Possible Restrictions for Travelers from China

keflavik airport COVID-19 testing

Epidemiologist Guðrún Aspelund says that border screenings are being considered for travelers from China, given the recent rise in infections there.

In a recent statement, Guðrún indicated that healthcare systems throughout Europe are under stress, and that possible measures at the Icelandic border may be taken to relieve pressure other nations as well.

Regulations on travel are set to be lifted soon in China, meaning that Chinese residents will no longer have to quarantine upon arrival in China from foreign travel. This relaxation has healthcare experts throughout Europe concerned that a wave of Chinese travelers may take advantage of the relaxed regulations. The recent easing of restrictions has contributed to the uptick in infections, and some Western nations have also expressed concerns that authorities there have systematically under-reported figures.

Guðrún further stated: “We have less information coming from there regarding numbers for infections, hospitalizations, and cases. There is concern that the situation in China is quite bad and that it could affect Europe. There are also concerns of new varieties coming from China, though it is entirely possible that they may have other origins as well.”

Other nations, including the US, India, and the UK have also introduced mandatory testing for Chinese travelers. Chinese authorities have criticized these travel restrictions as being politically motivated.

A final decision on the possible restrictions is expected by the weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Calls to Clarify Legislation on Quarantine Hotels

Fosshotel quarantine Reykjavík COVID-19

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason is calling on the country’s government to clarify the legal framework for requiring travellers to quarantine in designated government-run facilities. Þórólfur expressed his disappointment in a ruling made in the Reykjavík District Court yesterday that found the state had no legal grounds for requiring several travellers to quarantine in a hotel when they had adequate facilities to do so at home. The ruling is being appealed by authorities.

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 regulation was set after health authorities found travellers were breaching quarantine regulations, leading to community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Several guests at the hotel challenged the regulation in the Reykjavík District Court, which ruled in their favour. The Chief Epidemiologist has spoken in support of the quarantine facilities in Reykjavík, where at least three travellers tested positive for COVID-19 since the facilities began operation last week.

At a briefing today, Þórólfur expressed confidence that authorities would meet their goal of vaccinating a majority of the population against COVID-19 by the end of July 2021. Some 15,000 people are scheduled to receive a jab in the country this week, while 22,344 (6.6% of the population) are already fully vaccinated and an additional 25,915 have received their first dose. Confirmed distribution schedules ensure Iceland will receive enough doses to fully vaccinate 136,000 people by the end of June. That number does not include vaccines from several manufacturers who have yet to confirmed their shipping schedule.

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

 

On the panel: Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, Director of Health Alma Möller, and Assistant to the Director of Civil Protection Rögnvaldur Ólafsson.

The panel will likely address yesterday’s Reykjavík District Court ruling that determined health authorities did not have legal grounds to require a number of travellers to quarantine in government-run facilities in Reykjavík when they had access to adequate facilities at home.

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has expressed his support of mandatory hotel quarantine for those arriving from high-risk areas, calling on the government to pass legislation in support of the regulation, which took effect April 1.

Yesterday’s numbers have been updated on covid.is Iceland reported 4 new domestic cases, all in quarantine at the time of diagnosis. Total active cases: 123. 24,344 have been fully vaccinated, 6.6% of the population.

The briefing has begun. Rögnvaldur starts by going over the news from the eruption. New fissures have opened and the eruption site is closed to the public today. Scientists are working on mapping the new situation at the eruption site and emergency responders are working on new ways to ensure travellers safety.

Back to COVID: Rögnvaldur says we’ve done pretty well so far, managing to keep our healthcare system running and for the most part keeping the pandemic at bay. Infection prevention restrictions are, by nature, restrictive and many have suffered due to them, but our success is not a coincidence. We’ve listened to the experts and worked hard to ensure our success.

Þórólfur takes over. We’re still seeing several new domestic cases each day but the majority have been in quarantine. We’re still seeing cases outside quarantine that have proved hard to trace. We’re not seeing an increase in infection rates, and Þórólfur thanks the public for their efforts in following personal infection prevention. All new domestic infections are of the British variant. The situation at the hospital is good, no one is hospitalised with COVID-19 but we might still expect new hospitalisations. The current domestic regulations are in effect until April 15.

