What’s the status of COVID-19 vaccination in Iceland?

bólusetning mass vaccination Laugardalshöll

Iceland received the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine on December 28, 2020 and vaccination began the following day. As of April 2022, 79% of Iceland’s total population has been fully vaccinated, or 82% of the eligible population. Iceland began administering booster shots in late 2021 and offering vaccination for 5- to 11-year-olds in January 2022.

 

COVID-19 vaccination is optional and free of charge in Iceland. Vaccines were initially administered according to priority groups defined by health authorities, but the priority groups were abolished in June 2021 once all residents aged 16 and over had been offered vaccination.

All foreign residents in Iceland have access to vaccination regardless of residency status or whether or not they have a local ID number (kennitala). 

Icelandic data shows that vaccinated individuals are less likely to contract the SARS-CoV-2 virus and that vaccines are very effective at staving off serious illness and hospitalisation due to COVID-19. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has stated that booster shots could help Iceland reach herd immunity. Local data shows that a third dose may increase protection against COVID-19 infection, transmission, and serious illness by 90%, as compared to just two doses.

Vaccines Through European Union 

Iceland and other EFTA countries are guaranteed the same access to vaccines as member states of the European Union. The European Commission has signed contracts with six vaccine manufacturers, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna. The Commission negotiates the number of doses it receives from each manufacturer and they are divided among countries proportionally. Each individual country also makes contracts with vaccine manufacturers and EFTA member states such as Iceland do so through Sweden.

Below is the latest information on the status of all COVID-19 vaccines expected in Iceland.

This article will be regularly updated.

 

Our Latest news articles on COVID-19

What’s the status of COVID-19 in Iceland?

Þórólfur Guðnason

The Icelandic government has lifted all domestic restrictions due to COVID-19 as of February 25, 2022. Despite high infection rates, local data shows that rates of serious illness and hospitalisation have remained low in the current wave.

Over 78% of Iceland’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or 91% of those 12 years of age and over. A campaign to administer booster shots is well on its way, with more than 54% of the nation already having had their third shot. Vaccination of children aged 5-11 began in January 2022.

Local data shows that vaccinated individuals are less likely to contract the SARS-CoV-2 virus and that vaccines are very effective at staving off serious illness and hospitalisation due to COVID-19. Read more about COVID-19 vaccination in Iceland here.

Read more about Iceland’s border restrictions here.

The following are the latest statistics regarding COVID-19 in Iceland.

Domestic restricions

Currently, there are no infection prevention measures due to COVID-19 in place. There are no limits on gatherings, bar and restaurant opening hours or mask requirements. Neither are people required to quarantine or isolate after coming into contact with COVID-19 infected individuals. People are still encouraged to practice personal infection prevention measures and to keep to themselves if they suspect they’ve been exposed to the disease or they test positive.

Travelling to Iceland

Currently, Iceland’s government has no disease prevention measures in place at the border. When travelling between Iceland and other countries, people still need to consider that airlines, airports and other countries might have different regulations in place.  

Can I Travel to Iceland in 2022 Post COVID-19?

Preventing and reporting infection

Hand washing, avoiding touching of eyes, nose, and mouth, and avoiding handshaking are key factors in reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection. Poor ventilation may also be a risk factor.

Visit the government’s official website for up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Iceland.

This article will be regularly updated.

Our Latest news articles on COVID-19

Can I travel to Iceland in 2022 Post COVID-19?

Landmannalaugar tourist

On February 25, 2022, Iceland’s government lifted all COVID-19 prevention measures at the border, regardless of vaccination status. Travellers are no longer required to register prior to boarding, get tested prior to or after arrival, or quarantine. 

This article will be updated in case of change.

Government’s Quick Guide for Travellers

Individual infection prevention encouraged

While the government no longer requires people to keep a social distance, wear masks or get tested, people are still encouraged to practice personal infection prevention measures, such as washing their hands regularly, keeping a distance from unrelated parties and wearing masks in crowded places.

If Illness Arises

Those travelling from abroad who have cold-like symptoms should contact the health line +354 544 4113 and must do so before going to hospitals or clinics.

Free rapid tests are available at the country’s healthcare clinics but people are no longer required to confirm the results of a positive rapid test with a PCR test. 

While isolation is no longer required, people who test positive for COVID-19 and present symptoms are still encouraged to keep to themselves for at least five days after the diagnosis. Asymptomatic people are asked to take special precautions such as wearing masks at all times and keeping a safe distance from others. 

