Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, many countries are experiencing some rough turbulence, and Iceland is no exception. Confronting this health crisis has revealed new challenges, and has led to new ways of thinking and looking for solutions.
Iceland has been navigating these demanding times with the guidance of the Directorate of Health, the Chief Epidemiologist, and the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management. The wellbeing of the whole nation is a common goal, and official institutions are uniting with individuals in their efforts to achieve it.
In this video from May 12, Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir tells Christine Amanpour of CNN how the country got the virus under control and what this means for the future of tourism in Iceland.
The effects of the pandemic are serious, but there are ways to navigate through this situation and come out on the other side, more united and stronger. There will come a time when we can again enjoy the world as we know it.
Iceland is a place that has space for everyone and where the nature is as unique as the people. Today in Iceland we are uniting our efforts to overcome this crisis, and when you are ready to travel again, we will be ready to welcome you back. We miss you in Iceland.
In an attempt to control the outbreak and minimize the strain on the healthcare system, Iceland is implementing various measures. Iceland's reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic has been widely covered in the media. Find out more below.
Being an island has given Icelandic authorities easier oversight of people entering the country. This allowed Iceland to apply a 14-day quarantine for all residents returning from high-risk areas since the end of February. As a temporary measure, from March 19, 2020, all areas outside Iceland have been defined as high-risk.
As of April 22, everyone entering Iceland is obliged to undergo quarantine. On May 12, the Government of Iceland announced that it expects to start easing restrictions on international arrivals to Iceland no later than June 15, 2020.
Everyone who has a confirmed COVID-19 case, or is suspected to have it, but does not require a hospital stay has been isolated in an attempt to prevent the virus from spreading further. Based on the data gathered, 57% of those who were diagnosed with COVID-19 were already in quarantine (this figure is from mid-May).
Thorough guidelines on hygiene and preventive measures have been issued early. Many public institutions, workplaces, and businesses have provided their employees and clients with information on the simple actions they can take to make a difference. From posters on how to wash your hands properly to creative videos circulating on intranets and social media channels, the community has taken on a role to safeguard its members.
A powerful information campaign is being carried out with a daily press conference at its center. Every day, Iceland’s emergency leadership holds a press conference to update the community about the status and the latest developments of the situation. The press conference is broadcast live on RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, where Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, Director of Health Alma Möller, and Chief Superintendent for the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police Víðir Reynisson, along with other relevant officers, provide the latest information and measures that are being implemented.
For the daily updates, please visit RÚV’s website in English.
As part of its extensive information campaign, the Government of Iceland launched a website www.covid.is that serves as the main information hub with the latest data, recommendations, and status on COVID-19 in Iceland. The main goal of this website is to provide reliable and data-based information to the community. The website is available in many languages that are spoken in Iceland today: Icelandic, English, Spanish, Farsi, Kurdish, Lithuanian, Polish, and Thai. It provides answers to many common questions, plus it gives guidelines on quarantine and isolation.
Testing for COVID-19 is one of the essential measures to understand and stop the spread of this disease. Icelandic health authorities, along with deCode Genetics (a Reykjavík-based biotech company), are carrying out extensive screening for the virus that causes COVID-19 and have already provided some valuable insights on how the virus spreads and mutates. By mid-May, Iceland has conducted more than 56,000 tests (representing around 15% of its population).
For more statistics on COVID-19 in Iceland, please visit https://www.covid.is/data.
Understanding and mapping how widespread the virus is helps to take proactive control measures. The emergency team has used detective-like actions to trace most of the contact points and piece together an overview of how the virus spreads. In many cases, this allows the authorities to react quickly and quarantine those who have been exposed to the infection.
To facilitate virus tracing, a mobile phone app has been launched and is available under the name Rakning C-19. All residents in Iceland are encouraged to download the app, which is currently available in Icelandic, English, and Polish. The data collected through the app can be used to further support the fight against this pandemic.
As in many other countries, Iceland has introduced a ban on gatherings. From March 24, a ban was placed on gatherings of 20 people or more. This meant that many activities common to Icelandic daily life were closed (including swimming pools, gyms, libraries, and museums).
In response to a steady drop in the rate of new infections, restrictions in Iceland have been eased as of May 4. Larger gatherings are limited to 50 people instead of 20 until June 1, and service providers such as hair salons and dentists have opened their doors again. Museums have reopened.
As of May 18, swimming pools have reopened, and gyms reopened on May 25. Both are limited to 50% of their registered maximum capacity.
Maintaining a reasonable social distance has been one of the early recommendations and currently includes distancing of 2 meters (6.5 ft) between individuals. Staff at many companies and businesses have been working remotely and have had an opportunity to rethink the way they function. Grocery stores and other institutions that remain open have marked their floors clearly, showing a 2-meter distance so their employees and customers can easily follow these recommendations.
While people were avoiding dining at restaurants and cafes, many businesses started offering free home delivery service. The number of people buying their groceries online has increased during the past weeks too. Contactless payment methods or pre-payment allow everyone to keep the safe distance while these recommendations are in place.