Yesterday, the district court ruled that there aren’t clear legal grounds for making stays in quarantine hotels mandatory for arriving travellers. Þórólfur says he considers the decision “unfortunate” and adds that it will be appealed. Five travellers tested positive at the border yesterday and 18 in total have tested positive with an active infection since March 25, all with the British variant and most of them residents of Iceland. Þórólfur believes that it’s necessary to clarify the legal framework for infection prevention regulations in order to ensure continued success in containing the pandemic in Iceland.

Þórólfur addresses vaccine rollout. Distribution schedules have been confirmed for vaccines for 136,000 people by the end of June. That’s not counting vaccines from several producers who haven’t confirmed their shipping schedule yet. There’s every reason to believe the government will be successful in meeting its goal to vaccinate a majority of the population by the end of July. 15,000 people are scheduled to be vaccinated against COVID-19 this week in Iceland.

Director of Health Alma takes over. She states that even with vaccination efforts revving up, we still haven’t achieved herd immunity and at the moment, the pandemic is soaring in the countries around us. There’s still the threat of new variants entering the country. Infection prevention restrictions at the border have proved a learning experience and things are still up in the air so we still have to be careful domestically.

Get tested as soon as possible if you are experiencing any symptoms, even if they’re mild, Alma says. She cautions that symptoms can vary and goes over the most important symptoms, including cough, fatigue, and muscle aches. It’s important to stay at home until you receive confirmation that you are negative for SARS-CoV-2. Alma is grateful that COVID infection numbers haven’t risen drastically over the past week and thanks healthcare staff for their efforts as well as the public. Let’s continue to stick together and keep a level head. This isn’t over yet but it’s not long now.

The panel opens for questions. A reporter brings up a recent announcement from the European Medicines Agency regarding a link between the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and blood clots. Will it change the approach to vaccinating with AstraZeneca in Iceland? Þórólfur will look into new information on the AstraZeneca vaccine as authorities have done before. Research has shown that younger people are at risk for blood clots. If there’s new information on an increased threat for older people we’ll take that into consideration.

“If you could decide, would you close the borders entirely?” A reporter asks the Chief Epidemiologist. Þórólfur: What we’ve been trying to do is find the people who are carrying an infection and basing our efforts on what’s worked before. I don’t think closing the country is possible, what does that even mean? Þórólfur: There are Icelandic residents abroad who have to be able to come home and people here who have to be able to go abroad for work and I don’t think closing the country is possible. We have to find other ways to minimise risk.

People who choose to leave the quarantine hotels are informed that they need to have suitable accommodation for continuing quarantine. They don’t have the possibility of verifying that. Information on accommodation and rules for quarantine are available at covid.is.

The court case regarding quarantine hotels seems to centre on the definition of quarantine centres and what their role is. Þórólfur hopes that the matter will end with the government being able to require people to spend quarantine in designated government-run facilities. If not, we won’t be able to curb the pandemic as effectively and won’t be able to relax restrictions to the same extent. One of the aspects of the hotel quarantine that was most criticised was guests’ inability to go outside. Alma states that that’s clearly something that needs to be worked out. Asked whether the dissemination of information could be improved for staff and guests in hotel quarantine, Þórólfur said that was likely the case.

Alma emphasises that as vaccination efforts continue, new variants remain a threat, especially as new variants are more likely to infect younger people and lead to serious illness in younger demographics as well as older groups.

“When we finish vaccinating locals 70+ will we continue to use the AstraZeneca vaccine?” Probably, until everyone 65+ has been vaccinated. Iceland’s health authorities are looking into the option of administering the second dose for people who have received one dose of AstraZeneca with a different vaccine. No decisions have been made on the matter at this point.

