Since 15 June Iceland has offered all international arrivals the opportunity to undergo COVID-19 testing at their point of entry as an alternative to a 14-day quarantine. The rule does not apply to minors (born 2005 and later) who are exempt from both quarantine and testing requirements.
Due to the nature of SARS-COV-2 virus, there is a possible risk of an infection escaping detection if the test is performed in the first few days after infection. Two such cases is now thought to have led to what currently appears to be a minor cluster of infections in the Reykjavík region. Five individuals have tested positive after an Icelandic national returning from the United States tested positive, a few days after initially testing negative at the border. All five individuals are in good health, and no one is hospitalized with COVID-19.
"We are following the same strategy of extensive testing, preventative quarantining and contact tracing for any new infections in Iceland which allowed us to respond so effectively at the beginning of the epidemic. By testing at the border and continuing an extensive programme of testing at healthcare clinics, we aim for very early detection of any potential new outbreaks," says Chief Epidemiologist Thorolfur Gudnason. "In a case, such as we have now, where an infection is discovered immediately activate our contact tracing capabilities to direct anyone susceptible to an infection into quarantine. While new cases are of course not what we had hoped for, it was anticipated and we are prepared."
Following diligent contact-tracing efforts, a total of 434 people have been ordered into quarantine, as a preventative measure due to the new infection. 1 300 individuals have been tested in relation to these infections and positive cases of the virus have been sequenced to determine the origin of the infection, to confirm that this is indeed a small cluster of related infections.
All passengers arriving in Iceland are encouraged to download the country’s contact tracing app regardless of their test results or quarantine period to facilitate contact-tracing in case of infection. The app, which has been developed in line with the strictest privacy standards, stores the user’s location locally on the phone and is only shared with the authorities with the consent of the user in case of infection. The app also provides important information and updates for travellers and allows them to contact health authorities through an online chat, if needed.
"Our expectation is that new instances of the virus will appear in Iceland despite the very low levels of active infections we have now reached. Our goal remains to decrease the probability of such occurrences and to move aggressively to minimize the potential harm of such localized clusters or sporadic infections that we may encounter," says Víðir Reynisson, Head of Civil Protection. “It remains vital that the general public maintains vigilance, practices good hygiene with frequent hand-washing and maintains sensible social distancing wherever it is possible.”
A total of 15 197 samples have been taken at the border. Of those, a total of 28 have been positive. Each of the 28 positive individuals have been tested for the presence of antibodies in order to determine if they are currently contagious. The serological tests indicated only six of the positive samples have been ruled to be likely to be contagious. Those who have had contagious infections have been put into isolation, and anyone who is considered to be at-risk due to having been in proximity with an infected individual has been ordered into a 14-day quarantine. Three individuals await results from the serological test.
Daily life has mostly returned to normal since the beginning of May. Some restrictions remain on mass gatherings (500 at the most) and nightlife operating hours (must close by 11 pm). Limits on very large gatherings and nightlife are likely to remain throughout the next few months.
Iceland did not close primary schools during the epidemic, most businesses have remained open, and the use of masks is rare and not recommended by the authorities.
A total of 1 847 individuals have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Iceland since 28 February, 1 823 (98.7%) have recovered, and 10 have died. Currently there are 11 known active infections, but none of them is serious.