Final Friday, Iceland lifted all restrictions in opposition to Covid—no quarantining for the contaminated, no testing on the border, and no measurement limits on gatherings. The identical day, the nation broke its record for the variety of single-day circumstances, with over 4,300 reported.
On that day, too, Landspítali, the nation’s largest hospital, declared it was at emergency levels, with 55 patients admitted with Covid-19 and three of them within the ICU. Hildur Helgadóttir, challenge supervisor of the hospital’s epidemic committee, informed the nationwide broadcaster RUV that the federal government had not consulted with the hospital earlier than dropping restrictions, and that they have been too abrupt. The epidemic might be anticipated to be extreme within the coming weeks, she stated.
However what shocked the nation much more was the phrases of Iceland’s chief epidemiologist, Thorolfur Gudnason. In his memo to the Minister of Well being laying out the rationale for dropping restrictions, Gudnason stated the principle approach out of the epidemic is pure herd immunity, or when sufficient persons are resistant to the virus that its transmission ceases. In an effort to obtain this, Gudnason wrote, “as many individuals as attainable must be contaminated with the virus,” as vaccines alone are usually not sufficient. (Almost 80 percent of Iceland’s inhabitants has been absolutely vaccinated.) In keeping with Kristjana Ásbjörnsdóttir, an epidemiologist on the College of Iceland, his argument is that if the healthcare system isn’t overwhelmed, and if the Omicron wave certainly ends in a couple of weeks as he is projecting, then it could be value a short-term spike in infections to “get this over with,” she says.
When requested for the rationale behind the dropping of restrictions, a spokesperson for the Directorate of Well being, for which Gudnason works, responded that, though no one is aware of at which stage herd immunity shall be obtained, “it’s fairly evident to us that the one technique to get out of this pandemic is by acquiring herd immunity by way of pure infections.” Provided that Iceland has excessive vaccine protection, and that the restrictions required to manage the unfold of Omicron would trigger “appreciable and unexpected penalties on the society as a complete,” the spokesperson wrote that their workplace believes that “reaching herd immunity by way of the pure means of an infection in a extremely vaccinated inhabitants is justifiable.”
Gudnason’s strategy deeply considerations Ásbjörnsdóttir. “Sadly, after doing a very glorious job for almost all of the pandemic, we’re now falling into the lure of [only] eager about the typical individual,” she says—and forgetting concerning the clinically weak and immunocompromised. “We have to have deeper conversations about what minor modifications we will dwell with long run that may enable most issues to return to pre-pandemic operations with out endangering our most weak.”
Certainly, Gudnason’s assertion was met with concern and anger from some members of Iceland’s clinically weak neighborhood. Some immunocompromised folks don’t mount a very good—if any—response to vaccines. For them, Omicron may not simply trigger a sniffly nostril; it presents an actual hazard. Dropping masks mandates and vaccination necessities can imply that the world outdoors their houses will turn into a no-go zone. “The entire lifting of all measures, together with masks and testing, seems like an unstated demise sentence,” says Hans Jónsson, who’s disabled and lives in Ólafsfjörður, a city in northeast Iceland. “I really feel like they’ve determined that I merely do not should dwell.”