Contact tracing officials are discovering quarantine breaches through viral sequencing. When they discover the spread of new variants, they go back and find the people who brought the cases over the border, who might, when pressed, admit that they didn’t follow quarantine regulations to the letter. People know if they haven’t been following the rules to the letter and are reluctant to tell authorities. Alma emphasises that these breaches are not always intentional and urges those in quarantine to go over the quarantine rules carefully. That’s why the quarantine hotel method was implemented, to eliminate the temptation of breaking the rules. Þórólfur believes that higher fines or more threats of quarantine infraction repercussions aren’t a solution. A more effective approach would be to monitor people in quarantine more closely.

Rögnvaldur closes the briefing by saying that although vaccination deliveries are speeding up, it’s clear this isn’t over yet and we need to keep our guard up. The briefing has ended.

Iceland Tightens Border Regulations from April 1

Icelandair airplane

Infection prevention regulations will tighten significantly at Iceland’s borders tomorrow, April 1. Travellers from defined high-risk areas will be placed in quarantine hotels and children born in the year 2005 or later, previously exempt from testing, will now be required to undergo both testing and quarantine upon arrival to the country. Further changes take effect on April 6 that will allow vaccinated travellers from outside Europe to enter Iceland and eschew quarantine.

The Main Changes to Iceland’s Border Regulations

Iceland is currently closed to all third-country nationals (those outside the EEA/EFTA area with the exception of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican). All those arriving in the country are required to present a negative PCR test before departure, then undergo a COVID-19 test upon arrival, five days of quarantine, and a follow-up test. On April 1, the following changes take place to those regulations:

  • Travellers arriving from defined high-risk areas will be required to complete their quarantine in designated government-run hotels. From April 11, travellers will be charged ISK 10,000 ($79/€67) per room per night for their stay at such hotels, which includes the cost of food. The price is fixed regardless of the number of guests per room.
  • All children born 2005 and later will be required to undergo testing at the border.

A country is defined as high-risk when the 14-day COVID-19 case notification rate exceeds 500 per 100,000 people. This applies to all countries labelled dark red by the ECDC as well as those labelled grey (information not available). If one or more areas within the country are designated dark red, the country as a whole is defined as dark red. A list of countries currently labelled dark red or grey is available on the website of the Directorate of Health.

All Vaccinated Travellers Permitted Entry from April 6

Currently, travellers from within the EEA/EFTA with a certificate of vaccination are exempt from quarantine upon arrival to Iceland but will be required to undergo a single COVID-19 test at the border. The same applies to travellers with proof of a prior COVID-19 infection issued by an EEA/EFTA country.

As of April 6, third-country nationals (those from outside the EEA/EFTA) will also be permitted to enter Iceland if they present a valid certificate of vaccination or proof of prior infection.

More detailed information on visiting Iceland, including certificate requirements, is available in English and other languages on the Icelandic government’s official COVID-19 website.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Travellers from High-Risk Countries to Be Placed in Quarantine Hotel

COVID-19 Europe European Centre for Disease Control

Travellers arriving in Iceland from European countries with high COVID-19 infection rates will now be required to quarantine at government-run hotels. This is according to new border regulations passed by Iceland’s government today. Children born after 2005, who have thus far been exempt from COVID-19 testing at the border, will now be required to undergo testing upon entering the country. These new measures take effect on April 1 and will be valid for one month.

According to the new regulations, all travellers who are arriving from or have stayed in areas in Europe where the 14-day incidence of COVID-19 infection exceeds 500 per 100,000 (according to the European Centre for Disease Control) must stay in quarantine hotels during the mandatory 5-day quarantine for all travellers. They will also be required to remain in the hotel if they test positive and must undergo isolation. The same applies to travellers from countries where information on the incidence rate is lacking. These two areas are respectively labelled dark red and gray on maps issued by the ECDC. Travellers who present a valid vaccination certificate or certificate confirming previous COVID-19 infection will be exempt from these measures.

British and Brazilian Strains in Local Cases

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason recommended tightening border restrictions after an uptick in domestic COVID-19 cases last weekend traced to cross-border infections. “I don’t think we have fully seen the end of these group infections that have been diagnosed in the last few days,” he stated. “We need to be prepared for that.” The so-called British variant of SARS-CoV-2 is responsible for the new domestic cases, while a group of cargo ship crew members that tested positive in East Iceland are all carrying the Brazilian variant. The entire crew of 19 is either in isolation or quarantine on the ship.

