Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated in a briefing today that Icelandic residents arriving from abroad should avoid large gatherings for two weeks even if they had tested negative for COVID-19. Around 400 people have been placed in quarantine after a football player who returned to Iceland from the United States tested positive for COVID-19.
The football player, who returned to Iceland on June 17, tested negative upon arrival to the country. After it was discovered that she had come into contact with a COVID-infected person in the US, however, the player was tested a second time and the results came back positive. Three new cases of the disease have been traced to the football player since – Iceland’s first community-transmitted infections in two months.
In today’s briefing, Þórólfur stressed that authorities had expected such cases would come up, despite testing of arriving travellers at the border. Though he described the spate of infections as “not the end of the world,” he encouraged Icelandic residents arriving from abroad to act with caution even if they had tested negative for COVID-19 upon arrival. This includes avoiding large gatherings and individuals at elevated risk, as well as practising two-metre distancing, hand-washing and other preventative measures.
Consider Reinstating Mandatory Quarantine for Residents
Iceland is currently open to travellers from within the Schengen Area, and arriving passengers have the option to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival or undergo a 14-day quarantine. Þórólfur stated that authorities were considering whether Icelandic residents should be put in mandatory quarantine upon returning from abroad and tested again, particularly if they were arriving from countries where the virus was widespread.
No Date Set for Next Phase of Relaxing
Though Iceland has few remaining COVID-19 restrictions, gatherings of over 500 people are still prohibited and all bars and clubs must close at 11.00pm. While Þórólfur had previously stated that these restrictions would be loosened in July, he stated today that any changes to them were off the table for the time being.
Chief Epidemiologist Does Not Recommend More Arrivals
Around 1,250 passengers have entered Iceland each day since the country instituted COVID-19 testing at its borders on June 15. The number of arrivals is capped at 2,000 in order to not exceed the country’s testing capacity. Though authorities had previously discussed increasing this capacity to allow more travellers to enter, Þórólfur cautioned against the move in light of the aforementioned string of infections.
It has yet to be clarified whether Iceland will open its borders to travellers from outside the Schengen Area in July as planned.