Icelandic Residents and Citizens Now Quarantined and Tested Twice for COVID-19 Skip to content
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Photo: A screenshot from RÚV. Border testing drills at Keflavík Airport, 2020..

Icelandic Residents and Citizens Now Quarantined and Tested Twice for COVID-19

Icelandic citizens and residents of the island arriving from abroad must now undergo both two COVID-19 tests and a five-day quarantine upon their return. The new regulations regarding these groups took effect today. The change was prompted by two cases of Icelandic residents who tested negative upon arrival to the country, only to test positive several days later after infecting other locals. This change does not apply to foreign tourists, who remain free to travel immediately if they test negative at the border.

All travellers entering Iceland can opt to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. Since June 15, travellers have also had the option to take a COVID-19 test upon entry to Iceland instead of quarantine. Test results are made available within 24 hours, and if negative, foreign tourists are free to travel as they wish. That was also the case for Icelandic residents and citizens, until today.

Second Test Administered for Free

Now Icelandic residents and citizens who opt for a test at the border will be required to go into quarantine for 4-5 days regardless of their test results. They will then be tested a second time to ensure they are negative for SARS-CoV-2 before being released from quarantine. While the first test has a cost of ISK 9,000-11,000 ($64-78/€57-69), there is no charge for the second test.

May Go Grocery Shopping But Must Avoid Large Groups

The five-day quarantine is not as restrictive as typical quarantine for those who have been in contact with a COVID-19 infected individual. Icelandic citizens and residents may go grocery shopping and use public transport and even meet friends and family in small groups. They are, however, not permitted to attend events with groups of over 10 people; meet individuals in at-risk groups; or shake hands or hug others. They are also directed to be diligent at maintaining preventative measures such as handwashing and social distancing.

False Negatives Prompted Regulation Changes

The regulation change was prompted by two cases of locals who received false negatives for SARS-CoV-2 at the border. The first was a football player who returned from the US on June 17 and proceeded to play in several football matches. After it was discovered that she had come into contact with a COVID-infected person in the US, however, the player was tested again for the virus and this time, the results came back positive.

The second case was a woman who arrived from Albania on June 20, later testing positive for COVID-19. Her child, just over one year old, later tested positive as well. Around 400 locals were placed in quarantine in connection with the two cases.

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has emphasised that individuals with connections in the local community are much more likely to transmit the novel coronavirus than tourists, who typically keep to themselves and have less close contact with locals.

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