COVID-19 in Iceland: Changes to Border Regulations

Keflavík Airport

As of this Friday, October 1, travellers arriving in Iceland who have ties to the country will no longer have to present a negative COVID-19 test certificate when entering the country. Travellers stopping over in Iceland who are not leaving the airport or other border point will also be exempt from this requirement. Those with ties to Iceland will still be required to undergo COVID-19 testing with 48 hours of arrival to the country, with the exception of children born in 2005 or later. The new regulation will remain in force until at least November 6, 2021.

People with ties to Iceland include Icelandic citizens and residents; but also anyone intending to study or work in Iceland for more than seven days; people with work permits in Iceland or those applying for such permits; people seeking asylum in Iceland; and families and relatives of anyone who belongs to the above categories.

Unvaccinated must undergo quarantine

Vaccinated travellers without ties to Iceland as well as those with certificates of previous COVID-19 infection are still required to present a negative COVID-19 test certificate no older than 72 hours. Unvaccinated travellers are also required to present a negative test certificate as well as to undergo testing upon arrival, five days of quarantine, and a follow-up test. Travellers must pre-register before arrival to Iceland.

Border measures key to domestic freedom

In his memorandum outlining the proposed changes to border regulations, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated that COVID-19 infections continue to cross the border, in both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers. Viral sequencing conducted by deCODE genetics shows that it only takes a few infected individuals to launch a large wave of infection within Iceland. Þórólfur says maintaining strict border measures is, therefore, the prerequisite for keeping domestic restrictions to a minimum.

Iceland Review regularly updates our page on Iceland’s travel requirements.

Border Regulations Updated for Those With Ties to Iceland

COVID-19 test

COVID-19 testing is now a requirement for all travellers arriving in Iceland who have ties to the country. This includes not only residents but also those coming to Iceland to look for work or who are planning an extended stay. Testing is required regardless of vaccination status and is in addition to the pre-departure test required of all travellers. The new regulations took effect today, August 16.

Read More: Can I travel to Iceland in 2021 Post COVID-19?

As of today, all travellers with ties to Iceland must undergo COVID-19 testing within 48 hours of arrival to the country. This includes citizens of Iceland, residents of Iceland, people with a work permit in Iceland, and several other groups. These travellers are not required to quarantine upon arrival but are asked to limit their interactions in the first few days after they arrive in Iceland.

PCR and rapid tests administered

Testing for this group is available at Keflavík Airport and local healthcare centres. Those tested at the airport will undergo a PCR test, while local healthcare centres will administer a rapid antigen test to fulfill the testing requirement, stated Ragnheiður Ósk Erlendsdóttir, Director of Nursing at Capital Area Healthcare Centres. Testing can be booked at heilsuvera.is (with electronic ID) and obtained at the border in Keflavík Airport or as soon as possible after arrival in Iceland, in Reykjavík at Suðurlandsbraut 34 or a primary healthcare centre outside the capital area.

An official quick guide to Iceland’s travel regulations is available on island.is.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Uptick in infections marks “a new chapter in the fight”

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason

A rise in COVID-19 infections in Iceland marks a new chapter in the fight again the pandemic, the country’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated in a briefing in Reykjavík this morning. Iceland now reports 60 active infections, up from 34 one week ago. Þórólfur stated there is reason to be concerned about the development but expects the high vaccination rate to protect the nation from serious illness and hospitalisation. Authorities will review border restrictions in light of the development.

Domestic restrictions unchanged, border restrictions reviewed

Health authorities in Iceland have diagnosed 17 individuals with COVID-19 over the past three days, 12 outside of quarantine. Most of the infected people are fully vaccinated, all between 20-50 years of age, and none have severe symptoms. Þórólfur stated that authorities would not impose any domestic restrictions at this time in response to the infections, but encouraged the public to act with caution in the coming days and weeks and continue to practice personal infection prevention.

When asked whether he regrets Iceland’s decision to lift all domestic restrictions last June 26, Þórólfur says he stands with the decision. He expressed more doubt regarding Iceland’s decision to stop testing vaccinated passengers on July 1, however. While authorities will review border measures, Þórólfur stated there is simply not enough manpower to test all arriving travellers since their numbers have increased.

The following is a lightly edited live-tweeting of today’s briefing.

