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

Icelandverse Skewers Zuckerberg, Welcomes Visitors to Its ‘Immersive, Open-World Experience’

Icelandverse - Facebook - Zuckerberg

A new tourism ad from Inspired by Iceland skewers Mark Zuckerberg and his Metaverse, Vísir reports. The ad has already caught the attention of news outlets all over the world and has even been seen by the man himself, who seems to appreciate the joke.

In the ad, actor Jörundur Ragnarsson plays Zack Mosbergsson, a Zuckerberg lookalike with a Ceasar haircut and black shirt and pants, who wants to introduce a “revolutionary approach to connect our world…without being super weird.” This Icelandverse, he continues, is “enhanced, actual reality without silly-looking headsets.”

“In our open-world experience, everything is real,” says Zack, before walking into a glass door. “It’s completely immersive, with water that’s wet,” he pauses, dipping his hands into a pool at the Blue Lagoon. “With humans to connect with.”

Director of Marketing Sveinn Birkir Björnsson says the ad was meant “to show that it’s possible to experience amazing things even though you’re not in any sort of virtual reality. Amazing things exist in reality.”

Mark Zuckerberg saw the video less than a day after it went live, and left a comment on the video saying, “Amazing. I need to make a trip to the Icelandverse soon. Glad you’re wearing sunscreen too 🤣”

Inspired by Iceland was quick to respond: “Oh, hi Mark! You’re always welcome. Icelandverse is open 24/7!”

Amsterdam to Akureyri: Direct Flights Expected Next Year

A Dutch airline is planning to operate direct flights between Amsterdam and Akureyri, North Iceland, beginning next year, RÚV reports. With a population of around 20,000, Akureyri is the largest town in the region but has only ever had sporadic international flights. Tourism industry representatives from North Iceland say flights would need to be more regular in order to support tourism in the region.

“We have direct flights between Akureyri and Tenerife, people who are going on holiday, they have sold well and gone well,” stated Ragnheiður of AK Travel (Ferðaskrifstofa Akureyrar). She added that Dutch airline Transavia planned to begin operating direct flights between Akureyri and Amsterdam in February and March. “We only have a few seats that we’re selling to North Icelanders and there is interest.”

The vast majority of tourists visiting Iceland arrive through Keflavík International Airport in Southwest Iceland. Ragnheiður says that international flights to Akureyri would need to be more regular for the North region to be competitive with South Iceland. “This has been in the works for 20 years, since I started in the industry […] We have a dream that we’re seeing 1-2 flights per week, 52 weeks per year. With foreign tourists. Why should they have to drive over heaths in snowstorms to come north?”

Expansion of Akureyri airport begun

On June 16, construction crews broke ground on an expansion of Akureyri airport that is expected to take two years. Both the airport terminal and tarmac will be expanded and the developments are expected to facilitate international flights. The development of Akureyri airport and the airport at Egilsstaðir, East Iceland were two of several infrastructure investment projects the Icelandic government initiated in response to the pandemic recession.

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.

COVID-19 in Iceland: All Travellers Required to Present Negative Test Before Boarding

Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir

In a response to the recent increase in COVID-19 infections in Iceland, the Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir has decided to require all travellers to Iceland to present a negative COVID test before entering the country. This is based on Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason’s recommendations. This includes all vaccinated individuals as well as those confirmed to have contracted and recovered from COVID-19. The tests must be PCR or antigen tests and may be no older than 72 hours, the Minister of Health has announced.

Though it is not an official requirement, residents of Iceland as well as people with personal connections in the country are advised to get tested upon arrival, even if they don’t present any symptoms. 

The Chief Epidemiologist’s latest memo, discussed at the government’s meeting today, states that COVID-19 infections have increased considerably in Iceland. Most cases are of the Delta variant. According to research, fully vaccinated individuals can contract COVID-19 and infect others. The Chief Epidemiologist believes that the current mode of operation will increase the risk of transmission and that it is necessary to take action to curb virus entry at the border in order to eliminate the need for implementing domestic restrictions. Icelandic authorities lifted all domestic restrictions on June 26, 2021. 

Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir has decided that the border restriction changes will take effect July 26. For unvaccinated travellers, restrictions remain the same. They need to present a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours upon boarding, are tested upon arrival, and must quarantine for five days before being tested again. Children born in 2005 or later are exempt from all border restrictions.

Yesterday, 16 tested positive for the virus, bringing the total of active cases to 124. A total of 385 are in quarantine. One person is in hospital but according to Runólfur Pálsson, head of the National Hospital’s COVID department, they are not seriously ill. So far, very few of the individuals infected are experiencing severe symptoms, as most are fully vaccinated.

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.