Though several new domestic cases were diagnosed over the weekend, Iceland only reported one new domestic case yesterday, in quarantine. Þórólfur confirmed that he would not propose tightening domestic restrictions while case numbers remained low within Iceland. Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir stated that authorities are ready to impose harsher domestic restrictions to limit the spread of the virus if necessary, but would wait to see how case numbers develop over the next two or three days.

COVID-19 in Iceland: PCR Certificates Cannot Replace Traveller Quarantine

Keflavík airport Icelandair

On February 19, 2021, Icelandic authorities began requiring travellers from abroad to present a negative PCR test certificate before departure to the country. This certificate requirement was added in addition to testing at the border, five-day quarantine, and a follow-up test. Since that date, 17 travellers have tested positive in their follow-up test after quarantine, despite testing negative before departure and again at the border. In a briefing in Reykjavík today, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist stated that negative PCR tests before departure were not a sure way to prevent the active cases from crossing the borders, and quarantine for travellers was still essential. Vaccinated travellers are exempt from quarantine and testing in some cases.

Icelandic authorities temporarily suspended use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine one week ago due to reports of blood clots among individuals who had received the drug. European and international authorities have since declared that there are no causal links between the vaccine and the incidents and that the drug is safe to use. A final decision on its continued use in Iceland is expected shortly.

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

 

On the panel: Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason and Director of Health Alma Möller.

Yesterday’s numbers have been updated on covid.is. Iceland reported 1 new domestic case (outside quarantine) and 1 at the border. Total active cases: 32. 14,104 have been fully vaccinated (3.82% of the population) and another 23,075 have received their first shot.

New domestic restrictions have taken effect today, but they are largely unchanged from the previous restrictions. The 50-person gathering limit remains the same.

The briefing has begun. Þórólfur goes over the numbers. One person was diagnosed with COVID-19 yesterday domestically, outside of quarantine. Contact tracing is underway but the origin of the infection has not yet been found. Fewer samples were taken yesterday, just under 500. Þórólfur believes and hopes that the small group outbreak that occurred last week has been contained.

People continue to test positive at the border and more than has been the case in recent weeks. 5,000, have entered the country since the new regulations were implemented Feb. 19 requiring a negative PCR test certificate. 4,700 of those have been tested and 34 of them have tested positive for an active infection: half of those in the border test and half in the follow-up test five days later. Þórólfur says the data shows that requiring a negative PCR test certificate is not in and of itself a secure way to ensure infections don’t enter the country.

One person was admitted to hospital with an active COVID-19 infection two days ago. That is the only person currently in hospital due to COVID-19. Þórólfur encourages people to get tested if they have any symptoms whatsoever, particularly in light of the positive case diagnosed yesterday outside of quarantine.

Þórólfur says the new domestic restrictions will remain in effect until April 9 and are largely unchanged from the previous ones. It is important to maintain caution, now is not the time to relax further, he says.

Þórólfur addresses new border regulations that will take effect soon permitting vaccinated individuals to eschew quarantine and testing at the border. He points out that this has been the case since January 15 for travellers from within the EEA/EU, and around 5% of travellers since then have presented certificates of vaccination and been exempt from quarantine and testing at the border. This has also been the case for people with international vaccination certificates issued by the WHO. Thus the new regulations are not actually “new.”

New data from Israel shows that the risk of infection from those who have been vaccinated is little. Thus Þórólfur suggested earlier this month that all vaccination certificates be accepted regardless of the traveller’s country of origin. Þórólfur says that the Minister of Justice’s decision to open the outer borders of the Schengen territory to all those with a vaccination certificate was made without consultation with him. He does not know when the new regulation will take effect.

Icelandic authorities are waiting to hear from European authorities regarding the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The European Medicines Agency and the EU have announced recently that there are no causal links between the vaccine and blood clots. Þórólfur will meet with Nordic and European colleagues today to discuss the issue. A decision on continued use of the AstraZeneca vaccine should be reached shortly.