 

On the panel: Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson and Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason.

This is Icelandic authorities’ first COVID-19 briefing in 49 days. It’s been called due to a recent uptick in domestic infections diagnosed outside of quarantine.

COVID-19 data has been updated on covid.is. The number of active infections in Iceland has risen to 60, up from 34 when numbers were last updated one week ago. At least two of the domestic infections diagnosed in recent days are of the delta variant, which has so far not spread widely within Iceland.

The briefing has begun. Þórólfur begins by saying this briefing marks the beginning of a new chapter in the fight against COVID-19. We have begun new chapters in this fight before and this is a good time to take stock of where we are, says Þórólfur. On June 26 we lifted all domestic restrictions and on July 1 we lifted some restrictions at the borders, stopping to test vaccinated passengers upon arrival. Lifting of restrictions was decided based on the high rate of vaccination domestically and data showing very low rates of infection among vaccinated individuals. Data on vaccination shows that vaccines are effective in reducing instances of serious illness due to COVID-19 and even better at reducing hospitalisations.

The cases in recent days are traced to the border and to nightlife in the capital area. There were 10 domestic infections diagnosed yesterday, all traced to other recent infections. All 10 individuals were vaccinated. The people diagnosed recently are all relatively young, 20-50 years old. They have classic symptoms but fairly mild, no one has been hospitalised. Most infections at the border recently are of the delta variant which should not come as a surprise as the variant is spreading widely abroad at this time. The alpha and Brazilian variants have also been detected at the border. Most of the domestic infections that have been diagnosed recently are among vaccinated people though a few have been partially vaccinated.

“I believe there is reason to be concerned about this development that we are seeing.” -Þórólfur. Þórólfur says there are no restrictions on the drawing board at this time but they could come into the picture in the future. In that case, authorities would apply restrictions that have proved successful in the past.

Þórólfur reminds the public that we have high vaccination rates but also that it takes 2-3 weeks after administration for vaccines to become effective. Þórólfur encourages the public to practice caution and continue to practice infection prevention measures. He also encourages healthcare institutions to review their rules and do their best to protect vulnerable individuals.

Þórólfur says authorities could potentially begin testing certain travellers again who are currently exempt but they do not have the manpower to test everyone arriving to the country, as the numbers of travellers are too great. Þórólfur encourages travellers arriving from abroad to practice caution upon their return to the country. “The battle with COVID is nowhere near over,” Þórólfur reminds the public.

Víðir takes over to discuss contact tracing. It has been a challenge since restrictions were lifted domestically, which authorities expected. Contact tracing is not as exact now that people can gather in bigger crowds. Nevertheless, contract tracing teams have been working hard and doing a good job.

The panel opens for questions. “Do you discourage locals from travelling abroad at this time?” Þórólfur says that the previous recommendation to avoid travel abroad still stands for unvaccinated people, including children.

“How long will we have restrictions?” We will have to live with some sort of measures until this pandemic is over, Þórólfur says, whether that’s months or a year he cannot say.

“Is anything about this situation unexpected?” Þórólfur says there is no data from anywhere else regarding the risk of vaccinated individuals entering the country. The percentage of infections among them is very low but it doesn’t take more than one or two to spread infection.

“Most Icelanders are vaccinated now. Why can’t we let it be now that the risk of serious illness has been minimised?” We are letting it be, says Þórólfur, we are not imposing restrictions at this time. Þórólfur reminds that this is the same debate we had months ago. It takes 2-3 weeks for measures to show results and if we wait too long to act the situation can get out of hand. Still, we are not imposing measures at this point.

“I know the public is not in the mood for restrictions, but my role is not to think about what the public is in the mood for,” Þórólfur says, though of course it is a factor in his decision making, he adds.

“What about the festivals planned for two weeks from now? Should people stay home?” Þórólfur says that is not what he is suggesting, but each individual should consider their own actions: is it wise to go party downtown or go to big gatherings? People should be able to make decisions without authorities setting rules about what they can and cannot do, that is what I’m underlining, says Þórólfur.

Þórólfur says authorities need to reduce the risk at the borders as much as possible, and it is his role to consider how that is best done.

