From Iceland — Iceland's New Border Policy: What It Means

Iceland’s New Border Policy: What It Means

Published April 21, 2021

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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Yesterday’s announcement from the Icelandic government that they intend to enact a stricter pandemic response at the border has raised numerous questions. While the matter is still being debated in Parliament, it is expected to pass. If it does, it will go into effect immediately and be in place until at least June 30th.

But what exactly does this policy entail?

Who gets quarantined

According to the bill being debated, anyone coming from a country where the coronavirus incidence is 1,000 per 100,000 inhabitants or greater must stay in a quarantine hotel between border screenings, typically for a period of five days. As it stands, this only pertains to four countries: France, Holland, Poland and Hungary. No exceptions are granted for those traveling from these countries.

For those coming from countries where the incidence exceeds 750 people per 100,000, it will be possible to request an exception, but only if this exception is requested at least 48 hours before arriving in Iceland. The chief epidemiologist can grant this exception if the person in question can demonstrate that they have satisfactory dwellings to stay in to wait out their quarantine, although the bill does not define what qualifies as satisfactory.

Those coming from countries where the incidence has been below 750 per 100,000 for two weeks prior to arrival are free to quarantine themselves wherever they please without having to file for an exception.

Ban on “unnecessary travel”

The bill also grants the power to the Minister of Justice to ban any unnecessary travel to Iceland from countries where the incidence exceeds 1,000 per 100,000. The language of the bill specifically says “foreigners”, meaning that those with Icelandic residence can ask for an exception to this, if the Minister chooses to institute such a ban. Those who can demonstrate “a highly important” reason for coming to Iceland can also file for an exception, but what reasons they may be is not defined.

Who decides?

In terms of how countries at risk are determined, two measurements will be used.

First, there is the official colour-coded system used by European authorities. Second, the bill also gives the Icelandic government the power to create their own risk assessment, listing countries considered high risk. This list will be updated every two weeks.


Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated yesterday that for those who can demonstrate that they have been vaccinated, the same rules as before apply: they will be subject to a simple border screening but are otherwise free to come to Iceland.

Vaccinations are also a key component of the government’s domestic pandemic response. The government intends to ease all domestic restrictions as soon as “the majority of all adults have received at least one dose of the vaccines”. They also believe that they can give 67% of those over the age of 16 one dose by June 1st, and that everyone in this age group will have gotten at least one dose by July 1st.

The chief epidemiologist praised this decision, saying that getting at least the first dose should prevent most serious complications that can arise from the virus, and that receiving the second and final dose would follow shortly thereafter. Bear in mind that to be “fully vaccinated” means receiving both doses and allowing for a period of about two weeks to pass.

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