From Iceland — Fastsplaining: This Is How Iceland Handles The Coronavirus

Valur Grettisson
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Iceland is no different from other countries when it comes to the coronavirus, or COVID-19. The first case was discovered in Iceland at the end of February, and a week later, we have 37 confirmed cases at the time of this writing. This perhaps sounds high, but we believe that Icelandic authorities are using a few, but very effective, and even unique methods, that will ensure that this terrible outbreak will not be as severe as it appears to be in some other countries.

First, here are the basic facts

All of the confirmed cases are Icelanders that traveled to Italy and Austria for a ski trip. That means that technically, the virus is not yet spreading between citizens in Iceland. All of these people are in quarantine. And none of them are severely affected. Authorities say that it’s only a matter of time before we get to the point that people will spread the virus in the country, but they believe that these first measures will ensure that this outbreak will not be as serious as for example, in Italy. Here are the things that us at Reykjavík Grapevine, believe that the government is doing right.


Number one: And this is incredibly important: Complete transparency. The Directorate of health, the police, the Red Cross and others connected to the outbreak, are having daily press conferences, even if there is nothing new happening. This is important for a few reasons. It combats false information circling around the internet, it ensures that correct information about sanitation and the correct reaction is delivered to the people. These conferences are live on the biggest news sites in Iceland, in radio and TV. So you can’t miss it.

Paid quarantine

Number two: People actually get paid for being in quarantine. The government, in association with Confederation of Icelandic Employers and the unions in Iceland, have come to an agreement to pay people salaries for being in quarantine. And what’s more, it doesn’t affect their sick leave at all. It’s vital that people stay in the quarantine, for the risk is that a whole company needs to shut down if an employer breaks his quarantine. This is also logical, because breaking quarantine, knowing that you can contaminate, is illegal. You can get a hefty fine or even prison time for it.


Number Three: Coordination between institutions. This is also incredibly important. Health care workers, police, the government and others, are working closely together. And they are doing the heavy lifting. They have tested 368 people for the virus and around 400 are quarantine. Proportionately, for example in the USA, it would mean that the government would have checked and quarantined around 350 and 400 thousand people. So for Icelanders, this is a huge operation.

No bullshit

Number four: And this is kind of related to the point about transparency. Alarmist and conspiracy theorist are not given any platform in this crisis in the media. One of the biggest problems with this first virus – in the age of the internet – is misinformation. Those that are spreading false information are met with very critical thinking, and the population of Iceland is much better at separating nonsense from real facts, because of the daily press conference.

That’s it. This is how we are dealing with things. We hope this helps.

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