“What kind of restrictions or measures are you considering?” Þórólfur says he is mostly thinking about border regulations at this point, the situation does not yet call for domestic restrictions. Þórólfur says he believes that vaccination should prevent hospitalisations and serious illness. But we need so few infections to create a serious problem at hospitals. So we need to consider that in terms of setting restrictions.

“Now that over 70% of people are vaccinated, should we be looking more at hospitalisation rates rather than infection rates in setting measures?” Þórólfur disagrees. We need to anticipate strain on the healthcare system and prevent it, he says.

“Among those that are infected despite vaccination, are there higher rates of infection among a certain type of vaccine?” Þórólfur says there are infections among people who have received all of the approved vaccines and there is no data showing any of them have higher infection rates.

“Do you think we lifted restrictions too quickly?” Þórólfur stands with the decision to lift restrictions domestically but would have liked to have been able to continue testing all passengers arriving to the country. There is simply not enough manpower to test all arriving passengers considering the numbers that are arriving now, Þórólfur says. But it would have always been necessary to lift restrictions in order to test the herd immunity that we have worked to achieve through vaccination, as this pandemic is not going away in the coming months.

Víðir takes over to close the briefing. He reminds the public of what they can do if they want to protect themselves and others: use hand sanitiser, keep a distance, even use masks if they want to be extra careful. “The pandemic is not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere.” -Víðir

COVID-19 in Iceland: 29 Travellers Have Tested Positive Since July 1

Travellers Keflavik airport

There are currently 17 travellers with COVID-19 in isolation at Iceland’s official quarantine facilities, RÚV reports. Most of their infections were discovered when the travellers went to get tested shortly before their scheduled departure. Since new border regulations took effect on July 1, 29 travellers have tested positive for COVID-19. Over half of them were fully vaccinated.

May have arrived with infection

On July 1, Iceland stopped requiring fully vaccinated travellers to undergo testing upon arrival in the country. Many of these travellers undergo testing shortly before departure, however, as their home countries require them to present a negative test upon re-entry. “They’ve been here for some time, and because they are vaccinated they don’t need testing upon arrival, so it’s impossible to say whether they brought the infection with them from abroad or whether they are getting infected here,” stated Gylfi Þór Þorsteinsson, director of the government quarantine facilities. The number of guests at the facilities has been increasing recently, according to Gylfi. “You could say that someone infected with COVID comes here every other day.”

Six domestic infections can be traced to the 29 border infections that have been detected since July 1, according to Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason. The National University Hospital’s COVID-19 ward is currently monitoring 40 patients, most or all with active COVID-19 infections. None are hospitalised.

90% of residents 16+ are vaccinated

The decision to stop testing vaccinated travellers upon arrival in Iceland was made in consideration of the fact that 92% of women and 88% of men aged 16 and over in Iceland have received one or both shots of COVID-19 vaccine. Of the total population, 64.8% is fully vaccinated while 71.6% have received one or both shots.

“When knew exactly what risk we were taking,” Þórólfur stated. “So it is important that vaccination is as widespread as it is within Iceland. And that’s what we have to see, whether vaccination holds up and protects those who are exposed.”

Iceland’s current border regulations are valid until August 15, 2021.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Relaxed Border Measures Take Effect

Keflavík Airport

Travellers arriving in Iceland from defined high-risk areas are no longer required to complete their quarantine at government-operated facilities. The Minister of Justice’s ban on unnecessary travel to areas with a high risk of COVID-19 infection has also expired. Quarantine facilities operated by the government will remain open for those who do not have access to adequate facilities in which to complete their required quarantine or isolation.

Iceland’s government tightened border regulations on April 1 requiring all travellers arriving from areas with high COVID-19 infection rates to quarantine at government-run hotels. The regulation was originally implemented for one month but was extended for an additional month. In late April, Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir passed regulation banning all unnecessary travel from defined high-risk areas due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The regulation took effect on April 27 but expired today.

Read More: Can I travel to Iceland in 2021 Post COVID-19?

Travellers to Iceland who present proof of vaccination or previous COVID-19 infection are required to undergo a single test upon arrival and quarantine until they receive a negative result. Tests are normally processed within a few hours. Travellers who do not present valid proof of vaccination or previous COVID-19 infection are required to undergo a test upon arrival to Iceland, quarantine for five days, and undergo a follow-up test. Travellers are not charged for COVID-19 testing or stays at official quarantine facilities. These regulations will remain in effect until at least June 15.