Travellers are encouraged to monitor news and Iceland’s official COVID-19 website prior to and during their trip.

This article will be updated regularly.

Read more about restrictions within Iceland.

No More Quarantine And Relaxed Restrictions Take Effect At Midnight

Following a government meeting this morning, Health Minister Willum Þór Þórsson announced that considerably relaxed domestic infection prevention regulations will take effect at midnight tonight. Most notably, people will no longer be required to quarantine, meaning that close to 10,000 people will be released from quarantine. The new regulation will remain in effect until February 25, and barring any unexpected changes, the government hopes to lift all restrictions by the end of the month.

People already in quarantine will not be required to take a PCR test to be released from quarantine. People who have been exposed to COVID-19 will no longer be required to take special precautions, although it is still strongly advised. People with active COVID-19 infections will still need to isolate from others.

While infection regulations at the border will not change, the minister stated that a workgroup will introduce their suggestions for changes to border regulations “very soon”.

While new cases of COVID-19 in Iceland are increasing, hospitalisations have remained within a range of 25-45 since the beginning of the year. 38 are currently in hospital with COVID-19, 15 of which were hospitalised due to COVID-19 illnesses. Ten people have died from COVID-19 in Iceland this year, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Iceland to 54. Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur GUðnason’s memorandum to the government stated that following recent restriction relaxations, there are strong indications that infections are increasing.

The Chief Epidemiologist notified the government that it is likely that following recent relaxation of restrictions, new cases of COVID-19 go unnoticed. Despite low hospitalisation rates (0.1% of infected people are hospitalised due to COVID-19 illness), an increase in infections can increase the strain on the hospital.

The changes to domestic regulations taking effect at midnight:

General gathering limits will be raised from 50 to 200 indoors. No gathering limits on crowds outdoors.

Shops no longer have gathering limits.

Events of up to 1,000 people will be allowed for seated events if everyone is wearing a mask. Intermissions will be allowed again, along with the sale of food and drinks during intermission.

Masks will be required if a social distance of 1 metre cannot be upheld.

Gyms, swimming pools, ski resorts, and spas will be allowed to operate at full capacity.

Sporting events and training are permitted with up to 200 spectators per compartment.

All restrictions on school operations lapse, making schools subject only to general gathering limits, with the option of further exceptions.

Elementary and upper secondary schools will be allowed to host events for their students with no infection prevention limitations.

Bars and restaurants are permitted to extend their opening hours by one hour. Establishments will be able to accept new guests until midnight, but all guests must have left the premises by 1:oo AM.

Quarantine Hotels Prepare to Scale Down

Fosshotel quarantine Reykjavík COVID-19

The number of people isolating in government-run quarantine hotels in Iceland has decreased in recent days, RÚV reports. The Iceland Red Cross, which oversees the operation of the hotels, expects to close some in the near future.

“One week ago the average was between 50 to 60 per day, but yesterday just over 20 people requested to stay [in a quarantine hotel],” Gylfi Þór Þorsteinnson, director of the quarantine hotel program, stated. “Currently we have 230 guests, which is fewer than we’ve had recently.” Gylfi added that quarantine hotel staff will soon begin preparing to vacate the hotels, as the need for them has decreased.

Despite relatively steady infection numbers, Gylfi says the number of people who request to stay at the quarantine hotels has dropped, and those that do have milder symptoms than before. “Most are in pretty good shape when they arrive and even better shape when they leave.”

Iceland Significantly Relaxes COVID-19 Quarantine Regulations

Individuals who have been potentially exposed to COVID-19 outside of their home or place of residence in Iceland will no longer be required to quarantine, and will instead be required to take special infection precaution (smitgát). Individuals who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 in their home or place of residence will still be required to quarantine, except those who are triple-vaccinated, who will only need to take special infection precaution and undergo a COVID-19 test. Primary- and preschool-aged children are exempt from special infection precaution but must quarantine if someone in their home has tested positive for COVID-19.

Decreased absence from school for children

These sweeping changes to Iceland’s quarantine regulations take effect at midnight. They were implemented by Health Minister Willum Þór Þórsson and are in line with recommendations from Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason. The changes aim to reduce strain on testing centres and lessen the impact Iceland’s current wave of infection is having on workplaces and schools. The changes will affect school operations significantly, as children who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 at school will no longer be required to quarantine as a result.

