Iceland’s government is exploring ways to limit the number of passengers arriving to the country. In recent days, the number of arriving passengers has strained the country’s testing capacity. The National University Hospital’s Virology Department has ordered equipment to significantly increase the number of samples it can process daily, but it is not expected to arrive until October.
At today’s daily COVID-19 briefing, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated the number of people arriving in the country from abroad was a “particular matter of concern,” as in recent days it had been straining the country’s testing capacity, which stands at around 2,000 samples per day. Since June 15, Iceland has tested most travellers arriving from abroad for COVID-19 through a border screening initiative – the only exception being those arriving from six “safe countries,” or the few who opt for a 14-day quarantine instead. Þórólfur mentioned, however, that it may be necessary to take Denmark and Germany off the safe list, which would increase the number of travellers that needed to be tested at the border.
“We Need to Live With” Limited Testing Capacity
The National University Hospital’s Virology Department, located in Reykjavík, is the only institution equipped to process COVID-19 samples, other than private biopharmaceutical company deCODE genetics, which does not participate in the border screening program. Since this spring, the Virology Department has renovated their facilities and changed their testing methods to increase capacity to around 2,000 COVID-19 samples per day. Equipment has been ordered that should triple that capacity, but due to global demand it will not arrive until October. Until then, Þórólfur stated, testing capacity will be limited and “we simply need to live with that.”
No Harsher Restrictions as of Yet
On July 31, Icelandic authorities lowered the national assembly limit from 500 to 100 people and re-instituted the two-metre social distancing rule following two cluster of infections. The rise in case numbers led some to speculate that Iceland may be entering its “second wave” of the COVID-19 pandemic, after successfully containing the first wave this spring. Þórólfur stated it was too early to say whether the spate of infections would continue to spread, but there was no need yet for restrictions to be tightened further.
Most Active Infections in 18-29 Age Group
Director of Health Alma Möller stated Civil Protection Authorities were currently exploring ways to reach young people to communicate the importance of preventative measures when it came to tackling COVID-19. Presently, the largest proportion of active cases in Iceland are among the 18-29 age group. Alma encouraged the public to speak to this group about social distancing and personal hygiene measures to control the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.