Iceland to Implement Colour-Coded COVID-19 Warning System Skip to content

Iceland to Implement Colour-Coded COVID-19 Warning System

By Yelena

A map of Iceland showing orange alerts in Northeast and east Iceland as well as yellow alerts for northwest Iceland, the eastfjords, southeast Iceland and the central highlands
Photo: Screenshot from

A simple COVID-19 warning system will soon inform Icelanders of the current risk of contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus in each region of the country. Iceland’s Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management is developing a straightforward colour code using grey, yellow, orange, and red to reflect the pandemic risk level across the country. The system will be based on the Icelandic Met Office’s weather warning system, pictured above. Vísir reported first.

Meant to Increase Predictability

The goal of the new national warning system is to increase the predictability of restrictions and other measures that need to be implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In the new warning system, grey will represent the “new norm,” where few cases are being diagnosed domestically or at the borders. Grey also indicates that distancing regulations apply as guidelines rather than mandatory rules.

A yellow warning will mean “be on your guard” and will indicate mandatory gathering and distancing restrictions are in place due to group outbreaks or some risk of an increase in community transmission. An orange warning will correspond to “increased risk” and indicate strain on the healthcare system and a risk of exponential growth in cases. While an orange warning is in effect, tight gathering limits will be in place and the public is asked to limit contact with those outside their inner circle.

Red will be the highest warning level, indicating “high risk.” A red warning would indicate an uncontrolled spread of the virus and the healthcare system at capacity. At this level, the public would be asked to stay within their inner circle of contacts and fairly tight restrictions would be in place.

Green Colour Avoided

The Civil Protection Department purposely avoided using the colour green in the new system. The use of green in a similar warning system in Norway appears to have encouraged the public to let down their guard more than is desirable. The grey colour in the Icelandic system will indicate that the public must continue to practice disease prevention pay attention to hygiene, and take care in social contact with strangers, despite low case numbers.

The system is in its final stages of development and will be discussed at a meeting between the Chief Epidemiologist and the Department of Civil Protection today.

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