Up to 5,000 Travellers Per Day

Activities are ramping up at Keflavík International Airport, the port of arrival for almost all travellers entering Iceland. “We see for example today, which is one of the largest days since COVID started, over 2,000 travellers are arriving in the country,” Arngrímur Guðmundsson told RÚV reporters yesterday. “There’s simply an increase in flights. We anticipate that later in the month there could be up to 5,000 travellers arriving in the country per day if everything goes as planned.” There are eight flights scheduled to land at Keflavík Airport today from Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States.

To accommodate the increase in travellers, airport officials added additional reception desks last week where travellers have barcodes scanned and are doled out plastic tubes for test swabs. COVID-19 testing is carried out in modified shipping containers that have been set up outside the airport building.

Iceland currently has 41 active cases of COVID-19. Over 46% of the population have received at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine while 24.8% are fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Group Infection Linked to H&M

H&M miðborg downtown Reykjavík

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist encouraged customers who had visited H&M’s downtown Reykjavík location in recent days to proceed carefully and monitor their symptoms in a briefing this morning. A group outbreak has emerged involving at least two employees at the clothing store, but as the shop followed infection prevention regulations well, it is unlikely any customers were infected. The store’s customers do not have to go into quarantine as a result of the outbreak.

Over 20% of Iceland’s population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while over 42% have received at least one dose. Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason underlined that while these numbers are good, they are not enough to prevent large group outbreaks. Þórólfur stated the outbreak was a reminder that the nation must proceed slowly when it comes to relaxing restrictions. The current restrictions, which cap gatherings and 50 people and mandate 2-metre social distancing, expire on May 27.

Pressure on Border Control

The number of cases at Iceland’s borders has been decreasing in recent weeks, which Þórólfur attributes to the government’s current border measures. The rising number of tourists does present a challenge for officials, who must review vaccination and antibody certificates as well as conduct testing of all arriving travellers. The Ministry of Health has asked biopharmaceutical company deCODE genetics to help process PCR tests through June, which will relieve pressure on the National University Hospital, according to Þórólfur.

Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson encouraged the public to tread carefully in the next 4-6 weeks, which he referred to as the “final sprint” in the COVID-19 pandemic. Authorities stressed the importance of ongoing individual infection prevention as well as groups such as athletic organisations doing their part to prevent infection spread. Icelandic athletes heading to the Olympics will be vaccinated with a special delivery of doses from vaccine manufacturer Pfizer.

The following is a lightly-edited transcription of Iceland Review’s live-tweeting of the briefing.

 

On the panel: Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason and Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson.

Yesterday’s COVID-19 numbers have been updated on covid.is:
Domestic cases: 4 (3 in quarantine)
Border cases: 2
Total active cases: 50 (3 in hospital)
Vaccinated (at least one dose): 156,058 (42.2% of pop)
Fully vaccinated: 76,259 (20.6% of pop)

The briefing has begun. Víðir starts by mentioning quarantine monitoring, a recently-started initiative. He says it has largely been successful partly thanks to a diverse staff with varied language skills.

Þórólfur goes over the numbers, stating that yesterday’s four infections were mostly among people who had very recently gone into quarantine. All cases diagnosed yesterday were connected to a workplace group infection. Widespread testing around the people who tested positive today and yesterday has begun and Þórólfur exects more cases to surface. “It’s clear the virus is still out there and we must continue to expect small group infections to occur,” Þórólfur says.

Infections at the border continue to decline, Þórólfur believes that is due to the government’s border measures. The new domestic cases are of the British variant. While the Indian variant has been detected at the border, authorities have not detected any domestic spread of that variant. Þórolfur mentions that an increase in tourism is expected over the coming weeks, leading to increased pressure on border testing staff.

Þórólfur believes that by mid-June, vaccinations will be widespread enough for further relaxations of border measures if nothing unexpected comes up. In June, we will have data and experience from current restrictions allowing us to make informed decisions on changes to border regulations. The Ministry of Health has asked deCODE genetics to help process PCR tests throughout June which will lighten the load for the National Hospital. Þórólfur thanks the company for their help. (deCODE will be helping with processing border tests.)

