The rate of active COVID-19 infection diagnosed at the border is currently .04%, RÚV reports, or 39 active COVID-19 cases out of 86,000 tests that have been conducted for incoming air and ferry passengers since screenings were initiated on July 15.
In addition to the 39 active cases, 104 were found to have old infections and antibodies to the virus; there are three screenings whose results are still pending. There have also been 25,000 passengers arriving from ‘safe’ countries—Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Germany—who are exempted from COVID-19 border screenings and not included in the figures.
A lot more Danes, a lot fewer Americans
It’s been an unusual and very tourist-light summer in Iceland, with Danish and German nationals making up the majority of foreign travellers. Somewhat surprising is that while there’s been a significant decrease in the number of visitors from nine out the top ten countries whose residents typically visit Iceland, there was a substantial increase in the number of Danish tourists in July. Statistics published by the Iceland Tourist Board show a 32.7% increase, in fact, or 9,949 Danish visitors this July, versus 7,497 in July of last year. There was a 51.4% drop in the number of German tourists this summer, but Germans still account for the second-highest number of foreign visitors this July: 9,220 (versus 18,968 in July 2019). It is a significant jump then down to the third-largest group of foreign visitors this July; 3,181 Polish nationals visited last month, versus 10,429 in July 2019. “This is clearly the German and Danish summer,” noted Skarphéðinn Berg Steinarsson, director of the Icelandic Tourist Board.
Perhaps even more bracing are the figures for the tourists who aren’t visiting Iceland this year, particularly travellers from North America and Asia, which are both very important tourist bases for Iceland. For instance, 65,552 Americans visited Iceland last July; this year, only 362 did. Last July, 15,063 Chinese tourists visited, and 907 tourists from Japan; this July, only 136 Chinese tourists visited and only 15 from Japan. Overall, the visitor numbers are quite stark: there were 231,281 visitors total in July 2019, down to 45,614 in July 2020. (See the Icelandic Tourist Board’s full ‘2020 versus 2019’ tourist numbers here.)
Icelanders not travelling abroad this year
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed Icelanders’ travel habits, too, of course. There has been an almost 80% drop in Icelanders departing from the Keflavík airport this year. Last year, just over 60,000 Icelanders travelled abroad, this year, only 13,300.
There are some silver linings, however. Skarphéðinn Berg says that European tourists and Icelanders travelling domestically tend to spend more time further out in the countryside, and in less frequented parts of the country.