Coronavirus in Iceland | Covid-19 Restrictions & Other Information

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Svanhildur Sif Halldórsdóttir

Svanhildur Sif Halldórsdóttir

Iceland has earned praise and headlines for its reaction to the new coronavirus. Its strategy of large-scale testing, tracing and isolating has proven effective so far. The country is now building on that experience to create a safe place for all who wish to visit by offering COVID-19 tests upon arrival.

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How Iceland is handling the COVID-19 pandemic

From the very first stages of the outbreak, Iceland looked well equipped to handle COVID-19 domestically. In late January 2020, the Department of Civil Protection declared an uncertainty phase, during which time they began target testing. As such, an entire month of screening went ahead before the first patient was even identified.

A rainbow in front of Skógafoss Waterfall.
Photo: NordicSoul

In March 2020, the government decided to ban large public gatherings, though restrained from implementing any stricter lockdown procedures. Instead, they remained focused on testing and tracing infections. Those who tested positive, as well as those with whom they had been in contact, were quarantined. 

To combat the spread of virus, the Directorate of Health enlisted the help of the Reykjavík-based biopharmaceutical company, deCODE genetics. Together, they performed nation-wide testing, providing all who signed up with a COVID test, not just those showing symptoms. The result yielded new leads for scientists regarding how the virus behaves, making it easier to track and isolate infected people. 

As borders opened around the world and tourism began to pick up, many countries saw a spike in COVID-19 cases. Even with thorough testing at the borders, Iceland was no exception. 

A few cases popped up in the country after the border tests produced a false negative. To prevent infected people who’ve gotten a false negative to spread the virus further, all travellers must now submit to a second test 5 days after arrival. Further details about these tests can be found in the chapter below.

A road in Iceland
Credit: Traveo

Iceland received its first batch of vaccinations on December 28th, with the program being rolled out the day after. The COVID-19 vaccination is free of charge in Iceland, and optional to take.

The health authorities are administering the vaccine by priority groups, namely frontline health care workers and the elderly.

Visiting Iceland during times of COVID-19

Northern Lights above a mountain and under the stars

Iceland’s borders reopened for travellers from the Schengen area on the 15th of June 2020. However, they remain closed for those outside of the Schengen area.

Those wanting to visit Iceland need to pre-register at the Official COVID-19 information site.

Since the15 of January, 2021, all new arrivals need to take two COVID-19 screening tests, separated by a 5-day quarantine.

Below is a video of guidelines issued by the Icelandic government for travellers visiting Iceland.

Getting tested in Iceland for COVID-19

The first tests are being carried out at the main ports of entry to Iceland: Keflavík International Airport, Reykjavík Domestic Airport, Akureyri Airport, and the town of Seyðisfjörður. 

The Primary Health Care of the Capital Area, deCODE genetics, and the Landspítali University Hospital’s department of biological and viral sciences perform the tests. Ten stations have been set up at Keflavík Airport which will be able to service 200 people an hour. 

All those who travel to Iceland via Keflavík International Airport must have on a face mask during the flight and while in the airport.  

Both tests are free of charge. The first takes place upon your arrival to the airport, and the second can be performed at health clinics around Iceland. You will be informed by text or email as to the address and time of your second appointment.

Boeing airplane from Icelandair over a field of lupine flowers.
Photo: Wikimedia CC: Milan Nykodym

How to quarantine in Iceland

After entering Iceland, travellers must go straight into quarantine and remain there until getting their second test results back. Here you can find a list of accommodations that welcome guests for quarantine.

It should be noted that those who break quarantine can face a fine of ISK 150,000-250,000 ($1,100-1,800/€900-1,500), depending on the severity of the violation.