Þórólfur mentions research into serious side effects of vaccinations in Iceland, which will be performed by independent parties. The Icelandic Medicines Agency has received around 20 reports of deaths and 20 reports of blood clot issues in Iceland following COVID-19 vaccination. Most are among elderly people with underlying illnesses and therefore unclear whether there is a link to the vaccination. There has been no general increase in blood clots within the population since vaccination began in Iceland. That’s a good thing, says Þórólfur, though the reports will be investigated further.

We can realistically be hopeful for brighter times ahead by mid-June, says Þórólfur. We should be in a good situation by then and be able to relax restrictions. While vaccination is progressing well, we’re seeing younger people test positive and be hospitalised, so widespread group infections could still have serious effects.

The panel takes questions. Þórólfur is asked about relaxing restrictions, including mask use. He replies that loosening mask requirements is one of the relaxations we can start to implement soon. While requirements will be lifted, Þórólfur believes that there will still be a group of people who want to wear masks. Authorities will continue to lift restrictions despite low numbers of new cases. What’s most important now is individual infection prevention/individual behaviour, says Þórólfur.

There are no indications at the moment that vaccines are ineffective against certain variants. If that becomes the case, it will be necessary to impose restrictions once more. That could prove difficult as people start to travel again.

Þórólfur is asked about the latest group infection. He states that he expects more cases to surface but infection prevention in the workplace (a downtown clothing shop) was adequate and he hopes that will prevent further infections. H&M customers will not need to quarantine but are encouraged to monitor their health and get tested if they have even the mildest of symptoms.

Group infections in small communities such as those that have come up in Þorlákshöfn and Skagafjörður can be contained relatively easily, it’s harder to contain them in the city, Víðir says. There’s always a risk of contact tracing and curbing the virus spread taking longer in Reykjavík than in less populated communities. Víðir is asked about infection prevention in sporting events, stating that he’s unhappy after seeing images of improper mask use and lack of infection preventions at sporting events. As sporting events start up once more, sports clubs will have to rise to the challenge of ensuring proper infection preventions. They need to do better. Þórólfur agrees, adding that the sports industry put great pressure on authorities to lift restrictions on athletic events and now they have to show that they can do so safely.

Þórólfur is asked about priority vaccinations granted to Iceland’s Eurovision Song Contest delegation. He stated that the government was sending a group of people on Iceland’s behalf to a high-risk area where groups from across Europe gather and spend a long period together. Their assessment was that it was risky for the delegation, and the assessment proved correct as two members of the delegation have contracted the disease. It would have been better to vaccinate them sooner as the vaccine had not yet reached full efficacy to prevent infection but hopefully it would help these two individuals stave off serious illness.

As for other groups in similar situations, such as athletes set to compete abroad, Pfizer doses are being imported to Iceland specifically for athletes headed to the Olympics. These doses are an addition to the vaccine allocated to Iceland through contractual agreements. Þórólfur believes he was right in granting the Eurovision delegation vaccinations before their trip but of course, people can and will have differing opinions.

Þórólfur is asked about women under the age of 55 who have already received a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine before its use was restricted to outside their age group. They have the option to accept the second dose of AstraZeneca or receive a dose of another vaccine instead. Þórólfur will not give out specific advice for these women but notes that people with underlying conditions shouldn’t get their second shot of AstraZeneca. If everything went well the first time, it’s highly likely that the second shot poses no threat. If not, they should choose another vaccine. It’s OK to get two doses of different vaccines but there’s an increased possibility of mild side effects such as muscle aches & fever.

Víðir closes the briefing, calling the next 4-6 weeks the “final sprint.” Let’s stick it out, he says. Go get tested if you’re experiencing even the most minor symptoms.
Let’s watch out for each other and have a good day.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Justice Minister Bans Unnecessary Travel From High-Risk Areas For Unvaccinated Travellers

Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir COVID-19

Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir has issued a regulation banning unnecessary travel from defined high-risk areas due to the COVID-19 pandemic which took effect this morning. The ban will remain in effect until May 31 but does not apply to vaccinated travellers.

Until May 31, all foreigners who arrive from or have spent more than 24 hours over the past 14 days in areas where the 14-day incidence rates of COVID-19 infections is higher than 700 per 100,000 inhabitants will be unable to enter the country. This applies to all foreign citizens, including the EEA and EFTA countries.