It is deep in the Icelandic spirit to rise to the occasion and come together when things get tough. The challenges posed by COVID-19 have again reminded us that visible results can be easier achieved if a community comes together. With this intent, a social media campaign has gained momentum and encourages everyone to be members of Iceland’s civil protection and emergency management team.
A social media campaign supporting the efforts of the authorities has gained momentum, and services have sprung up to support those in need. The Red Cross is offering a counselling phone line, and has volunteers providing services to high-risk locals. Almost 100 people have volunteered to help farmers affected by COVID-19.
Amongst all this, it’s worth noting: toilet paper and pasta have always been readily available in the stores. What did sell out? Workout gear and sports equipment like kettle bells!
To learn more about how Iceland is handling the COVID-19 situation we recommend checking out the following articles:
TIME100 Talks: Iceland Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir On How To Lead Through A Pandemic (video)
Time – 21.05.2020
Iceland Is the Perfect Coronavirus Refuge
Bloomberg – 16.05.2020
Iceland's ancestry records give coronavirus clues
BBC – 12.05.2020
How Iceland beat COVID-19 (video interview with the Prime Minister of Iceland)
CNN – 12.05.2020
Coronavirus shut down production. But Iceland could help Hollywood reopen
Los Angeles Times – 30.04.2020
Iceland contains virus through rigorous testing regime
Sky News (Australia) – 27.04.2020
Iceland claims to have COVID-19 under control (video)
Sky News – 27.04.2020
Iceland Records No New Cases of Coronavirus for the First Time
Bloomberg – 24.04.2020
Iceland's Plan To Stop Covid-19 Actually Works (video)
Bloomberg – 23.04.2020
Iceland Is a Perfect Laboratory for Studying Covid-19
Bloomberg – 22.04.2020
How Iceland tested the most people for COVID-19 per-capita in the world
NBC News – 26.03.2020
How Iceland is already using its wellbeing framework in tackling the Covid-19 crisis
Wellbeing Economy Alliance – 26.03.2020
Iceland’s testing suggests 50% of COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic
ZME Science – 26.03.2020
How Iceland tested the most people for COVID-19 per-capita in the world
NBC News – 25.03.2020
How Iceland Could Hold the Key to Understanding Coronavirus
Vice – 24.03.2020
MSNBC Criticises U.S. for Failing to Control Virus as Effectively as Iceland, an Island of Just 364,000
Free Beacon – 24.03.2020
Iceland has good and bad news about the coronavirus
The Spectator – 24.03.2020
Iceland Launches Unprecedented Economic Package to Cushion Virus
Bloomberg – 21.03.2020
Iceland is Doing Science — ~50% of People with COVID-19 Not Showing Symptoms, ~50% Have Very Moderate Cold Symptoms
CleanTechnica - 21.03.2020
Iceland Offering Coronavirus Testing To All Residents, Even If They Have No Symptoms
Ladbible – 19.03.2020
Everyone In Iceland Can Get Tested For The Coronavirus. Here’s How The Results Could Help All Of Us.
Buzzfeed – 18.03.2020
Belgium: IJslandse coronapionier Kári Stefansson: 'Er komt enkel groepsimmuniteit door vaccinatie'
Knack – 01.05.2020
Belgium: Slechts 10 coronadoden in IJsland, maar: 'Het is nog te vroeg om feest te vieren'
Knack – 28.04.2020
Denmark: Nordens duks: Island har helt styr på corona
Ekstrabladet – 31.03.2020
Germany: Wie Island zur Normalität zurückkehrt
SWR – 05.05.2020
Germany: Inseln im Nordatlantik als Corona-Labors
Telepolis – 30.03.2020
Germany: Islands strikte Corona-Regeln
ZDF – 16.04.2020
Germany: Corona im Ausland: Die Lage im Überblick
Telepolis – 05.05.2020
Finland: Islanti tukahdutti viruksen ja kertoo nyt, miten se onnistui
Helsingin Sanomat – 13.05.2020
Netherlands: Grenzen IJsland half juni open; BBI Travel hoopvol
TravMagazine – 13.05.2020
Netherlands: Waarom IJsland een goede plek blijkt te zijn voor corona-onderzoek
NU.nl – 12.05.2020
Netherlands: Bijna geen corona meer in Ijsland, wat is hun geheim?
NPO Radio 1 – 08.05.2020
Netherlands: Succesaanpak IJsland: heel veel testen en voorzichtige eilandbewoners
NOS – 05.05.2020
Netherlands: Studie in IJsland: “Helft van mensen die positief testen op coronavirus heeft geen symptomen”
HLM – 02.04.2020
Netherlands: 3 keer meer besmettingen per inwoner dan België, maar 10 keer minder doden: wat IJsland ons over het coronavirus leert
VRT NWS – 31.03.2020
Norway: Nå ser hele verden til Island
Dagbladet – 05.04.2020
Spain: Islandia: récord del mundo en pruebas de Covid-19 y ejemplo 'de libro' de cómo frenar la pandemia
El Mundo – 15.04.2020
Sweden: Island slopar karantänskrav och erbjuder virustester för gäster: ”Öppnar dörrarna”
Omni – 12.05.2020