COVID-19 in Iceland: Two Metres Reduced to One Skip to content

COVID-19 in Iceland: Two Metres Reduced to One

By Yelena

COVID-19 Press conference Þórólfur Guðnason Alma Möller V'iðir Reynisson
Photo: Golli.

Iceland will likely reduce its two-metre social distancing rule to one metre and double the national assembly limit to 200 people from September 10. Masks will still be required in situations where that distance cannot be maintained, for example in hair salons and massage parlours. The double testing and five-day quarantine required of arriving travellers will remain unchanged for the time being.

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason announced the changes in a briefing in Reykjavík today. He will also propose further changes to COVID-19 regulations to the Minister of Health, who makes the final call on their implementation. The changes include allowing swimming pools and gyms to operate at 75% capacity and permitting theatre performances with up to 200 participants and one-metre distancing. The regulation requiring bars and clubs to close at 11.00pm will remain unchanged.

Active Cases at the Border Rising

Since August 19, all travellers entering Iceland have been required to undergo testing at the border, five days of quarantine, and a follow-up test. Þórólfur says the number of active cases detected at the border has been rising despite a drop in the number of travellers. This means the percentage of active cases among arriving travellers is rising significantly, which Þórólfur says reflects the spread of the virus abroad.

Of 100 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 at the border, 84 did so in their first test and 16 in the second. The proportion of those who received a false negative in their first test is higher than expected, according to Þórólfur, and therefore shows the importance of testing those arriving from abroad twice. Around 60% of those who have tested positive at the border are Icelandic residents, who are considered more likely to spread the virus locally than tourists. Around a third have been tourists.

Border Screening Re-evaluated Next Week

Iceland’s current border regulations concerning COVID-19 are valid until September 15. Þórólfur will decide next week whether changes to the measures will be made, but stated he does not expect to recommend any fundamental changes. The Chief Epidemiologist expressed his belief that it was more logical to loosen measures within the country before doing so at the borders.

A total of 220 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Iceland since June 15. A majority of recently diagnosed cases, or around 60%, were among people who were already in quarantine. Iceland currently has 96 active cases of COVID-19 and a domestic incidence rate of 17.7 infections per 100,000 inhabitants.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Get news from Iceland, photos, and in-depth stories delivered to your inbox every week!

* indicates required

Subscribe to Iceland Review

In-depth stories and high-quality photography showcasing life in Iceland!