibited, and individuals are to stay two meters apart.
c) The use of shared equipment should be limited, and all equipment sanitized after every use.
The following measures will remain in effect:
• Exemptions for economically significant companies will remain unchanged.
• As before, grocery stores and pharmacies can allow up to 100 people to enter their establishments simultaneously.
• Swimming pools and gym facilities will remain closed.
• Nightclubs, bars, and similar businesses will remain closed.
• The Directorate of Health’s instructions regarding the postponement of elective surgeries will remain in effect.
May 12th 2020
Further transitional measures
Since the begining of May, there has been a significant decrease in number of COVID-19 infected individuals, with many days in a row with no one testing positive for the virus (COVID.is). It seems that Iceland is over the „first wave“, but there is much work being done into designing transition measures for and exit strategy on how to lift social restriction. Lockdown was never implemented in Iceland, so Iceland has been experiencing softer measures than other countries.
On May 6th two individuals tested positive for COVID-19 in Iceland. Since then, no one has tested positive. In this period 1.930 individuals were tested, of which 350 symptomatic and thus tested in Primary care settings, and 1.580 asymptomatic tested in deCode genetics.
Around 15% of the population has been tested so far.
Due to the sharp decrease in incidence of COVID-19, further transition measures were put in place in order to ease restrictions previously implemented.
As from May 4th, larger gatherings were limited to 50 people, instead of 20, and service providers, such as hair salons and dentists, were able to reopen their doors. High schools and universities reopened with certain limitations, while elementary schools and preschools have gradually returned to normal. The rule of two meters distance remains wherever possible. The decision regarding reopening school and its new format is based on the recommendations of the Chief Epidemiologist.
From May 4th all health care visits and services including dental care reopened Elective surgeries and associated diagnostic exams remained on hold. Restrictions on dental services were also lifted on May 4th.
From May 4th, serologic antibody testing has started in Iceland and tests were being validated for their ability to accurately detect any evidence of immunity. Serologic testing was not widespread and Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist has asked individuals undergoing blood draws to donate a separate sample for serologic screening. This is not considered to be a research project and patients may refuse. However, patients are unable to independently request to undergo a serologic test.
Further reopening of restrictions to public life:
1. The regulations Iceland temporarily introduced from April 24th to May 15th of Schengen border control and 14-day quarantine for international arrival are being reconsidered and are expected to be extended until June 15th (to be announced).
2. Reopening of Swimming pools is under consideration and a formal consent might be given on May 18th, contingent to precautionary measures not yet decided.
On May 15th 2020:
In an announcement published by the Ministry of Health, the Minister of Health approved the Chief Epidemiologist´s recommendations on further easing of restrictions posed due to the COVID-19 . The Chief Epidemiologist´s MEMO including the recommendations to the Minister was published simultaneously. From May 18th, public swimming pools and spas will reopen however with a restriction on number of visitors. Visitors should not exceed 50% of officially licensed number of guests for the respected facility, children born after 2015 not included. Guidelines regarding the reopening including strong emphasis on proper hygiene and sanitizing measures follow to all relevant parties. The two metres rule does not apply in swimming pools but visitors are expected to keep that measures where ever possible.
May 22nd 2020:
In an announcement published by the Ministry of Health, the Minister of Health approved the Chief Epidemiologist´s recommendations on further easing of restrictions posed due to the COVID-19 . The Chief Epidemiologist´s MEMO including the recommendations to the Minister was published simultaneously. From May 25th 2020, restrictions on gatherings will change from maximum 50 people to 200, and gyms and fitness centres will reopen with similar requirements as for swimming pools and spas, i.e. visitors should not exceed 50% of the officially licensed number of visitors for the respected facility. Restaurants, bars and casinos are allowed to stay open until 11:00PM. Although people are advised to maintain the two metres rule of physical distancing, the way this rule is now being implemented was changed as of May 25th. This means that there (for instance in theatres, cinemas, restaurants etc.) should always been an option for those who choose to keep the two metres rule, to keep that distance. As of May 22nd only 5 new cases have tested positive from the beginning of May which seems to suggest that the first phase of easing of restrictions that took place on May 4th has not lead to increased number of positive tests.
Arrangements and procedures for the implementation of opening of borders on June 15th prepared by the Government´s Task force to be announced.
May 25th 2020:
It has been declared the end of the state of emergency due to COVID-19.
The daily public information briefs provided by the Civil Protection, the Chief epidemiologist and the Medical Director of Health will come to an end. However, these public briefings will resume if COVID-19 starts testing positive in the society again.
June 24th 2020:
Further lifting of physical distancing measures
1. On June 15, the Minister of Health announced a further relaxation of the restrictions of gatherings that have been in place due to COVID-19. The main change is that larger gatherings will now be limited to 500 people, up from 200 people since May 25th. The existing restrictions for swimming pools and fitness centres at 75% of the maximum capacity will also expire on June 15th.
