From Iceland — Foreign Media Spotlight On Iceland's COVID-19 Response

Foreign Media Spotlight On Iceland’s COVID-19 Response

Published April 16, 2020

Poppy Askham
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Numerous foreign media outlets have praised Iceland’s COVID-19 response in recent weeks, highlighting its exemplary virus screening programme. American news network CNN has selected Iceland as one of four countries that “got it right”.

Today, CNN highlighted four key aspects of Iceland’s COVID-19 response – aggressive action, preventative measures, the involvement of the private sector and the use of tech to track infections. The network is particularly complimentary about deCODE’s COVID-19 screenings and research, writing that deCODE has “already become a valuable laboratory for the world.” They also show particular interest in the effective coordination of the public and private sector, noting the partnership between deCODE and the National University Hospital of Iceland. The speed with which Iceland responded and the aggressive approach to testing and containment that the authorities took are stressed in the article, which cites the high proportion of people that are already in quarantine when they test positive for the virus as evidence of the authorities’ success.

In contrast to CNN, The New York Times have taken a more critical approach to analysing Iceland’s response. On April 9th the newspaper reported on scepticism about the Icelandic government’s response, in particular highlighting criticism about the decision not to fully close schools and noting medical supply shortages.

The British press has also expressed interest in Iceland as the situation in the UK continues to rapidly deteriorate. The Telegraph newspaper stated that Iceland has the “most aggressive COVID-19 testing regime anywhere in the world” and marvelled at the calm atmosphere in Reykjavík in comparison to countries like Italy and Spain, despite a relatively high number of cases per capita. Meanwhile, The Guardian analysed the country’s response in an attempt to understand how some nations got ahead of the curve when it comes to COVID-19 testing and why the UK is so behind. The Spectator also suggested that Brits might want to start “acting a bit more Icelandic” in order to cope with the UK’s strict lockdown. The magazine writes that Brits may wish to emulate Icelanders’ approach to harsh winter conditions – forming close-knit communities and staying indoors.

Iceland has also featured on Spanish newspaper headlines, with El Mundo describing the country as a textbook example of how to contain the virus.

Notably, deCODE’s latest analysis of Icelandic COVID-19 samples was published in the highly prestigious New England Journal of Medicine yesterday, demonstrating the global significance of its research.

Iceland is well and truly in the international media spotlight as the virus’ infection rate begins to drop. It may be too early to tell if the foreign press’ praise is fully warranted, but for the time being it seems that many countries are eager to learn lessons from Iceland’s pioneering approach to COVID-19.

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