As Iceland’s domestic COVID-19 cases dwindle, its Chief Epidemiologist says maintaining vigilance at the border is crucial to avoiding a new local outbreak. At a briefing in Reykjavík today, authorities went over both border regulations – set to remain the same until at least February 1 – and domestic restrictions, which will likely be loosened minimally on December 2.
Iceland’s reported three domestic cases yesterday, two of which were in quarantine at the time of diagnosis. The number of active cases is currently 198 and has been steadily dropping since mid-October. Iceland currently has the lowest COVID-19 incidence rate in all of Europe. Strain on the healthcare system is decreasing, and Akureyri Hospital in North Iceland has discharged all COVID-19 patients.
Guidelines for Christmas Parties Forthcoming
Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason said he would be submitting his recommendations for updated restrictions sometime around the weekend. The new restrictions would take effect on December 2 and likely remain unchanged until the end of the year, according to Þórólfur.
At today’s briefing, authorities celebrated Icelanders’ success in containing the current wave of infections but emphasised the need to stay alert and continue practising personal preventative measures. Guidelines on infection prevention for holiday gatherings will be released later this week, Þórólfur stated. Director of Civil Protection Víðir reminded those returning to Iceland from abroad to arrive in the country by December 18 in order to be out of quarantine by Christmas.
Border Testing Remains Crucial
Iceland’s current wave of infection was largely brought about by one strain of the virus that arrived in the country in mid-August. Recently, however, a few new strains of SARS-CoV-2 have emerged. Most of these have been traced to border cases, which have caused small group outbreaks. The origin of one of the strains has not yet been discovered.
Though he was not particularly concerned about these small outbreaks, Þórólfur stressed the importance of monitoring people who test positive at the border closely and making sure they are well informed. Testing at the border has been made free of charge in December and January in an effort to encourage travellers to opt for testing rather than 14-day quarantine.
Iceland Review live-tweets Icelandic authorities’ information briefings on Mondays and Thursdays at 11.03am UTC.