Iceland and U.S. Discussed the Covid-19 Travel Ban

Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson.

Icelandic and U.S. authorities have agreed to prepare co-operation regarding the effects of the travel restrictions placed by American authorities on European countries due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson and State Secretary Mike Pompeo discussed the economic effects the ban will have and agreed in principle to co-operate once the pandemic has subsided. This discussion took place in a phone meeting yesterday. A face to face meeting had been planned in Washington DC last Thursday but had to be cancelled due to the travel ban.

The temporary travel ban affects all foreign nationals from China, Iran as well as European countries that are part of the Schengen agreement. People both from these countries, as well as those who have visited any of the countries in the last 14 days, are banned from entering the United States of America due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We had a good conversation and I expressed my disappointment at the measures taken by the US government, and now by the European Union. We have to explore all avenues to minimize the damage that these measures will cause. We will also have to come to terms with the position which we’re in right now, which is of course without precedent, and it is urgent that we stop the spread of the virus with significant scientific actions. All the while, it was important to emphasise the continuing good relations between the two countries, and we agreed on that,” said Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór.

Passenger service to continue

Guðlaugur Þór placed emphasis on the effects on passenger-carrying operations between the two countries, especially due to Iceland’s position in between North-America and Europe. The pair also spoke of the importance of taking on the economic effects of the pandemic, not least for international air travel.

“The Minister for Foreign Affairs placed emphasis on the effects on Icelandair flights towards and from North America, and the need to review the state of matters once the pandemic has subsided. He and the State Secretary agreed to prepare co-operation between experts from the two countries regarding these matters, as well preparing further economic co-operation between the countries in a larger context,” a release from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs stated.

Land Rising Again Near Volcano Þorbjörn, But No Volcanic Unrest

Grindavík - Þorbjörn
Land rise has begun again in the near surroundings of volcano Þorbjörn near Grindavík. As of yet, there are no imminent signs of volcanic unrest. This follows an earthquake that rattled the Reykjanes peninsula on March 12.
Meteorologists have kept a keen eye on the area following initial land rise early in the year, which had slowed down in February. The land rise now is happening at a slower pace than the original land rise in January, but it is rising in the same area as the initial rise. The science council of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management will meet to discuss the matter next week.

Eruption not imminent

Results from crust measurements have been clarified in the last couple of days. It’s now clear that expansions that cause land rise has begun anew in the area surrounding Þorbjörn. This is confirmed both by GPS measurements in the area as well as satellite data. Scientists from the Icelandic Met Office, The Institute of Earth Sciences of the University Iceland as well from the Iceland GeoSurvey, met this morning to analyse the newest measurements and data.

“The land rise this time around seems to be quite slow, considerably slower than in January. 20mm is really quite a small land rise and it is difficult to analyse such small changes with the technology at hand. In such cases, we need to collect data for several days to confirm that land rise has taken, or is taking place,” said Benedikt Gunnar Ófeigsson, a meteorologist at the Icelandic Met Office.

“Even though we’re seeing signs of land rise beginning again, it does not mean that the course of events surrounding Þorbjörn is catching speed, nor that an eruption will begin soon. It’s a known quantity for magma to gather for a long time, months, even years before it comes to an eruption,” said Kristín Jónsdóttir, a project manager at the natural disaster shift at the Icelandic Met Office. “Events, like we’re witnessing in the Reykjanes peninsula, can take quite a long time and differentiate, as volcanic activity dies down for a short time without it being fully over.”

Extension of Defined Areas with High Risk of Infection

COVID-19 Iceland

The Chief Epidemiologist has decided to extend further defined areas with a high risk of infection of COVID-19.

As of March 19, 2020, all residents in Iceland that enter the country are obligated to go into 14 days of quarantine regardless of where they come from.

Excluded are crews of transportation such as airlines and freighters.

Tourists arriving in Iceland will not need to go into quarantine. The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management told Kjarninn that this is because they are considered less likely to spread the virus than Iceland residents and active participants in Icelandic society. If foreign nationals visiting Iceland report illnesses symptomatic of COVID-19 or that they have recently come into contact with infected parties, they will have to go into quarantine.

For more on COVID-19 in Iceland, click here.