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Ministry of Health, Prime Minister's Office, Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Covid-19 screening mandatory for arriving passengers until spring

As of today, all passengers must undergo a PCR test upon arrival in Iceland, followed by a 5–6-day quarantine and a second screening at the end of quarantine period. This procedure will remain in place until 1 May, when cautious steps will be taken to ease restrictions, based on the epidemiological situation at passenger's point of departure. This was decided at today's cabinet meeting.

The decision by the Government is a continuation of the procedure that has been in place since 19 August when the system of double screening was established. The option to choose a 14-day quarantine instead of screening will however be removed. Less than one percent of arriving passengers have opted for that option in recent weeks. 

“We are fortunate to have been able to get the most recent wave under control, which is why we want to take these precautionary steps now. The remarkable patience, understanding and adherence to domestic restrictions, that our people have shown has been key to the progress made so far, as well as success in limiting the inflow of new sources of infection at the border. While we are all looking forward to life returning to normal, and welcoming visitors from around the world, it remains vital for us to safeguard our position while we gradually increase protection of the population with our vaccination efforts," says Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland.

These changes are in line with recommendations by the ECDC and the Chief Epidemiologist of Iceland, whose assessment indicates that there is considerable risk of new infections "leaking" through the border, especially from individuals who choose not to be tested at the border. It is especially important to minimize the risk of new variants of the virus spreading in Iceland, but these have repeatedly been detected and stopped at the border. Therefore, the Minister of Health has issued a regulation that mandates screening and removes the option to quarantine for 14 days. Only in rare circumstances, such as in the case of valid medical reasons, will exemptions be made.

On 1 May cautious steps will be taken to ease restrictions if the epidemiological situation internationally allows. With the ongoing vaccination programs throughout the world, a gradual improvement in the situation is expected, which will open possibilities to make travelling easier from areas where the pandemic is under control, while maintaining restrictions on travel from areas where the situation warrants such precautions.

Arriving passengers who are in possession of valid documentation that proves prior infection or vaccination against covid-19 are exempt from all exempt from screening and quarantine measures. Currently, only positive PCR-tests and certificates of presence of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 from a laboratory within the EEA/EFTA-area or a confirmation from the Chief Epidemiologist in Iceland are accepted. All those who present a valid international vaccination certificate for full vaccination with an approved vaccine against COVID-19 are exempt.
 
However, certificate of vaccination against COVID-19 or confirmation of previous COVID-19 infection can not exempt individuals from the current travel restrictions. These certificates can only exempt individuals who are already authorised to travel to Iceland from quarantine and testing requirements. Third country citizens who have had full vaccination against COVID-19 or have a confirmed previous COVID-19 infection can therefore still not travel to Iceland unless they can present documents upon arrival to prove to be exempt from the current travel restrictions.

The Government of Iceland anticipates that vaccination will gradually reduce the risk that stems from the pandemic, while efforts to contain the spread of the virus remain of paramount importance. In light of this, the border measures will be reviewed monthly, primarily with the aim to implement easing of restrictions if the situation allows.

Colour coding at the border this summer

After 1 May the border measures will be based on the regularly updated data published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Countries will be risk-assessed into green, orange, and red zones according to the epidemiological situation. Considering Iceland's unique geographical position, the measures at the border will most likely be stricter than those prescribed by the EU, at least initially. Passengers from low-risk countries will be exempt from quarantine and a second screening if they can provide proof of a negative PCR test prior to departure.

The classification into risk-categories will be based on EU recommendations:
 
  • 14-day incidence rate
  • Positivity rate
  • Testing rate

The risk assessment will be based on the following criteria:

  • Green means that the 14-day incidence rate is below 25 per 100 thousand inhabitants, and less than 4% of tests are positive.
  • Orange means that the 14-day incidence rate is below 50 per 100 thousand inhabitants, but the positivity rate exceeds 4%; or the 14-day incidence rate is between 25 and 150 but the positivity rate is below 4%.
  • Red applies if the situation is more severe.
  • Grey applies to countries where information is insufficient or fewer than 300 tests are performed per 100 thousand each week.

The rules that will apply to each risk category after 1 May are:

The aim of today's decision is to convey as much predictability as possible. The Government has prepared its decision diligently, considering economic, social and medical viewpoints, both domestic and international. 

This press release has been amended since its publication. 

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