Chief Epidemiologist: Restrictions must be relaxed in stages

The Omicron variant is responsible for more than 90% of infections in Iceland’s current wave, and the Delta variant for under 10%. Local data shows the Omicron variant leads to much lower rates of hospitalisation as compared to the Delta variant (0.2-0.3% versus 2%), which has led many to call for relaxing social restrictions, including deCODE genetics CEO Kári Stefánsson. The Chief Epidemiologist has emphasised the importance of relaxing restrictions in stages to avoid a spike in case numbers that could place additional strain on the healthcare system.

Infections likely to increase

In his memorandum to the Health Minister, Þórólfur stated that the changes to quarantine regulations “will likely increase infections in schools and among families with preschool- and primary school-aged children.” Relaxing social restrictions would, on the other hand, be likely to lead to increased infections among older demographics. “It is important, however, that this increase does not lead to an increase in serious illness and hospitalisation,” Þórólfur added. If strain on the hospital increases, authorities “must be ready to apply countermeasures.”

Iceland’s current domestic restrictions include a 10-person gathering limit, mandated closure of bars and nightclubs, and mandatory mask use in shops and on public transit. They are currently valid until February 2. The Health Minister has stated he will present a plan for relaxing restrictions in stages this Friday.

New deCODE Data Supports Relaxing COVID Regulations

deCode Genetics CEO Kári Stefánsson

According to research from deCODE genetics, at least 20% of Icelanders under 40 have already contracted COVID-19 and as many as 135,000 may have already had it. The company’s CEO Kári Stefánsson has called for abolishing all domestic restrictions in Iceland, including isolation and quarantine, in light of the low rate of serious illness caused by Omicron infections. “We have to respond to the data and I think the data is telling us that now is the time to see whether we can’t live a fine life without using quarantine or isolation,” Kári stated.

As elsewhere in the world, the Omicron variant has led to Iceland’s biggest wave of COVID-19 infection since the start of the pandemic. While the domestic infection rate remains high, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital has begun falling. Local data shows the rates of hospitalisation due to Omicron infection are much lower than the rates associated with the Delta variant (0.2-0.3% for Omicron versus 2% for Delta).

Chief Epidemiologist: we must proceed slowly

When asked to comment, the Chief Epidemiologist did not oppose Kári’s thoughts on lifting domestic restrictions, including quarantine and isolation, but stressed the importance of proceeding in stages. “I think it’s wiser to proceed slowly rather than go too fast and then have to take a step backwards,” Þórólfur stated. “It would be a little tricky and difficult to do that.”

Iceland’s current domestic restrictions are valid until February 2. They include a 10-person gathering limit, mandatory mask use in shops and public transport, and the mandated closure of all bars and clubs. Þórólfur says he plans to submit recommendations to relax domestic restrictions next week. Health Minister Willum Þór Þórsson has given indications that he would be willing to relax them even sooner.

Steps taken to relax quarantine and isolation regulations

Þórólfur Guðnason, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist, will submit a memorandum to the Health Minister today that recommends relaxing the regulations on COVID-19 quarantine. According to Þórólfur, the recommendations allow for more people to be exempt from having to quarantine in the case of possible exposure to COVID. Þórólfur states that conditions are in place to relax social restrictions in Iceland, but it is important to do so in stages.

“What we are working on now with the [Health] Ministry and the Minister is to simplify quarantine rules and simplify testing. And I think it’s wise to start there,” Þórólfur stated. Authorities have already taken steps to relax quarantine and isolation restrictions, including by shortening mandatory isolation from 10 to seven days and exempting triple-vaccinated individuals (and double-vaccinated individuals who have recovered from COVID) from mandatory quarantine in the case of potential exposure. Regulations on isolation have also been relaxed, allowing individuals to leave their place of isolation for walks.

Iceland Relaxes Isolation Regulations, Permitting Outdoor Walks

mask walk outdoor covid

COVID-19 positive individuals who are in isolation in Iceland are permitted to take up to two walks per day, according to new regulations that have been implemented by the country’s health authorities. Individuals who are in special infection precaution (a lighter version of quarantine) are no longer required to undergo testing at the start and end of the precaution period.

Special precaution (smitgát) is an infection prevention measure imposed by authorities when an individual has been possibly exposed to COVID-19 but quarantine is not considered necessary. According to current regulations, people who have received three doses of COVID-19 vaccine, or who have received two doses and have recovered from COVID-19, are not required to quarantine following potential COVID-19 exposure, rather only take special precaution. Individuals in special precaution may leave their place of residence to attend work and school and to run necessary errands. They are, however, asked to skip events and avoid crowds as well people in high-risk groups.

