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Photo: A screenshot from RÚV. Border testing drills at Keflavík Airport, 2020..

DeCODE to Restart COVID-19 Screening of General Population

Private biopharmaceutical company deCODE genetics will restart screening the general population for COVID-19. The company conducted COVID-19 testing of the general, asymptomatic population for around eight weeks this spring to determine how widespread the SARS-CoV-2 virus was in Icelandic society. Following a new cluster of community transmissions in Iceland, CEO of deCODE Kári Stefánsson decided to restart the initiative in order to determine whether the novel coronavirus is spreading in Iceland anew.

There are currently 21 active cases of COVID-19 in Iceland, around half of which are community transmissions. Contact tracing has revealed that a few of the infections have a common, as yet unknown source, leading experts to believe there are more infected, possibly asymptomatic individuals, yet to be found.

New Cases Suggest Virus is Spreading Again

“In the past few days, infections have sprung up with such a pattern that it has caused a bit of anxiety among us [at deCODE] and others,” Kári told RÚV. “For example, there are three people in the community who are infected with a virus with the same mutations that indicate that they come from the same source. And these are people who are not aware of having been connected in any way, and that leads one to the conclusion that there must be individuals between these parties, therefore there are more people out in the community infected with the same strain of this virus.”

Kári says that some of the individuals newly diagnosed had large amounts of the virus in their bodies and were therefore highly contagious. Added to that, there is a possibility that some individuals who attended a football tournament in Reykjavík were infected at the event. “And when you put all that together, it suggests that the virus has picked up again.”

Authorities Delay Loosening Restrictions

Health authorities have decided to delay the planned relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions by two weeks, from August 4 to August 18. Infectious diseases expert Kamilla Sigríður Jósefsdóttir stated that authorities were also considering tightening restrictions, both locally and at Iceland’s borders. An announcement on the matter is expected from authorities later today.

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