From Iceland — COVID-19 In Iceland: deCODE Genetics Will Screen General Population For Virus

COVID-19 In Iceland: deCODE Genetics Will Screen General Population For Virus

Published March 9, 2020

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Magnús Andersen

CEO of deCODE Genetics Kári Stefánsson (shown above) intends to screen the entire Icelandic population for COVID-19, of which there have been 60 confirmed cases at the time of this writing.

While almost all of these cases come from three flights returning from Italy and Austria, with the arrivals put in quarantine while testing is underway, the virus has unfortunately found its way into the general population.

Kári’s desire to screen the general population was not without controversy, as both the Data Protection Authority and the Scientific Ethics Committee initially believed Kári required a special permit in order to conduct the screening. However, Fréttablaðið now reports that both bodies have reversed their position on the matter, as the screening is considered clinical work; not a scientific study.

In fact, a statement from deCODE emphasises that people’s personal data will not be permanently recorded nor put in the company’s general knowledge bank. Rather, the purpose of the screening is meant to inform those who have symptoms whether or not they have COVID-19, in conjunction with the Directorate of Health, in order to assist already ongoing efforts.

This screening is expected to go forward within the next week.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include dry cough, fever, and aches in the bones. If you are worried you may have COVID-19, have been to any of the high-risk areas or in contact with anyone who has within the last 14 days, you are urged to call 1700 from an Icelandic phone number or +354 544 4113 from any other phone, where a health care professional will give you further information and guidance.

To prevent transmission or contact with the virus, the cardinal rule is to wash your hands frequently before eating and after touching common surfaces, and avoid touching your face. If you must sneeze or cough, do so into the crook of your elbow or into a tissue. It also naturally follows that you should avoid contact with sick people.

The Directorate of Health in fact has extensive information in English on COVID-19, including a handy FAQ.

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