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Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Further easing of restrictions announced

  • No new domestic infections in the last three weeks
  • 11 active infections found in border screening during the same period
  • Local incidence in the past 14 days is 0, but 2,2 per 100 thousand when the border-screening cases are included

Svandís Svavarsdóttir, the Minister of Health, has announced that she has accepted the recommendations of the Chief Epidemiologist regarding easing for restrictions. As of 4 August, gatherings of up to one thousand will be permitted, and opening hours for bars and restaurants will be extended to midnight.

"Since the beginning of this global crisis, the Icelandic government has followed the recommendations of our medical and scientific community. This has served us well so far, as the effects of the pandemic in Iceland have been less severe than in most places, both in terms of health effects and disruptions to daily life," says Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development.

Thorolfur Gudnason, Chief Epidemiologist, says: "We are now moving into a new mode of thinking when it comes to the pandemic. It seems that the virus will be a part of our existence for months to come, and maybe even for years. Now, we must figure out a way to continue our daily life with sensible modifications and precautions. We also need to shift out of crisis-mode and replace that with ongoing vigilance. Personal responsibility needs to become a norm in order for us to avoid serious setbacks, and we will continue to use early detection, isolation, contact tracing, and quarantine, to minimize the risk to our population."

Iceland's efforts to minimize the risk of new COVID-19 outbreaks have been effective since the initial outbreak subsided in late April. A total of 1 841 people have been diagnosed with the disease since the first case was detected on 28 February. Of those 1 823 have recovered, 8 are isolated with a mild infection, and 10 have died.

Since 15 June, travellers entering Iceland from high-risk areas have been offered a choice between a 14-day quarantine or a PCR test for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (that causes COVID-19). This measure is intended to minimise the risk of the virus entering undetected into the country.

Currently, all countries, except Denmark, the Faeroe Islands, Finland, Germany, Greenland, and Norway are classified as high-risk areas by the Chief Epidemiologist. A further review of this classification is expected at the end of the month.

If a sample shows the presence of the virus, a test for the seroprevalence of antibodies is performed. A person who has developed antibodies is considered to have recovered from the illness, despite minuscule traces of the virus still being detectable in the body. A person with a prior infection poses no risk of further spreading the virus and can safely enter the community. If no antibodies are found, the infected person must self-isolate and those who have been exposed to a potential infection must be quarantined.

Since 15 June, a total of 50 290 tests have been performed at the border. Of those, 113 (0,22%) have shown the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Upon testing for the seroprevalence of antibodies, 93 positive tests (82%) have proven to be from prior infection, and 20 are indicative of an active infection.

This week, reporting has been updated to more accurately reflect the current situation in Iceland. Previously, all positive PCR tests at the border were counted as new cases and figured into the total case count for COVID-19 in Iceland, including individuals who had already recovered at the time of arrival. With the very low prevalence of the disease in Iceland, these erroneously reported cases had a significant skewing effect on international comparison. Currently, the incidence of Covid-19 in the past 14 days is 2,2 per 100 thousand inhabitants, with a total of 8 infections having been found at the border and no local cases reported.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has updated its reporting to reflect this change. Other trusted sources, such as John Hopkins University and Worldometer, have also updated their reporting to reflect the correction.

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