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.

Meeting with US Secretary Cancelled

Minister of Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson’s scheduled meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been cancelled, RÚV reports.

Guðlaugur Þór had intended to seek an exemption to the US’s travel ban for Iceland. However as more and more countries close their borders and the US extends its travel ban to include the UK and Ireland (both of which were previously exempted), most such meetings have been cancelled.

In the days since the US closed its borders to foreign nationals from Europe’s Schengen area, other countries, such as Denmark, Norway, Poland, and Russia, have put similar measures in place. At the time of writing, there were no travel restrictions for tourists entering Iceland, but up to date information can be found on the Directorate of Health’s website.

Minister of Foreign Affairs to Seek Exception to Travel Ban

Minister of Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson will meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington DC next week, RÚV reports. Guðlaugur Þór had initially requested a phone call to discuss the terms of US President Donald Trump’s recent European travel ban but received an invitation to an in-person meeting on Thursday instead. Guðlaugur Þór will use the meeting to seek an exemption to the travel ban for Iceland.

See Also: Iceland Among Countries Facing US Travel Ban

After the ban was announced, Guðlaugur Þór attended a meeting at the US Embassy in Reykjavík and spoke with both US Ambassador Jeffrey Ross Gunter and his deputy to discuss the matter. Guðlaugur Þór’s assistant, Borgar Þór Einarsson, told reporters that it is likely that the US Secretary’s decision to invite him to a meeting stemmed from this discussion.

Borgar Þór said that the minister intends to lay out a logistical plan for how an Icelandic exemption could be managed. He also to emphasize Iceland’s “unique position” in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, namely that it is an island nation just like the UK, which has been exempted from President Trump’s travel ban.

 

Icelandair Allowed to Continue Flights to Select US Airports

icelandair757

Icelandair will be allowed to continue flights to and from select US airports despit the newly instated travel restrictions that will go into effect on Friday at midnight, RÚV reports. Iceland is one of 26 countries affected by US President Donald Trump’s recent presidential proclamation, which will suspend entry to the US to all foreign nationals who have been within Europe’s Schengen Area in the last 14 days. The ban is currently set to last for 30 days.

Icelandair issued a statement saying that all flights to the US on Thursday and Friday would proceed as scheduled. Once the ban goes into effect, however, only flights to and from four destinations will be allowed: New York (JFK and Newark), Chicago, Seattle, and Washington DC. The ban will still prevent foreign nationals who have been within Schengen from travelling to these airports.

As of Thursday afternoon, the company had yet to issue a full statement on schedule disruptions, but it has acknowledged that the travel ban will have a significant impact on its flight plan. Icelandair previously cancelled 80 flights and anticipates that it will further need to reduce its offerings in March and April. There are currently 490 flights to the US scheduled during that period.

All flights to Boston, Minneapolis, Denver, and Orlando scheduled between March 14 and 16 have been cancelled. However, flights from Orlando and Denver on March 14 will go ahead as scheduled.

All changes to the Icelandair flight plan will be posted on their website as they become available.

Iceland Among Countries Facing US Travel Ban

Iceland flag national team

US President Donald Trump has suspended entry to the United States to all foreign nationals who have been within Europe’s Schengen Area for the last 14 days, reports the New York Times. Iceland is among the 26 countries affected by the 30-day travel ban, which will go into effect on Friday at midnight.

According to an announcement on the US Department of Homeland Security website, the travel ban “suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States.” In addition to Iceland, the Schengen Area includes Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The ban does not extend to legal permanent residents of the US, or immediate family members of U.S. citizens.

The travel ban is expected to have a significant economic impact on Iceland, not least because it’s expected that fewer US citizens will travel abroad in the coming weeks or months after an advisory issued by the US State Department urged Americans to “reconsider travel abroad.” The majority of tourists who visit Iceland come from the US, Kjarninn reports, with 464,000 US citizens visiting the country in 2019.

In an email sent early Thursday morning, Icelandair encouraged employees in a position to take unpaid leave to do so: “In this context, we would like to ask those employees who are interested in, or who see an opportunity in, taking unpaid leave during the coming months; are about to take maternity or paternity leave (and are interested in extending their leave); or can foresee working fewer hours; to discuss such options with their superior officers before noon on Friday.

Despite the predicted negative impact of the travel ban, CEO of Icelandair Group Bogi Nils Bogason stated that the company’s liquidity was strong, adding that he did not foresee having to accept assistance from the government: “We are determined to get through this and that will be our goal over the coming days.”