COVID-19 in Iceland: Double Border Test and Five-Day Quarantine Made Compulsory For Arriving Passengers Skip to content

COVID-19 in Iceland: Double Border Test and Five-Day Quarantine Made Compulsory For Arriving Passengers

By Gréta Sigríður Einarsdóttir

Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir
Photo: Golli.

A free double test for COVID-19 with a five-day quarantine period between tests will be mandatory for all passengers arriving in Iceland from today until May 1, the government decided this morning. Up until today, arriving passengers had the option of skipping the test, choosing to undergo a 14-day quarantine instead.

Actions taken to curb the spread of the pandemic’s third wave have proven relatively successful, with only a handful of people testing positive for COVID-19 each day in Iceland. The number of people testing positive at the border is now routinely higher than the number of domestic cases. At this point, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason’s main worry is the possibility of an infected passenger opting out of the border test, disobeying quarantine regulations and starting a new wave of infections.  His worries are exacerbated by infection rates soaring in countries around us and new variants of SARS-CoV-2 possibly being more infectious than previous ones, as in the UK and South Africa.

Authorities have found that not everyone opting for the 14-day quarantine were adhering to quarantine regulations so, in order to minimise the risk of that happening, border test fees were dropped in December. While the number of people opting out of the tests has dropped, it was not enough to significantly lower the number of people opting for the 14-day quarantine. Þórólfur recently suggested that either the border tests be made mandatory or that people who opt for the 14-day quarantine be made to quarantine at government-run quarantine hotels. The Ministry of Health was unsure if they had the legal authority to issue such regulations but Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir has now decided to issue regulations making border tests and a second test following a 5-day quarantine mandatory.

When asked why the ministry now believed they had the legal authority to issue the regulations, Svandís told RÚV “ What changed was that we need to face the fact that the situation is serious and in light of that seriousness, my ministry believes this regulation has a legal basis. A bill to amend epidemic legislation is currently being discussed in Parliament and I hope that will be completed soon.” She called the regulations changes an emergency measure as the pressure is rising along with the number of positive border tests.

Arriving passengers will still be able to present valid certificates that they’ve already contracted and recovered from the virus to be exempt from tests and quarantine. The same will apply for arriving passengers who can present a valid certificate of vaccination. In exceptional cases, passengers providing valid medical concerns will also be able to choose a 14-day quarantine over testing.

After May 1, the government intends to take careful steps to ease restrictions at the border, depending on the state of the pandemic at passengers’ departure location.

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