What are you allowed to do during a quarantine:

  • You should stay in your room as much as possible but you may leave to seek necessary health care services, after consulting with a primary care clinic (see a list of health clinics below).
  • You may not have direct contact with a person who is not part of your travelling party.
  • You are allowed to go for walks, but you must keep at least 2-metres between you and other pedestrians. However, you may not stop in common areas of your accommodation nor visit national monuments, museums or other popular tourist destinations and public outdoor areas.
  • You may not go out for supplies, i.e. to grocery stores, pharmacies, post offices, banks, etc. Accommodations welcoming guests during quarantine periods will supply you with food and other necessities.
  • You may not visit restaurants, bars, swimming pools, theatres, fitness centers, cinemas, shopping malls, or other places where people gather.
  • You may not use public transport such as city buses and domestic flights. The use of taxis, rental cars and private vehicles is permitted as well as the use of airport transport buses after you arrive in the country.
  • If you have a car at your disposal, you are allowed to go on short drives. However, you are not allowed to go to crowded tourist destinations, use public toilets, nor interact with others in close proximity, e.g. at drive-thru restaurants. Driving long distances is not permitted except upon arrival when it may be necessary in order to reach your quarantine location.

Health clinics offering COVID-19 tests in Iceland

Scheduled visits to the health clinics for the second test are available between 8 AM and 4 PM. Traveo is more than happy to help our customers make an appointment. Here is a list of health clinics that offer COVID-19 tests:

  • Reykjanes Peninsula: HSS, Skólavegur 6, 230 Reykjanesbæ. Phone: 4220500.
  • Selfoss, South-West Iceland: HSU, by Árvegur, 800 Selfoss. Phone: 4322000.
  • Vestmannaeyjar, South Iceland: HSU, Sólhlíð 10, 900 Vestmannaeyjar. Phone: 4322500.
  • Höfn in Hornafjörður, South-East Iceland: HSU, Víkurbraut 26-31, 780 Höfn. Phone: 4708600.
  • Egilsstaðir, East Iceland: HSA, Laugarás 17-19, 700 Egilsstaðir. Phone: 4703000.
  • Akureyri, North Iceland: HSN, Hafnarstræti 99, 600 Akureyri. Phone: 4324600.
  • Ísafjörður, Westfjords: HVEST, Torfnes, 400 Ísafjörður. Phone: 4504500.
  • Borgarnes, West-Iceland: HVE, Borgarbraut 65, 310 Borgarnes. Phone: 4321430.
  • Stykkishólmur, Snæfellsnes Peninsula: HVE, Austurgata 7, 340 Stykkishólmur. Phone: 4321200.
  • Reykjavík: Suðurlandsbraut 34, 108 Reykjavík, ground floor. Open 10 AM – 3 PM Monday-Friday.

Visitors who test positive for the coronavirus will receive a call from the COVID out-patient ward of the National Hospital. They will have to go into isolation until further tests can be performed. Those who do not have access to a suitable location to self-isolate, will be given accommodation at a specialised isolation centre at no cost to them.

The crater of Kerið, it's aquamarine water and red flanks and a lady with a yellow jacket in front of it.
Photo: Wikimedia CC. Scoundrelgeo

How to download the COVID-19 tracking app

In addition to tests at Keflavík Airport, travellers to Iceland are encouraged to install the automated tracing app, Rakning C-19, created by the Department of Civil Protection’s Contact Tracing Team. 

The app is available for Android and iOS devices and in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Icelandic, English, and Polish. The device tracks the user’s GPS location to let them know quickly if they have been in contact with an infected person. 

It is also through this app where visitors will get their results from their COVID-test. Iceland’s strong data protection law makes sure that the information gathered is only available to the Contact Tracing Team with the user’s consent.

Visiting Iceland after May 1st, 2021

Atlantic puffin on a cliff in Dyrholaey in the south of Iceland

On the 1st of May, 2021, Iceland’s borders will take up a new colour-code system for countries based on the number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the preceding 14 days. Right now, everyone visiting will need to take two COVID-19 tests separated by a 5-6 day quarantine, but with the new system, travellers from orange and green countries may be able to skip the quarantine.

Countries will be separated into three categories: red, orange, and green. Those arriving on or after the 1st of May from either green or orange countries can present a negative PCR Covid-test from their home country and then take a second test at the airport. This means that they can skip the 5-6 days quarantine and go and explore Iceland’s beautiful nature shortly after they arrive.