This does not apply to foreigners residing in Iceland, based on a residence permit or other types of right of residence, families of Icelandic and foreign citizens residing in Iceland, foreign citizens in a long-term relationship with an Icelandic citizen or foreign citizen residing in Iceland. Neither does this apply to foreign citizens who can present a valid certificate of vaccination or a certificate that they have had COVID-19 and are no longer infectious according to border regulations.

Furthermore, the ban does not apply to foreign nationals who have to travel to Iceland for essential reasons, including the following:

  1. Transfer passengers.
  2. Healthcare and elder care personnel.
  3. Goods and services transport personnel.
  4. Individuals in need of international protection.
  5. Individuals who need to travel due to an urgent family situation.
  6. Individuals and delegations arriving in Iceland at the behest of the Icelandic authorities, diplomatic mission staff and other representatives of foreign states, staff of international organisations and individuals invited by them to visit the country due to the operations of those organisations, armed forces representatives, humanitarian assistance and civil protection staff, and the families of all the above.
  7. Students.
  8. Individuals who need to travel due to business or work that, due to its characteristics, can’t be postponed or carried out abroad.

For more information on travel to Iceland during COVID-19, the government has compiled a list of frequently asked questions.

Quarantine Hotels Optional But Free, Latest Border Regulations State

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason

Clearer requirements for home quarantine and no charge-stay at quarantine hotels is among the new restrictions which took effect last midnight. The Chief Epidemiologist has also suggested steeper fines for quarantine violations and increased police surveillance of people who choose to quarantine at home instead of at a quarantine hotel.

The Court of Appeal recently confirmed the district court’s ruling that authorities cannot require people to spend their quarantine at quarantine hotels when arriving in the country. To minimise the risk of infections crossing the borders due to quarantine breakers, the Chief Epidemiologist has suggested changes to the border restrictions. He has stated that the ruling is a disappointment and he fears that the latest measures are less effective than a mandatory stay at quarantine hotels. The minister of Health issued new regulations based on his suggestions which took effect last midnight.

Clearer requirements are made for home quarantine, regarding housing and rules of conduct. Those who are unable to stay in a home quarantine that fulfils the requirements will need to stay at a quarantine facility. However, no fee shall be collected for the stay. The new regulation replaces regulation no. 355/2021 which required individuals from risk zones to stay in quarantine hotels. The District Court of Reykjavík deemed the mandatory stay to have had an insufficient legal basis.

In an information briefing, the Chief Epidemiologist revealed that the three latest group infections caught domestically could all be traced back to quarantine breakers. He has stated that there is a significant risk that infections will be brought to the country unless further measures are introduced at the borders. Adding to the risk is that the pandemic is currently raging in the countries around us and vaccinations are not yet widespread enough to prevent domestic spread. Furthermore, the virus variant currently spreading is the British variant, which is more contagious and seems to cause more serious illness in younger demographics.

Below are the government’s latest border restrictions:

The main rules on quarantine and testing at the borders as from the 9th of April

The same rules apply to all passengers irrespective of from where they are travelling: Measures to contain the spread of infections at the borders apply equally to all passengers coming from countries identified as risk zones by the Chief Epidemiologist.

Testing and quarantine: Everyone arriving to the country shall be tested at the borders as before, quarantine for five days and undergo a second test upon finishing (see below special requirements that apply to children and individuals carrying certificates of vaccination or prior infection). People are allowed to quarantine at home if certain requirements are fulfilled. Those who cannot quarantine at home and/or prefer to stay at a quarantine facility may stay there without charge.

Requirements for home quarantine: Those quarantining at home need to stay in a facility that fulfils the conditions and rules of conduct provided for in the new instructions issued by the Chief Epidemiologist. These include that the individual shall be isolated at the place of stay and if more individuals reside at the same location they are subject to the same requirements that apply to quarantine. Those who are unable to stay in a home quarantine that fulfils the requirements shall stay at a quarantine facility.

Breach of home quarantine: Where an individual is found in breach of home quarantine the Chief Epidemiologist may decide that the quarantine shall be concluded at a quarantine facility.

