Iceland’s Transport Minister Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson says limiting the number of travellers from abroad is the last resort he would want to take if the number of arrivals begins to exceed the country’s COVID-19 testing capacity, RÚV reports. In a briefing yesterday, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated travellers from abroad were a “particular matter of concern,” as in recent days their numbers had been straining the country’s testing capacity of around 2,000 samples per day.
Since June 15, Iceland has tested most travellers arriving from abroad for COVID-19 through a border screening initiative – the only exception being those arriving from six “safe countries,” and the few who opt for a 14-day quarantine instead. Þórólfur underlined his belief that border screening had proved its worth in local efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the initiative should continue. The National University Hospital’s Virology Department, which processes nearly all COVID-19 samples taken in Iceland, has renovated their facilities and changed their testing methods to increase capacity since this spring. Equipment has been ordered that should triple the current capacity of 2,000 samples per day, but due to global demand, it will not arrive until October.
Instead of limiting the number of arriving travellers, Sigurður Ingi suggested it would be possible to distribute the processing of tests over a longer period, meaning some travellers would wait longer than 24 hours for test results. “Screening and processing samples over a slightly longer period of time is a possibility if there is a big difference [in the number of arrivals] between days,” he stated. He added that it is unlikely that more countries will be exempted from testing in the near future as COVID-19 case numbers abroad continue to rise.