Only 1% have tested positive in special precaution

Of the 16,488 people who were placed in special infection precaution between December 1, 2021 and January 16, 2022, only around 1% tested positive for COVID-19. In light of that data, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist recommended lifting the testing requirements for people in special precaution, and the Health Minister has now implemented this change. The measure is hoped to alleviate strain on Iceland’s COVID-19 testing centres.

The new regulations also permit individuals in COVID isolation to leave their place of isolation for walks within their neighbourhood, health permitting. They must maintain a distance of two metres from others and may not visit crowded areas. Those in isolation can take up to two walks per day, at a maximum length of 30 minutes each. According to a government notice, it is not possible to offer adults isolating in government quarantine facilities daily outdoor exercise, but children isolating in such facilities will be offered outdoor time.

Self-Discharge and Staffing Support Ease Hospital Strain in Iceland Amid Hopes Current Wave Has Peaked

Emergency room

As Iceland continues to battle its largest wave of COVID-19 infection to date, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated he hopes the peak of infections has been reached. The healthcare system is experiencing strain both due to the number of COVID-19 patients that are requiring hospitalisation but also due to large numbers of staff being placed in quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19. The staffing shortage has forced authorities to reduce communication with COVID-19 patients. Those who have completed the mandatory seven-day isolation can now discharge themselves, provided they no longer have symptoms.

Steady daily infection rates

Iceland reported a record 1,553 domestic cases on December 30, and has been reporting around 1,000 daily cases over the past week. According to Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, steady daily infection rates over the past few days could mean that the current wave of COVID-19 infection has peaked. Þórólfur told RÚV that there was not much room to relax social restrictions, however, which include a general gathering limit of 20, mandatory mask use in shops, and two-metre social distancing. The current rules expire on January 12.

Hospital receives support

Private surgical office Klíníkin Ármúla has closed for three weeks while its staff are transferred to the National University Hospital to replace public healthcare staff in isolation or quarantine. Runólfur Pálsson, one of the directors of the hospital’s COVID-19 ward, says the Klíníkin staff will make a big and immediate impact. Runólfur added that much of the hospital’s staff is exhausted due to long-term strain. 

Recent changes to COVID-19 regulations should also help relieve some of the hospital’s strain. COVID-19 patients isolating at home have now been authorised to discharge themselves once their mandatory seven-day quarantine is complete, provided they no longer have symptoms. Previously, patients were required to stay in isolation until their discharge was approved by healthcare staff. Relaxed quarantine regulations for those who are fully vaccinated and boosted should also have a positive impact on staffing at the National Hospital and other workplaces in Iceland.

Quarantine Regulations Eased for Vaxxed and Boosted Individuals

Minister of Health Willum Þór Þórsson

Quarantine regulations will be eased for individuals who have both been fully vaccinated and received a booster, as well as for fully vaccinated people who have recovered from a previously confirmed COVID infection. The changes were announced by Minister of Health Willum Þór Þórsson on Friday on the government’s website.

Willum Þór made the decision to loosen regulations on the recommendation of Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, who cited research from the UK and Denmark that indicates that fully vaccinated and boosted individuals are much less likely to become infected with COVID, particularly the delta strain. The research shows that boosted individuals are also less susceptible to omicron infection, although vaccination has been shown to be less effective against omicron than delta.

The new quarantine regulations for boosted and fully vaccinated/previously infected individuals will go into effect immediately.

It is hoped that the easing of quarantine regulations will make a significant impact in boosting the economy and making day-to-day life easier in Iceland, where around 160,000 people—roughly 43% of the population—has received a COVID 19 booster.

“We need to keep society going as much as possible,” said Willum Þór, “whether we’re looking at schools, welfare services, or various economic activities. As it stands now, this response is absolutely necessary.”

Per the announcement on the government’s website, qualifying individuals who are otherwise subject to quarantine are now:

  • permitted to go to work and/or seek out necessary services, such as health services, as well as go to grocery stores and pharmacies, and use public transportation
  • not permitted to attend gatherings or locations where there are 20 or more people present except in the specific instances mentioned above
  • required to wear a mask when in the company of anyone except their closest contacts (i.e. family or people they live with); masks are required even when a distance of two metres is observed
  • not permitted to visit healthcare institutions such as nursing homes without special permission from the institution in question
  • required to avoid contact with persons who have a high risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19

Qualifying individuals are expected to observe quarantine under the above protocols for five days; their quarantine ends on Day 5, provided that they receive a negative result on a PCR test. Individuals who notice symptoms of COVID during their five-day quarantine are urged to get a PCR test without delay. Quarantine remains a minimum of five days.