Quarantine facility: Those who cannot quarantine at home and/or prefer to stay at a quarantine facility may dwell there. The stay is free of charge. Those staying at a quarantine facility will be enabled to undertake outdoor activities and special consideration will be given to children in relation to outdoor activities and other conditions.

Testing and quarantine of children: Children born in 2005 or later shall be tested at the borders. A child who travels with an individual who is subject to stay in quarantine shall stay with that person and can leave the quarantine if the second test of its co-traveller is negative. When the co-traveller is not required to stay in quarantine the same shall apply to the child. A child travelling alone is not required to stay in quarantine.

Testing of individuals carrying a certificate: The requirement of testing individuals carrying a vaccination certificate, or a certificate of prior infection is adopted due to indications that those individuals can pass on infections. They are not required to stay in quarantine but shall wait for the result of the test at their place of stay. The requirement is temporary and will be reviewed before the 1st of May.

Increased surveillance and higher fines: The Chief Epidemiologist proposes increased surveillance of individuals in-home quarantine in cooperation with the Police’s Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management and a significant increase of fines for breaching home quarantine. The Minister of Health has forwarded the proposals to the Public Prosecutor and the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police.

Iceland Opens Borders to Vaccinated Travellers from Outside Europe

Reynisfjara - Vík - suðurland

Travellers from outside Europe can now visit Iceland if they can present a valid certificate confirming they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have antibodies to the disease. Iceland first closed its borders to travellers outside the EEA/EFTA in late March of 2020. It loosened restrictions on travellers from a handful of countries that summer, later tightening them again as the pandemic picked up speed across the globe.

Vaccinated travellers and travellers who have recovered from COVID-19 are still required to undergo one COVID-19 test upon arrival to Iceland, as data has shown they may still carry and transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Both groups are exempt from the five-day quarantine required of all other travellers entering Iceland from abroad as well as the follow-up test administered five days after arrival.

Read more about the requirements for travel to Iceland in 2021 post COVID-19.

Icelandic Authorities Appeal Court Ruling on Quarantine Hotels for Travellers

Fosshotel quarantine Reykjavík COVID-19

Icelandic authorities did not have legal grounds to require travellers to complete their quarantine at a government-run quarantine hotel when they had adequate facilities at home, according to a ruling made yesterday by the Reykjavík District Court. Icelandic authorities will appeal the decision. In a briefing today, the country’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason called the ruling “unfortunate,” saying hotel quarantine was the best way to ensure travellers from abroad do not breach quarantine regulations and risk a domestic outbreak of COVID-19.

Iceland tightened border regulations on April 1, requiring all travellers arriving from designated high-risk areas for COVID-19 to complete their mandatory five-day quarantine in designated government facilities. The rule was implemented after health authorities found travellers were breaching quarantine regulations, leading to community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Several guests required to stay in the facilities challenged the regulation in the Reykjavík District Court, which ruled in their favour yesterday. Icelandic authorities subsequently informed all guests at the facilities that they could complete their quarantine elsewhere if they had access to housing that fulfilled the requirements. A notice from authorities nevertheless encouraged the remaining guests to complete their quarantine at the hotel, “as it is the best way to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 disease.” At least three travellers staying at the quarantine hotel tested positive for COVID-19 since the facilities began operation last week.

Chief Epidemiologist Calls for Clearer Legislation

The Chief Epidemiologist expressed his disappointment with the ruling in a radio interview this morning, saying it was “thwarting one of the most effective measures that has been taken to try to prevent this virus from entering the country and spreading. We have been basing these measures on facts, what we see is lacking, and in that way try to prevent it from happening, that the virus gets in. Unfortunately, it has been the case that people have not been following quarantine. It is on that basis that I suggested [mandatory hotel quarantine measures].”

In light of the District Court ruling, Minster of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir and Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason are now determining what additional steps will be taken to minimise the risk of active COVID-19 infections entering the country. Þórólfur stated his hope that the government would clarify the legal framework surrounding quarantine hotels so that the measure could be used as intended.

RÚV reported that travellers arriving in Iceland from high-risk areas today are not being sent to the government-run quarantine facilities if they have access to private facilities that fulfil quarantine requirements. If there is reason to believe travellers are likely to break quarantine rules (for example if their stay in Iceland is shorter than five days) they are sent to the government-run quarantine facilities.