The government of Iceland has notified the European Commission that Iceland will participate in the EU ban on travel. The goal of the ban is to reduce the spread of the novel Coronavirus, Covid-19. The decision was reached at a meeting of the government this morning. Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir confirmed this with MBL.
“Although travel bans have not been highly regarded by our experts as an effective method of spreading the corona virus epidemic, we have been invited to take part in the closure of the EU and Schengen borders and it is difficult for us to avoid it,” Áslaug said. “International and regional cooperation between states is important in the fight against the virus, and we need the cooperation of the EU and EEA states. On the basis of that and in assessing our interests, we will participate in the actions of the Schengen countries and close the external borders here.”
Áslaug emphasised that although Iceland is participating in these efforts, it only affects tourists arriving from countries outside the Schengen area. British tourists are still defined as EU citizens, and will therefore be allowed to travel to and from Iceland from the UK. Icelanders will continue to be able to travel to countries in the Schengen area that have not closed their borders to other Schengen countries.
The prohibition will also not affect freight. “Myself, the Prime Minister, and the Foreign Minister, have repeatedly stated in all of our conversations with the EU our uniqueness within the region,” Áslaug said. “We are an island far from other countries and we have more to do with air transport and so we have asked for special consideration when we foresee that we want to lift this closure.”
The EU decided to close its outer border for non-EU travelers on Tuesday, March 17th, for 30 days. That same day, it was proposed that all nations in the Schengen region participate in the travel ban. At that time, both the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Foreign Affairs decried the measure taken by the EU. Although it has not been specified when the travel ban will begin in Iceland, it is safe to assume that it is effective immediately, and will last for as long as the EU deems it necessary. At this time, the ban is scheduled to be in place for 30 days from March 17th.
Update: 21/03/2020 This post was edited to add some clarifications about when the ban begins and ends.
As ever, those looking for more information or advice should go to the Icelandic Government’s excellent COVID-19 help page.
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