2. The rate of infections has decreased significantly over the past few weeks. Twelve new cases have been diagnosed in May and June, with only four active infections remaining as per June 19th. Therefore, the restrictions originally put in place in March have been gradually lifted since the beginning of May. With these last changes, the remaining restrictions concern the 500-person limit on gathering and the limited opening hours for bars, nightclubs, and game rooms, which must close at 11 PM. No increase in infection has been observed following these reductions. Guidelines on handwashing, the use of hand sanitizers, and social distancing remain in place and are considered essential for the continued containment of the virus.
September 10th, 2020
On September 4, the Minister of Health announced a relaxation of restrictions on gatherings, which took effect on September 7. This included the following: the so-called social distancing rule was relaxed from 2 metres to 1 metre and the maximum size of gatherings was increased from 100 to 200 people. The Minister of Health issued these new measures following guidelines proposed by the Chief Epidemiologist.
Other changes to restrictions on meetings under the new regulations include:
(a) the maximum capacity of guests permitted at any one time in swimming pools, bathing facilities and fitness centres will be raised from 50% to 75% of what is permitted under their operating licences
(b) sports activities, stage performances and other cultural events may take place despite the 1 metre rule; i.e., those involved will be permitted to have physical contact. Spectators or audiences at these activities are subject to the general rules of 1 metre’s distance and a maximum of 200 persons may be in a restricted area. These rules apply until September 27, 2020, but will be revised on a regular basis.
Prior to this change, a measure had been issued on August 21 requiring a facemask covering for the mouth and nose in all workplaces and in other operations where the distance rule between persons could not be followed. Exemptions from this measure at the time were secondary schools and universities where 1 metre between persons without using facemask was permitted.
The latest closing time of premises with alcohol licences remains 11 p.m. (23.00 hrs).
On March 6th the CE published guidelines to ban on visitations to residents and patients in nursing homes, long-term care facilities and hospitals.
As measures of containments, the Minister of Health (MoH) on the advice of the CE declared on March 13th restrictions on gatherings and partial closures of educational institutions. This restriction involved a ban on mass gathering of more than 100 individuals whether in public or private settings, including conferences, seminars, meetings, theatre, concerts, cinemas, sport events and social gatherings as well as various religious activities. Wherever people gather within those restrictions the number of people should never exceed the requirement to maintain 2 meters between individuals. Simultaneously, all universities, colleges and high schools were closed. Primary and elementary schools were allowed to stay open but with certain restrictions regarding maximum number in the classroom, teaching in smaller groups and with instructions on thorough cleaning and sanitizing of all facilities daily. This ban took effect at midnight March 16th.
On March 22nd the ban on mass gatherings was further limited to a maximum number of 20 instead of 100, and these restrictions should also apply to public transport. The rule of 2 meters between people was reiterated with closure of businesses and services, public and private, involving close contact or proximity of less than 2 meters between individuals. All non-essential businesses and services should be closed. This included hair and make-up salons, massages, and the like. Swimming pools, gyms, museums and galleries were closed. The ban took effect at midnight March 23rd. Working from home should be arranged wherever possible. Necessary and urgent health care services were excluded and the restrictions did not apply to international airports, ports, aircraft or ships.
Public spaces should all be thoroughly cleaned. Supermarkets and pharmacies were allowed to stay open but had to adhere to: (1) the two meters’ physical distance rule, (2) rules of the maximum amount of people allowed depending on space available, and (3) needed to provide hand sanitizers at the entrance and by the cashpoints.
People are urged to “stay home” and “travel indoors” during the Easter break now coming up.
On April 3rd the ban on mass gatherings was extended to May 4th.
Directorate of Health/Chief Epidemiologist, March 7th https://www.landlaeknir.is/um-embaettid/frettir/frett/item39476/leidbeiningar-fyrir-einstaklinga-med-ahaettuthaetti-vegna-covid-19
National Broadcasting Service. News, March 7th https://www.ruv.is/frett/hvetja-hjukrunarheimili-til-ad-banna-gestagang
Press release Ministry of Health https://www.stjornarradid.is/efst-a-baugi/frettir/stok-frett/2020/03/13/Takmarkanir-a-samkomu-og-skolahaldi-til-ad-haegja-a-utbreidslu-Covid-19/
Ministry of Health. Press release April 3rd 2020. Ban on mass gatherings extended, https://www.stjornarradid.is/efst-a-baugi/frettir/stok-frett/2020/04/03/Samkomubann-framlengt-til-ad-hefta-utbreidslu-Covid-19/
Directorate of Health February 28th News and Announcements https://www.landlaeknir.is/um-embaettid/frettir/frett/item39280/fyrsta-tilfelli-covid-19-koronaveiru-greinist-a-islandi