From Iceland — Stricter Measures At Border For Residents Than Tourists

Stricter Measures At Border For Residents Than Tourists

Published July 2, 2020

Sam O'Donnell
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Chief Epidemiologist Þórolfur Guðnason wants Icelanders and people living in Iceland to quarantine for a few days upon arrival into the country, after their initial test, and then go back for a second test a few days later, Vísir reports. They would have to pay for the first sample, like everyone else entering the country, but not the second one.

This change comes after two people tested positive for the novel coronavirus after undergoing the sampling at the border and not testing positive there. Þórolfur says that these two infections show that there needs to be a gap in time between screenings so that more people with the virus do not slip through the cracks. For the first few days after initial infection, COVID tests do not always detect the virus.

“We want to try to make up for it, and we can do that by taking samples as soon as we arrive, and by putting people we know have a great network here in quarantine and testing them again,” Þórolfur told RÚV.

This new quarantine will not go into effect right away, although Þórolfur hopes that it will soon. The changes need to be worked on in cooperation with those who work on taking samples and testing, such as the capital area health clinics and deCODE Genetics. When asked how long people will need to go into quarantine, he said that the infection should be seen on a test in four to five days.

As of this writing, it is unclear whether more people have been infected in connection with the first infection which slipped through border screening on June 17th when a footballer came to the country from the United States. A man working in the Ministry of Industry was diagnosed with the first third stage infection from that group infection. He was infected by a colleague who had been infected by the footballer.

The other infection reported on July 1st was from a woman who had arrived from Albania on June 20th. It is not clear how many people need screening because of this. “The network of contact of this person has been examined, and it still needs to be determined who needs to be called in and who does not,” Þórolfur said.

It has been two weeks since Iceland opened its borders more fully to Schengen residents. Since then, 18,000 people have arrived in the country via Keflavík Airport, 800 by ships, and 1,100 by private aircraft. In total, samples have been taken from 16,000 people. Twenty were diagnosed with an old transmission and were not contagious. Six had active infections, and two tested negative at the border but later tested positive.

Jórlaug Heimisdóttir, project manager for border screening, said in an interview with RÚV that the testing has been very successful. “When everyone works together, then everything goes well,” she said. It is important for people to register for the testing before they come to the country. Beyond facilitating the ease of testing, it is also much cheaper to pay for the test as part of the pre-payment system.

As ever, those looking for more information or advice should go to the Icelandic Government’s excellent COVID-19 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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