Guðmundur Ingi Þóroddsson, the chairman of Afstaða, the advocacy group for improved prison policies and betterment, has expressed concern for the health and wellbeing of drug users during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vísir reports.
“The situation of active drug users, the homeless and former prisoners is very bad. They have reduced access to general health services and there are no treatments available to this group”, says Guðmundur Ingi.
This comment comes after a fire broke out in a house that was inhabited by a group active drug users, two of whom had COVID-19. With no easy access to sample testing or health care, it is possible that around twenty people living in the house may also have contracted the virus. Tests are now being carried out.
The condition of the house was incredibly poor and the police are currently trying to determine the cause of the fire. One woman has been taken into custody on suspicion of involvement in the fire, as well as other offences.
Changes need to be made
Guðmundur Ingi says that the COVID-19 epidemic has had a huge impact on drug users in Iceland, with indications that consumption has become harder, drugs and paraphernalia more expensive and medical care difficult to seek out. However, it seems that the city of Reykjavík is starting to step up and make positive changes to help the situation. But more needs to be done.
The situation in the house was terrible but not surprising, according to Guðmundur Ingi. “It’s a real myth that we in Iceland have the best treatment centres in the world. We do not have treatments for this group and it’s high time to do research on what works and what does not”. He adds, “More safe drug consumption spaces are needed for people during the pandemic. Access to health care for this group is reduced. They’re not able to use video call equipment and may not be paying much attention to infection control, so the situation is getting worse.”