Ferry to Bring Passengers to Iceland Next Week

The Smyril Line ferry is scheduled to resume transporting passengers to Iceland as of next week, Austurfrétt reports. Twenty-three passengers from the Faroe Islands will be onboard. They will be the first passengers to arrive in Iceland on the ferry in a month.

Smyril Line operates a passenger ferry service between Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland, Tórshvn in the Faroe Islands, and Hirtshals in Denmark. In mid-March, the company elected to pause passenger transport in and out of Iceland in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the closure of Denmark’s borders. Danish borders will remain closed until May 10, but Smyril Line has now opted to resume some passenger transport to and from the Faroes. It has been ten days since COVID-19 was last detected in the Faroes.

While Iceland is currently closed to foreign nationals outside of the Schengen area and flights into the country are been operated at a bare minimum, tourists from countries within Schengen (such as Denmark) can enter the country and are not required to quarantine when they arrive.

Authorities may issue further long-term regulations regarding foreign tourists in Iceland, but as of yet, no new details have been released and Smyril Line says it will just need to wait and see what happens. “When that becomes clear it will be possible to look a bit further than just the spring and summer,” company executives remarked.

Government Sponsors 16 Flights to Bring Icelanders Home

The Ministry of Transport and Local Government has contracted Icelandair to provide a minimal number of flights between Iceland and North America and Europe. Per a press release published on the government’s website on Thursday, flights will be available to Iceland from Boston, London, and Stockholm until May 5.

“International flights play a vital role in the security of the Icelandic nation and these flights are, among other things, necessary to ensure that Icelandic citizens who are located abroad can find their way home,” reads the statement.

All total, 16 roundtrip flights (32 legs) are planned to/from the three destinations. The flight plan is subject to change, but is currently as follows:

Boston (Logan International – BOS) April 16, 18, 23, 25, 30; May 2

London (Heathrow – LHR) April 19, 22, 24, 26, 29; May 1 and 3

Stockholm (Arlanda – ARN) April 18 and 25; May 2

The Icelandic government will pay Icelandair a max of ISK 100 million [€639,624; $692,233] to fund the company’s extended operations, although that amount may be offset by revenue that the company generates from the offered flights.

Typically, the government would accept bids from contractors for providing a public service of this nature, but under emergency circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, law allows the government to contract directly with a service provider.

Temporary Travel Ban for Tourists from Outside EEA and EFTA

Icelandair airplane Keflavík airport.

As of Friday, Iceland is temporarily closing its borders to tourists from countries outside of the EEA and EFTA, RÚV reports. Travellers from outside these areas will not be allowed to enter Iceland unless they can demonstrate that they are coming on “urgent business.” These new restrictions are in line with the EU’s March 17 recommendation that all EU and Schengen countries limit the entry of third-country nationals in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The travel ban is expected to last for 30 days and is not expected to have significant impact on tourist arrivals, as tourism to Iceland has already been significantly curtailed in the wake of the ongoing pandemic.

The EEA (European Economic Area) includes Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Iceland is part of EFTA (the European Free Trade Area) with three other countries: Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.

Per an announcement on the Icelandic government’s website, citizens of the above-named countries will still be able to freely enter Iceland. The travel ban also stipulates that foreign nationals from outside the EEA and EFTA who reside in Iceland will also be permitted to enter the country. Professionals in certain fields are also exempt from the travel ban no matter their nationality, for instance healthcare workers and those involved in cargo transportation.

Iceland and U.S. Discussed the Covid-19 Travel Ban

Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson.

Icelandic and U.S. authorities have agreed to prepare co-operation regarding the effects of the travel restrictions placed by American authorities on European countries due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson and State Secretary Mike Pompeo discussed the economic effects the ban will have and agreed in principle to co-operate once the pandemic has subsided. This discussion took place in a phone meeting yesterday. A face to face meeting had been planned in Washington DC last Thursday but had to be cancelled due to the travel ban.

The temporary travel ban affects all foreign nationals from China, Iran as well as European countries that are part of the Schengen agreement. People both from these countries, as well as those who have visited any of the countries in the last 14 days, are banned from entering the United States of America due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We had a good conversation and I expressed my disappointment at the measures taken by the US government, and now by the European Union. We have to explore all avenues to minimize the damage that these measures will cause. We will also have to come to terms with the position which we’re in right now, which is of course without precedent, and it is urgent that we stop the spread of the virus with significant scientific actions. All the while, it was important to emphasise the continuing good relations between the two countries, and we agreed on that,” said Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór.

Passenger service to continue

Guðlaugur Þór placed emphasis on the effects on passenger-carrying operations between the two countries, especially due to Iceland’s position in between North-America and Europe. The pair also spoke of the importance of taking on the economic effects of the pandemic, not least for international air travel.

“The Minister for Foreign Affairs placed emphasis on the effects on Icelandair flights towards and from North America, and the need to review the state of matters once the pandemic has subsided. He and the State Secretary agreed to prepare co-operation between experts from the two countries regarding these matters, as well preparing further economic co-operation between the countries in a larger context,” a release from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs stated.