Þórólfur continues to urge people to get tested as soon as they experience any symptoms. The infection yesterday means that the virus hasn’t been eradicated from the community and we need to stay alert. Alma mentions that the situation in Iceland is good but we don’t have to search far to find worse situations. Let’s not get overconfident in our success. If infections arise, we need to keep up our personal infection preventions and get tested as soon as possible.

Alma discusses Iceland’s contact tracing app. Contact tracing is a cornerstone of Iceland’s success in containing the pandemic. Our contact tracing team are extremely efficient, but we will also be updating the COVID-19 tracing app in the coming days, says Alma. The new version will use Bluetooth but users’ privacy is still a priority. As before, users need to authorise a request from the contact tracing team so that the new features are activated.

The panel opens for questions. Þórólfur does not yet know if yesterday’s domestic case was of the British variant, results from sequencing should be available tonight. The individual did not attend any large gatherings or visit many public places, everyone they have come into contact with will be contacted.

Þórólfur has some concerns about the decision to open Schengen borders, particularly how they will complete all necessary procedures if there is great demand for travelling to Iceland. Accepting certificates of vaccinations and antibodies is what we aim to do in the long run, but exactly at what point we should open the borders more or less, people can have all sorts of opinions on that. If people who are coming are vaccinated or have already contracted the disease, we can be pretty safe. But we have to ensure the certificates are authentic, Þórólfur says.

The vaccine distribution schedule changes regularly but by the end of April, we should have had at least 140,000 doses. We still haven’t had any information on the Janssen distribution schedule. A

lma states that there’s everything to be gained by maintaining our current success, and reminds the public that we have many more freedoms than most other people around the world. Alma: Follow the guidelines. We can do this. Þórólfur agrees and doesn’t have much to add. “We know what we have to do and we know what works.”

Þórólfur addresses the colour-coding system that will take effect from May 1. Authorities are working on the solutions and systems that will be in place come spring. Þórólfur’s role as Chief Epidemiologist is still to make suggestions based on his best knowledge and what he thinks will be the best way to keep infection numbers down. Of course, there’s still uncertainty, even if people call for predictability. Þórólfur says his recommendations for the border will be issued closer to May 1 in response to how the situation is at that time. Alma adds that she believes we must be prepared for the possibility to reconsider plans if the situation changes. The briefing has ended.

 

Iceland Review will live-tweet authorities’ next briefing, scheduled for Thursday, March 25, at 11.03am UTC.

Iceland Will Relax Border Restrictions for Europeans from May 1

European Centre for Disease Control COVID-19

Iceland’s Health Minister has confirmed that the country will adopt a colour-coded system at its borders from May 1 allowing European travellers from defined low-risk countries to eschew quarantine upon arrival. Currently, all travellers to Iceland must present a negative PCR test certificate before departure as well as undergo testing at the border, a five-day quarantine, and a follow-up test. From May 1, however, Iceland will participate in a co-ordinated European Union approach to travel restrictions.

As of May 2021, travellers arriving from the Schengen Area, EEA, EFTA, and EU whose country of origin is defined as low-risk will not be required to quarantine upon arrival to Iceland. They will, however, still be required to present a negative PCR test certificate prior to departure as well as undergo testing at the border. As of the time of writing, Iceland is the only country that is defined as green based on its 14-day COVID-19 notification, testing, and positivity rates.

Icelandic Travel Industry Association Chairperson Bjarnheiður Hallsdóttir celebrated the Health Minister’s confirmation that Iceland would adopt the colour-coded system this spring. According to Bjarnheiður, it allows tourism companies to plan marketing and communication with customers for the summer season, usually Iceland’s busiest for tourism.

The colour-coded system does not apply to travellers from outside the Schengen Area, EEA, EFTA, and EU. Borders are currently closed to travellers outside those areas, but as of later this week, all travellers will be permitted entry to Iceland if they present a certificate of vaccination against COVID-19.