Travellers are still urged to uphold the 2-metre rule, wash their hands, wear masks, and download the COVID-19 tracking app.

Countries with new cases under 25 per 100,000 and overall positive cases of 4% or less will receive the colour green. Orange countries are those with new cases of 50/100.000 and over 4% overall or 25-250/100.000 but with percentage under 4%. Countries with a higher rate of cases will be given the colour red.

The list of countries and their colour code will be found soon on covid.is.

COVID-19 cases in Iceland today

Referring to the above infographic will provide you with up-to-date information on how COVID-19 is currently affecting Iceland. 

Underneath the label Incidence, domestic infections, you can see how many new infections Iceland has per 100,000 people. This index is used by countries so as to easily compare infection rates with one another. 

This index is used again when referring to Incidence, border screening, though only refers to those entering the country . 

The boxes below indicate in quarantine and in screening quarantine. The first refers to the number of domestic cases quarantining, while the second refers to the number of new arrivals in the 5-day quarantine explained earlier in this article.

In isolation is the number of active COVID-19 infections currently in Iceland, whereas hospitalised, of course, shows the number of people receiving medical care for the virus.

New domestic infections refer to new diagnosis of the coronavirus with Icelandic borders, and not those who have recently travelled to the country.

Photo: @mikeywchapman

COVID-19 precautions in Iceland

Visitors are encouraged to follow simple precautionary guidelines when travelling in Iceland. 

This means frequent hand-washing and social distancing — keeping at least 2 metres (6 ft) between you and other people. That shouldn’t be too hard in one of the least densely populated countries of the world.

Berufjörður fjord in the east of Iceland offers breathtaking views
Photo: NordicSoul

Tour companies, museums, shops, and restaurants are offering disinfectant and/or gloves to its customers, and are making sure to clean surfaces thoroughly after each client. Masks are now mandatory in most shops and pharmacies as well as on public transportation.

A ban on social gatherings of over 20 people is in place. 

In the capital area, all bars, pubs and nightclubs are closed. Restaurants are allowed to stay open until 10 PM each night. 

Swimming pools are also open. This includes privately owned spas, such as the Blue Lagoon and Mývatn Nature Baths.

Many of Iceland’s private spas — as well as tour companies and hotels — are offering discounts or other deals on entry to alleviate the closures’ financial costs. 

A woman relaxing at the GeoSea Baths in Húsavík.
Photo: Admission to GeoSea Geothermal Sea Baths in Húsavík

How to get to Iceland in 2021

Those looking to visit Iceland can do so via flight or cruise ships

The cruise ship ports with COVID-19 testing stations are in the capital Reykjavík, as well as the northern town of Akureyri, Ísafjörður in the Westjfords, and Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland.

The majority of visitors to Iceland arrive via flight. Below is a list of destinations and airlines flying to and from Keflavík International Airport as of the 11th of January 2021. This plan is subject to change.

  • Air Baltic
    • Riga
  • Atlantic Airways
    • Vagar
  • Icelandair
    • Amsterdam
    • Boston Logan
    • Copenhagen
    • Frankfurt
    • London Heathrow
  • Lufthansa
    • Frankfurt
  • Wizz Air
    • Gdansk
    • Katowice
    • Vienna
    • Warsaw
    • Wroclaw

Furthermore, the domestic airports in Reykjavík and Akureyri also provide international flights between Iceland and Greenland.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Recognisable symptoms of COVID-19 include: 

  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Bone and muscle ache
  • Fatigue
  • Problems related to the lower-respiratory system.

People are recommended to wash their hands regularly, as well as cover their mouths when sneezing or coughing. This should be second nature to most people anyway. In small crowds, it is also best to stay two metres away from one another.

If you are already in the country and seriously believe you are showing symptoms of the virus, contact the Red Cross. The Red Cross service number is (+354) 544 4113 or, if you have an Icelandic phone number, 1700. In case of emergencies, call 112.

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