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Travellers to be tested at border - Science to guide path to the easing of travel restrictions

Starting today, Monday 15 June, Iceland will offer voluntary testing for COVID-19 for passengers arriving in Iceland, as an alternative to a 14-day quarantine. This is the first step in a carefully managed process to open the country to the flow of international travel.

"Throughout the pandemic, we have aimed for moderate but targeted measures based on the best available information. By testing all inbound passengers we will continue to collect valuable information that will help guide our decisions on removing regions from our list of high-risk areas in the future, or implementing a more careful approach," says Thorolfur Gudnason, Chief Epidemiologist. If and when a country is removed from Iceland's list of high-risk areas, it may be possible to reduce or eliminate the quarantine requirement for some portion of travellers.

From the outset of the pandemic in early February, Iceland has pursued a policy of early detection, high volume testing, exhaustive contact tracing, quarantining of at-risk individuals, and isolation of infected individuals. Additionally, innovative treatment methods, including high-touch remote care, have contributed to a successful effort to reduce mortality, morbidity, and strain on medical resources. Primary schools in Iceland have remained open, and no lockdowns have been imposed. There are still restrictions on mass gatherings (no more than 500 people), and restaurants and nightlife establishments must close by 11 in the evening. In case new infections are detected, and even small clusters of infection, there is a high level of confidence that it will be possible to deal with such issues in a targeted manner, on the basis of the current strategy, without implementing severe society-wide measures.

During the pandemic, a very high emphasis has been placed on personal hygiene measures, such as handwashing, respiratory hygiene (coughing into the elbow), respecting distance when possible, and that anyone showing symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19 goes into self-isolation until they get tested. These personal practices remain of utmost importance in the upcoming weeks and months.

"A crucial factor in our success so far is that we have been able to count on the active participation of the general public. So far, we have all been in this together. The public has shown tremendous solidarity in our efforts to minimise the harm caused by COVID-19 in our country. This level of common commitment has allowed us to pursue a policy of sensible social distancing with much less drastic measures than have been implemented in many other places. We are certain that this level of common responsibility will be shared by the visitors we welcome in the coming days, weeks, and months," says Thordis Kolbrun R Gylfadóttir, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation.

The execution of Iceland's policy has been successful in mitigating the pandemic so far. There are only a handful of known COVID-19 infections in Iceland. A total of 1 810 individuals have been diagnosed with the virus, of which ten have died, and 1 796 have recovered. The Icelandic authorities aim to protect the progress achieved while giving the economy a path to recovery and normalcy.

The Icelandic authorities have not recommended the general use of masks or cloth for healthy individuals, and the use of such equipment in public is very rare. "Iceland benefits from its sparse population. There are very few situations in daily life in here Iceland where the use of face masks would be advised. These recommendations are consistent with our experience, the best scientific information, and the latest recommendations of the WHO," says Mr Gudnason. He points out that the WHO recommendations on the use of face masks for healthy individuals in the general public are limited to specific situations such as where population density is high, there is little control of the outbreak, quarantine, and isolation operations are limited, and several other factors that do not apply to the situation in Iceland.

The current policy of testing every inbound visitor is under constant review. The government will pay for the tests for travellers arriving during the initial trial period until the end of June. From 1 July, a fee of ISK 15 000 (approx. EUR 100, USD 110, GBP 90) will be charged for those who elect to get tested (minors born 2005 and later are exempt from both testing and quarantine requirements). This fee is intended to cover the direct cost of the service.

For detailed information regarding your trip to Iceland, including a link to your preregistration form, please see www.covid.is/english 

For entry requirements for foreign nationals, other than EU, EFTA, and UK nationals, please see the website of the Directorate of Immigration.

For press inquiries, please contact María Mjöll Jónsdóttir at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. E-mail: [email protected]



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