Iceland’s COVID-19 Testing of Travellers Clarified

Covid 19 Þríeykið

Icelandic authorities will not accept certificates from abroad showing arriving travellers have tested negative for COVID-19 when the borders reopen on June 15. Instead, travellers will choose between being tested at Keflavík Airport (or other points of entry) or fulfilling a 14-day quarantine. The samples collected from travellers will be destroyed, but the data from them will be kept and used for research which is hoped to help in global efforts to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.

Testing Free for First Two Weeks

These were some of the clarifications that Icelandic authorities announced in a Reykjavík press conference today that clarified the country’s plan to reopen its borders on June 15. The conference was opened by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who confirmed previous statements that testing would be free for the first two weeks – after that, the cost would be paid by travellers. Katrín added that the samples will be destroyed but their data will be kept for research purposes.

In addition to being tested at the airport, travellers will be required to fill out an electronic form providing health details before they travel. They will also be encouraged to download Iceland’s official contact tracing app, which is being updated to contain information on Iceland’s healthcare system in a variety of languages.

Foreign Certificates Not Accepted

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason announced that certificates from abroad stating that a passenger had tested negative for COVID-19 will not be accepted as a substitute for testing upon entry. The option had been discussed by authorities, but its execution proved too complicated for the time being. It may be reconsidered at a later point. Þórólfur added that authorities were looking into whether it was possible to require foreign tourists to have health insurance that covers them during their trip to Iceland.

Costly Project an “Investment in the Future”

The testing of arriving travellers will be carried out by state health centres in collaboration with the Virology Department of the National University Hospital and deCODE, a privately-owned company that has been conducting COVID-19 testing of Iceland’s general population.

Ensuring the country’s testing capacity can accommodate an influx of travellers will require investing in new equipment for the National University Hospital’s Virology Department. The Chief Epidemiologist admitted this would be costly, but assured that, like the reopening of borders, it is an investment in the future.

Þórólfur added that June 15 would also mark the next stage of loosening restrictions, and the current gathering ban of groups over 200 would likely be loosened to 500.

East Iceland Performing Arts Centre Gets Green Light

Egilsstaðir

Construction of a new performing arts centre in Egilsstaðir, East Iceland, will begin this year, RÚV reports. The project, which includes a black box theatre and an exhibition space, will receive 60% of its funding from the state, while the National Power Company of Iceland will also be a major sponsor. The new facilities have the potential to give new life to the region’s performing arts scene.

Björn Ingimarsson, mayor of Fljótsdalshérað, hopes professional theatre companies from Reykjavík and elsewhere will bring their productions to the new stage. “What we’ve sensed from professional theatres is that this will open doors for their operations here in the area… it’s a truly exciting project.”

In 2018, the Icelandic government announced an investment of ISK 300 million ($2.8m/€2.4m) to enlarge the East Iceland Heritage Museum and build up Sláturhúsið Cultural Centre in Egilsstaðir, East Iceland. The agreement is the result of an old promise to build cultural and arts centres in all regions of the country. The federal government will fund 60% of the project, which is expected to cost around ISK 500 million ($4.7m/€4m).

The National Power Company’s investment in the project involves paying ten years of rent upfront for the new exhibition space, where it will collaborate with the municipality to create an exhibition on green energy. Björn did not divulge the exact amount that the National Power Company was contributing to the project, but said “it’s an amount that makes a difference.”