From Iceland — COVID-19 Update: EU Closes Borders

COVID-19 Update: EU Closes Borders

Published March 18, 2020

Poppy Askham
Photo by
Art Bicnick

The European Union has announced a 30-day closure of external borders to non-EU travellers. All member states have also approved prohibiting non-essential travel between member states during the period.

People from Iceland and other EEA states will still be able to enter the EU, but only for essential travel. Iceland though has not shut its borders.

This EU decision comes amid growing concern about the increasingly rapid spread of COVID-19 within Europe, especially in Italy, Germany, France, and Spain. It is hoped that limiting international travel to EU states will help contain the coronavirus. Officials are working hard to assist tourists stranded in Europe, but returning home from countries outside the EU is becoming increasingly difficult.

The EU’s most extreme measure yet was announced on Monday in a press conference with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. Whilst many nations have already imposed border restrictions, the complete suspension of free travel within the EU, a cornerstone of the organisation’s principles, is a mark of the severity the crisis has reached in Europe.

What does this mean for Iceland?

Iceland is excluded from the complete ban on non-EU travellers; however, the non-essential travel between EU states ban will make it difficult for tourists to find flights home. Work is being done to help stranded travellers though. For specific advice, check the Icelandic government’s help page

The travel ban will undoubtedly have severe consequences for the tourism sector. This could have huge ramifications for the entirety of Iceland’s economy, which has become increasingly dependent on the industry in recent decades.

Icelandic politicians have not welcomed the measure. Yesterday, Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson and Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Justice, told reporters that the Icelandic government had expressed its disapproval to the EU ambassador to Iceland.

For more information on the Icelandic response to COVID-19 listen to our daily COVID-cast or visit the official Icelandic help page.

Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.

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