Iceland to Welcome Visitors Starting June 15
After only six weeks of lockdown due to the coronavirus, Iceland will start to welcome visitors on June 15.
Anyone arriving in the country will have to take a COVID-19 test or agree to quarantine for two weeks, according to Reuters.
“Iceland’s strategy of large-scale testing, tracing and isolating have proven effective so far,” Tourism Minister Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir said in a statement to the wire.
Instead of agreeing to take a coronavirus test or immediately quarantine, visitors can present documentation of a clean bill of health from their home country. Everyone will be asked to download the Rakning C-19 contagion tracing app,
The announcement comes after the European Commission announced its plan to lift travel restrictions on its borders.
Throughout the course of the virus’s outbreak, Iceland has only reported 1,799 confirmed cases and 10 deaths, according to government health data. At its peak, Iceland reported 106 cases per day. Now, the daily reported cases are in the single digits, sometimes even zero.
“I didn’t expect the recovery to be this fast,” Iceland’s chief epidemiologist, Thorolfur Gudnason, told The Associated Press earlier this month.
Although Iceland’s population is small, at 360,000 people, the country’s fast rebound time and the low death rate are attributed to the abundance of COVID-19 testing. The rigorous testing was used to track and isolate people who had been infected, even if they showed no symptoms.
The test-and-trace method was used by other countries like the UK but had to be abandoned once the testing system became overwhelmed with patients. In Iceland, biopharmaceutical companies teamed up with the government to increase testing. Over the course of six weeks, Iceland tested more than 13 percent of its population (about 50,000 people), the largest proportion of any country in the world. The approach specifically targeted people with mild to no symptoms.
A Contact Tracing Team made phone calls to anyone who might have come in contact with someone infected with COVID-19. Within a few weeks, the country had a phone tracing app to track potential interactions.
Because of the rigorous testing, Iceland was able to continue life without a total economic shutdown. Only the people who had tested positive for COVID-19 and their close acquaintances were required to self isolate. The rest of the country could continue fairly normally, albeit with caution.
Public gatherings of more than 20 people were banned. And citizens were asked to maintain social distancing of about six feet. Doctors and dentists offices shut down. So did hair salons, night clubs, gyms, pools, art galleries and churches. Anywhere where groups of more than 20 people would gather, according to The Reykjavik Grapevine.
Now groups of up to 50 people can gather and hair salons and other similar businesses can reopen, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir announced earlier this month. Gyms, bars, and nightclubs remain closed.
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