Vaccinated People with Symptoms Should Get Tested, Says Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason

If you have symptoms that could indicate COVID-19 you should get tested, even if you are fully vaccinated, says Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist. Four fully vaccinated tourists tested positive for COVID-19 in Iceland between Thursday and Monday. So far there is no evidence the infections have spread to others.

Many tourists go get tested for COVID-19 toward the end of their trip in Iceland due to entry requirements in other countries. Four such tests revealed positive results for four vaccinated tourists in recent days. Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason told RÚV it is unlikely that the tourists infected others. He added that vaccinated individuals are also less likely to spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus when carrying it. “It is most likely that they were infected on their way to [Iceland] and I base that on the fact that we have almost no virus in the country,” Þórólfur stated.

Iceland currently has 23 active cases of COVID-19 and an incidence rate of 1.9 per 100,000 residents. Over 70% of the population has received one or both doses of COVID-19 vaccine while 49.1% are fully vaccinated. All domestic restrictions were lifted in the country last Friday though restrictions at the border remain, including testing of all arriving travellers and mandatory quarantine for those without vaccine or antibody certificates.

Þórólfur stressed the importance of continued testing within Iceland, despite the country’s high rate of vaccination. “We need to encourage people with symptoms to get tested. That’s declined quite a bit recently but I know there are a lot of respiratory infections in the community. So we still want to encourage people to go get tested whether they are vaccinated or not if they get symptoms that could point to COVID-19.”

New Icelandic Airline PLAY Launches Ticket Sales

PLAY airline

Icelandic low-cost airline PLAY launched ticket sales this morning and will fly its inaugural flight between London and Reykjavík on June 24. The airline has scheduled flights between Iceland and seven European destinations. PLAY plans to expand its route network to North America in early 2022.

“It’s brilliant to be able to open up Iceland to UK travellers and offer competitive fares now that international travel has resumed,” states Birgir Jónsson, CEO of PLAY. “We are looking forward to providing safe effortless travel, and great value to people in the UK.” Birgir added that UK visitors will undoubtedly look forward to seeing the ongoing volcanic eruption on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula.

Customers can now book flights with PLAY between Iceland and Alicante, Tenerife, and Barcelona in Spain; as well as Paris, London, Copenhagen, and Berlin. PLAY’s fleet this summer will consist of Airbus A321neo aircraft, with 192 economy seats each. The first aircraft commences operation on June 24, with the second and third slated for delivery in July. The aircraft are leased from AerCap.

Read More: Play Obtains Air Operator’s Certificate

Play’s inaugural destination is well-chosen: Iceland was just added to the UK’s green list of destinations. This means that travellers arriving in the UK from Iceland currently do not need to quarantine upon arrival. A pre-travel test is nevertheless required of passengers, as is a follow-up test two days after arrival in the UK.

US Tourists Return to “Safe” and Spacious Iceland

Reynisfjara - Vík - suðurland

There were few empty seats on Delta Airlines’ first scheduled flight to Iceland this year, which brought 130 – mostly vaccinated – passengers from New York to Keflavík yesterday morning. Iceland’s tourism leaders say the industry’s wheels are finally turning again. Travellers from the United States have been banned entry to Iceland throughout most of the pandemic, but as of April 6, those who are vaccinated or have COVID-19 antibodies have been permitted entry and do not have to quarantine upon arrival.

The Delta Airlines flight was the first scheduled flight from the United States in over a year, with the exception of Icelandair’s state-subsidized flights to Boston, RÚV reports. Delta is now operating daily flights between New York and Keflavík, and will begin flying from Boston and Minneapolis later this month. United Airlines will begin flying from New York in June and Chicago in July, while Air Canada plans to resume flights from Toronto in July. Icelandair currently has 11 US destinations on its roster for the coming months.

“Tourist Summer is Beginning”

“The wheels are somewhat starting to turn again,” stated Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, CEO of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association. “Now we see the impact of better and faster vaccination both here and in the countries around. And the interest from for example US travellers who have been vaccinated or have already had COVID-19 is significant. So I hope that now these are sort of the signs that the tourist summer is beginning.”

Jóhannes believes travellers from the US and UK will be the first to arrive, while those from mainland Europe, where vaccination has been proceeding slower, will come to Iceland later. Icelandair CEO Bogi Nils Bogason also stated the airline had seen an uptick in bookings from the US, with Europe and Canada lagging behind. “This is still a very challenging environment for airlines around the world and tourism companies, but very positive that things are somewhat starting up again,” Bogi stated.

Iceland a Safe Destination, Say Tourists

Strati Hvartos, a photographer from Los Angeles, was one of the passengers of Delta’s flight from New York yesterday. He arrived with his girlfriend Caroline Fiorito, and they plan to spend two weeks in Iceland. “I think we chose Iceland cause it seemed like the best place to go right now, after COVID,” Strati told Vísir reporters. “It seemed like one of the safer places to go, and also one of the least amount of tourists right now.”