Iceland’s COVID-19 Border Testing: Travellers from Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Finland to Be Exempted

COVID-19 Iceland

Starting on Thursday, travellers from Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Finland will be added to a short list of countries whose residents are exempt from both quarantine and COVID-19 testing upon entering Iceland. The change applies to residents of the four countries arriving on July 16 or later. Travellers from the Faroe Islands and Greenland continue to be exempt from both quarantine and testing.

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason announced at a briefing today that he had decided to “speed up” exempting travellers from certain countries from screening at the border. He had previously announced no such decision would be made until August. The exemption applies to residents of Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Finland, as well as any travellers who have been in those countries for 14 consecutive days prior to travelling to Iceland. The new regulation also applies to Icelanders living in those countries. Icelandic citizens and residents arriving from other countries are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, or a 4-5 day quarantine and two tests.

Read More: What do I need to know when travelling to Iceland in 2020 Post COVID-19?

The number of travellers entering Iceland from abroad had been steadily increasing since the country implemented COVID-19 testing at its borders. In recent days, the number has been straining the country’s testing capacity of 2,000 samples per day, a factor that likely influenced the Chief Epidemiologist’s decision to add more countries to Iceland’s safe list.

Þórólfur stated that Iceland was not ready to accept foreign COVID-19 test certificates in lieu of local testing or quarantine, but may do so in future.

Most Poles in Iceland Did Not Vote for Duda

Andrzej Duda President of Poland

Voting results among Polish nationals in Iceland differed starkly from those in Poland in the country’s recent presidential election. While populist incumbent Andrzej Duda was re-elected with 51.14% of the vote in Poland, he received only 20.2% of votes submitted through the Polish embassy in Iceland. RÚV reported first.

A total of 3,174 votes were submitted through the Polish embassy in Iceland in the second round of voting. Of those votes, 2,533 (79.8%) were for Rafal Trzaskowski, Duda’s liberal opponent. Voter participation was slightly higher in Iceland than Poland, with 71% of eligible voters in Iceland submitting a ballot (the figure was 68% in Poland).

Read More: Poles Apart

Around 20,000 Polish people live in Iceland. They are the largest immigrant group of any nationality in the country, making up nearly half of all immigrants. Human rights groups and critics have expressed fears that Duda’s victory will boost illiberal tendencies in Poland and within the EU.

International Co-operation on Human Rights in Crisis, Says Icelandic Director of European Institute

Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir

Icelander Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir will not continue as Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights after representatives from Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Turkey opposed extending her appointment, RÚV reports. Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs called the decision an attack on the organisation and a cause for concern. Ingibjörg says the incident shows there is no longer international agreement on basic values within human rights.

Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir has served as the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights since 2017. Before that, she enjoyed a long career in Icelandic politics. She was mayor of Reykjavík between 1994-2003, leader of the Social Democratic Alliance from 2005-2009, and Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2007 to 2009.

Troublesome Period for International Affairs

“I regret this decision and it is a cause for concern,” stated Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson. “Of course, this is nothing else than an attack on the organisation. Concerning our representatives, I, together with the vast majority of member states, am of the opinion that [Ingibjörg] has carried out her work with honesty and professionalism and in accordance with her mandate.”

Guðlaugur stated it was troubling that so few countries could upset the institution’s work in such a major way. “They are very few countries that have acted in this way. But it’s enough, because there has to be consensus on these matters. We are of course seeing now that these are troublesome times in international affairs and this is perhaps a manifestation of that.”

Reflection of Crisis Among International Organisations

“This did not come as a complete surprise to me,” Ingibjörg told RÚV when interviewed about her departure from the position. “I think it reflects the current crisis international organisations are in and the current shortage of truth. When the OSCE was founded in the early 1990s, everyone was very optimistic and there was agreement on certain basic principles in democracy and human rights issues. That’s not the case anymore. And this is a manifestation of that. And a manifestation of the fact that those who want to advance slowest in these areas, they have gotten the upper hand.”

One point of contention between Ingibjörg and Turkey’s representatives is their opposition to allowing certain NGOs to attend OSCE meetings. The representatives have gone so far as to call the NGOs terrorist organisations. “I cannot, on my own initiative, designate any organisation or call it a terrorist organisation just like that, that isn’t on any such lists. And there is no support for it either from other OSCE member states,” Ingibjörg stated.

Two-Day Strike Suspends Westman Islands Ferry Trips

The Herjólfur ferry to the Westman Islands will not sail today or tomorrow while its workers are on strike, RÚV reports. No meetings have been scheduled in the wage dispute between the ferry company and the Seamen’s Union (Sjómannafélag Íslands) that represents the workers.

Herjólfur’s workers began strike action last week, with a one-day strike that suspended ferry service. A three-day strike is scheduled for next week if the wage dispute is not resolved.

The ferry is the main form of transport between Iceland’s mainland and the Westman Islands for the islands’ 4,300 inhabitants. The ferry transported a record number of passengers last June, both locals and tourists, many of whom visit the islands for their large puffin colonies and unique nature.

Iceland Reopens Borders to 14 Additional Countries

Reykjavík

Iceland will lift travel restrictions on residents of 14 countries starting tomorrow, in accordance with the decision of EU member states to do the same. Residents of the European Union, EEA, EFTA, and Schengen Area countries are, as before, permitted entry into Iceland.

The 14 countries are:

-Algeria

-Australia

-Canada

-Georgia

-Japan

-Morocco

-New Zealand

-Rwanda

-Serbia

-South Korea

-Montenegro

-Tunisia

-Thailand

-Uruguay

Read More: What do I need to know when travelling to Iceland in 2020 Post COVID-19?

The list will be reviewed regularly. Some travellers remain exempt from these restrictions, including students from non-Schengen countries coming to study in Iceland and specialists coming to work. The Directorate of Immigration provides more information on travel restrictions, exemptions, and documents required of travellers before departure and upon arrival.