The European country that has recorded just one COVID death this year

·4 min read
Reykjavik the capital city of iceland in winter view from above
Iceland is seeing an uptick in its number of COVID infections since lifting restrictions in June (Getty)

Iceland has recorded just one COVID death this year and has just 60 cases in the entire country, data published on Friday revealed.

The latest figures from Our World in Data show the country had all but suppressed the pandemic over the past six months. Overall the country has recorded 29 deaths and has the lowest death rate in Europe.

However, cases are now on the rise since lockdown restrictions were lifted and border controls were changed at the end of June.

The number of active infections in Iceland had risen to 60 on Friday, up from 34 a week ago. Seven more were reported on Friday. 

At least two of the domestic infections diagnosed in recent days are of the Delta variant, which originated in India, which so far has not spread widely within Iceland.

Figures from Our World In Data show that Iceland had all but supressed the pandemic, but since restrictions were lifted infection numbers are rising (OWID)
Figures from Our World In Data show that Iceland had all but supressed the pandemic, but since restrictions were lifted infection numbers are rising (OWID)

Icelandic authorities held their first COVID-19 briefing in 49 days on Friday due to the recent uptick in domestic infections diagnosed outside of quarantine.

Most of the infected people are fully vaccinated, they said, and all are between 20 and 50 years old. None has severe symptoms. 

An article from the Icelandic Public Broadcaster RUV said the person who died with COVID this year was in their 50s and died on 22 May, according to an announcement by the National hospital.

The Icelandic government said it would not impose any domestic restrictions at this time in response to the infections, but has encouraged the public to act with caution in the coming days and weeks and continue to practice personal infection prevention.

Despite the global pandemic, the country's economy has remained resilient throughout. Its three largest banks have withstood the economic impact of the pandemic, the central bank said at the end of June.

"The three large banks are in a strong position, their capital and liquidity are well above regulatory minimal, and they have ready access to liquidity," it said in a statement. "As a result, they are highly resilient."

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 04: Police officers are seen walking through heavy crowds in Soho on July 4, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. The UK Government announced that Pubs, Hotels and Restaurants can open from Saturday, July 4th providing they follow guidelines on social distancing and sanitising. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
Nighclubs can reopen in the UK from Monday and pubs will no longer be required to enforce social distancing measures (Getty)

All COVID restrictions in Iceland were lifted at the end of June, meaning no social distancing measures, no requirement to wear masks, and no limit to the amount of people meeting indoors or outside.

The North Atlantic country has combated the COVID-19 outbreak successfully though a rigorous testing and tracing system, but it has instituted lockdown measures several times in the last year to curb infection spikes.

"We are restoring the society we are used to living in and which we have longed for," Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir said when restrictions were lifted.

With a population of 360,000 people, Iceland has an infection incidence of just 1.6 per 100,000 inhabitants on a two-week average. Only 30 people have died out of a total of 6,637 infections.

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason told Friday's briefing: "On 26 June we lifted all domestic restrictions and on July 1 we lifted some restrictions at the borders, stopping to test vaccinated passengers upon arrival.

“I believe there is reason to be concerned about this development that we are seeing.”

All social distancing measures in England are due to be lifted on Monday, despite a huge surge in infection numbers. 

The latest figures showed 48,553 more cases, the highest since 15 January, while the 63 deaths were the biggest daily reported increase since 26 March.

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty has warned the number of people in hospital with coronavirus could reach “quite scary” levels within weeks.

International experts have even said Johnson's plan to unlock on Monday is a threat to the wider world as it could provide a fertile breeding ground for vaccine-resistant variants of the virus.

Prof Michael Baker, a member of the New Zealand Ministry of Health's pandemic influenza technical advisory group, said he was shocked by Johnson's strategy to exit the pandemic.

Watch: Vaccine creator warns UK will 'never get back to normality' until everybody vaccinated

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