The first Icelander to be diagnosed with a confirmed case of COVID-19 coronavirus in Iceland has been quarantined in the Infectious Diseases ward at the National and University Hospital’s Fossvogur location. Public health officials confirmed this during a press conference on Friday afternoon, RÚV reports, just hours after the news of the virus’s arrival in Iceland was confirmed. Iceland’s Civil Protection Emergency level has been raised from Uncertainty to Alert.
The press conference was presided over by surgeon general Alma Möller, epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, Guðlaug Rakel Guðjónsdóttir, the director of the hospital’s Emergency, Geriatrics, and Rehabilitation Services division, and Viðir Reynisson, the manager of the Police Commissioner’s Civil Protection and Emergency Management division.
The patient is an Icelandic man in his fifties who went skiing with his wife and daughter in the Italian town of Andalo from February 15 to 22. Cases of the coronavirus have now been confirmed in all the Nordic countries; all of the Nordic patients seem to have contracted the virus while travelling in Northern Italy. Although he has reported typical symptoms of coronavirus—fever, cough, and muscle pain—the patient is not seriously ill and his health remains strong. He and his family responded to his diagnosis and quarantine calmly and are working with health authorities to provide as much information about their trip as possible. A group of capital-area police officers are now working with health officials to chart the man’s movements from the moment he arrived in Iceland as well as locate his fellow travellers. Officials will determine whether these individuals need to be quarantined based on their level of interaction with the patient. At the press conference, Þórólfur said that the man’s fellow travellers would have been at lower risk for infection if he’d fallen ill before he returned to Iceland, but this was not the case.
Surgeon General Alma Möller stressed that while there is still much that is unknown about the virus, health professionals do know that 80% of patients experience only minor symptoms, while 5% fall seriously ill. The National Hospital is, however, well-equipped to deal with the virus, she affirmed, and has, for instance, 26 respirators in top condition.
Patient’s family and coworkers under quarantine
As of Friday evening, the patient’s immediate family had been placed under quarantine, as had his whole workplace. Guðrún Sigmundsóttir, Head of Surveillance and Outbreak Investigation at the Directorate of Health, confirmed this for RÚV. Guðrún said that the process of tracing the infection has gone well thus far; the same procedure is followed any time a case like this occurs. What’s different this time is the scope of the contact tracing procedure. She said it is also uncommon for this many people to be placed under quarantine.
At the time of writing, Guðrún couldn’t say exactly how many people would need to be quarantined, as not everyone who came into contact with the man has finished being interviewed. But she expected that it would be finished over the weekend. “We’ll just keep going as long as we need to,” she said.