Mid-way between Iceland and Scotland, the Faroe Islands are a country of approximately 50,000 people. The Faroe Islands are part of the kingdom of Denmark, but self-governing for the most part. The Faroese are of Scandinavian and Celtic descent and speak their own language which is very close to Icelandic. For an Icelander, reading Faroese is relatively easy, but the pronunciation is very different. The seafood industry is by far the largest sector in the Faroe Islands. The Faroese are a close-knit community, proud of their history and traditions, famous for their ring dance, locally called Faroese dance (Föröyskur dansur), which has lived on ever since the Middle Ages, while mostly disappearing in the rest of Europe.
The approach taken by the Faroese authorities at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was starkly different from that of most neighbouring countries. The Government did not issue any lockdown mandates, only recommendations, similar to the approach Sweden took. One of the most vocal opponents of COVID-19 restrictions in the Faroe Islands is musician and events planner Jón Tyril. Jón wrote to several ministers, members of the Faroese parliament and others in the political establishment at the outset. “I urged them to not adopt the same ‘epidemic law’ that Denmark had put in place, and which gave extended powers to the ministry of health and the police, to avoid mandates and forced restrictions, but rather to build on cooperation and trust,” Jón says. This path of recommendations became the route they took.
Government offices and some public services were closed for a while and schools were closed for a few weeks at the start of the pandemic only. After that they remained open, even despite rising pressure for school closures towards the end of 2021. “There was strong pressure on closing schools a week early before last Christmas, but I did not agree to this,” Minister for Education Dr. Jenis Av Rana said in a recent interview with Icelandic online newspaper Frettin.