Is Iceland’s coronavirus testing showing that 50% of cases have no symptoms?

COVID-19 Iceland

Several large media outlets have been stating that one of the findings emerging from Iceland’s coronavirus screening of the general population is that around 50% of individuals infected with the virus have no symptoms. The screenings of the general population have been carried out by Reykjavík-based medical research company deCODE genetics, so Iceland Review asked their CEO Dr. Kári Stefánsson to clear up this assertion.

Kári stated the claim is an oversimplification. “Fifty per cent of those that test positive in our screenings of the general population are symptom-free at the time. Many of them get symptoms later,” Kári said.

Therefore, although about half of those who have tested positive for coronavirus in deCODE’s screenings did not have symptoms at the time, most of those who have tested positive developed symptoms at some point. A positive sample from an individual without symptoms means that the sample was most likely taken early in the virus’ incubation period, before symptoms such as dry cough or fever began to present themselves.

“DeCODE has now screened 10,401 individuals in Iceland. Of those, 92 were positive. So about 0.9% of those who we screened in the general population turned out to be positive. And that is probably the upper limit of the distribution of the virus in society in general,” Kári explained.

Iceland Review’s interview with Kári reveals more about the findings from deCODE’s screenings and how they could help the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.