Most corona restrictions are now lifted
Only three specific corona restrictions remain – no music festival until July, bars close at 10pm and no tourists until 30 June.
These are the key points of the government’s reopening measures announced at a press conference this morning.
Speaking at the conference were Prime Minister Bárður á Steig Nielsen, chief of police Michael Boolsen and chief medical officer Lars Fodgaard Møller.
Here are the highlights:
The Prime Minister started the press conference by thanking the Faroese people for playing their part in beating the coronavirus. The big task ahead is to prevent the virus from returning to the islands.
He stressed that all Faroese citizens abroad are welcome to travel home for the summer holidays, but he urged them to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The recommended distance between people will now be reduced from two metres to one, which is in line with recommendations from the World Health Organization. However, the two-metre requirement still applies in the presence of especially vulnerable people.
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Groups of up to 100 people will now be allowed, provided that the one-metre distance guidelines are adhered to.
Schools will open up for all year groups.
Sports events and similar events can be held with spectators.
Coaches and buses will return to regular timetables, though with the following restrictions in passenger numbers: 22 in large coaches, ten in medium-sized buses and five in small buses.
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The recommended 10pm closing time for bars and nightclubs still applies. No music festivals or other large cultural gatherings should be held until July at the earliest. An update will be issued toward the end of May.
Tourists are asked not to travel to the Faroes until 30 June at the earliest, and all incoming travellers will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The authorities are deliberating whether to open up for travel between the Faroes and selected ‘low-risk’ countries such as Iceland.
The Prime Minister concluded his introductory presentation by reminding the public to continue respecting the guidelines on social distancing, hygiene and responsible behaviour, and to support Faroese industry by purchasing locally produced goods.
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Chief medical officer Lars Fodgaard Møller said that other countries, including Denmark, have started applying what they call “the Faroese model for testing and quarantine”.
Locking down all of society at an early point when only three people had tested positive was a key factor in the Faroese corona success story. This happened to be the time at which the spread was at its peak.
The virus still exists in the countries around us, which means the risk of infection will not disappear. It is therefore important to self-quarantine if any symptoms arise, said the chief medical officer, pointing out that quarantine does not necessarily mean isolating oneself at home. Going for a drive or walking in the mountains is fine. Keeping a safe distance from other people is what’s most important.
Keeping a distance of one metre is now considered safe unless you are together with a person in the risk groups, and reducing this distancing requirement will go a long way toward resuming normal life, for instance in schools and restaurants.
Police chief Michael Boolsen, who heads the Epidemic Commission, said that the commission is keeping a close eye on the situation. New corona cases are to be expected at some point, which is why it is crucial that everyone respects the public health guidelines so that a new lockdown can be avoided.
Question from the floor: now that the Faroes are free of the coronavirus, how long do you believe the public will continue to respect the guidelines?
The Prime Minister replied that he trusts the general public to understand that having sacrificed two months to reach this point, people will continue to see the importance of respecting the guidelines. The police chief added that the elimination of the virus in the Faroes should act as justification for continuing to adhere to the guidelines, which are being adjusted to the current situation.
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Question from the floor: will there be a rescue package for the tourism industry, considering that tourists are not welcome to the Faroe Islands?
The Prime Minister replied that the government is working on a rescue package for the tourism industry, which is expected to be ready next week. He also referred to the plans to open up for travel to selected ‘low-risk’ countries as a way to help soften the blow to the tourism industry.
Question from the floor: does the decision by Icelandic authorities to open up for travellers from the Faroes in no way encourage the Prime Minister to do something similar in order to save our tourism industry?
The Prime Minister replied that he would dearly like to open the Faroese borders, but he pointed out that as Iceland is not entirely free of the coronavirus, it makes sense to continue guarding our borders.
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Question from the floor: can you give more details about restrictions for music festivals and village fairs?
The Prime Minister replied that holding mass events with more than 100 people gathered in one place is not advisable in May and June, and that updated guidelines for July and August will be available at the end of this month. The reason for the relatively strict guidelines with regards to music festivals and village fairs is that it is very difficult to trace the contacts of an infected person in an environment where hundreds of people roam freely and alcohol is involved.
Question from the floor: Why is it okay for sweaty footballers to play but not okay for bars to stay open after 10pm?
The Prime Minister replied that it is significantly easier to trace contacts in a football match where teams consist of 11 players than in bars or nightclubs.
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Question from the floor: at first, the objective was not to overburden the health system, but now the objective is to keep the virus reproduction number at zero. When will the Faroese strategy change?
The Prime Minister replied that the strategy remains the same as has always been. By keeping out the virus, the health system can manage the situation. The chief medical officer added that three infected people were enough to start large chains of infection, which is why it is crucial that we keep suppressing the reproduction number.
Translated by prosa.fo