Iceland revises COVID-19 border screening rules for citizens, residents

View across Reykjavík in Iceland from Öskjuhlíd Hill. (Kirsty Wigglesworth, File / AP)
View across Reykjavík in Iceland from Öskjuhlíd Hill. The country’s top doctor has changed some COVID-19 arrival requirements in order to avoid false negatives. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/ The Associated Press)
Iceland has rejigged its COVID-19 testing requirements for citizens and residents returning to the country.

Iceland began offering COVID-19 tests at the airport on June 15 as an alternative to a 14-day self-quarantine period. 

Those who opt for the tests were free to move around Iceland while waiting for their results, but are expected to follow public health directives like maintaining physical distancing and frequent hand washing.

However, the country’s chief epidemiologist Thorolfur Gudnason has since recommended that Icelandic citizens and residents who choose the testing option should observe a five-day quarantine afterwards, and then be tested a second time, in order to avoid false negatives from recently infected individuals.

Social networks can inflame cluster infections
A deCode Genetics employee in Iceland works on COVID-19 sampling in this undated photo. Iceland’s chief epidemiologist oversees coronavirus testing for travellers. (deCode Genetics)

The epidemiologist said the new measures should apply only to residents and citizens as they have extensive social networks in Iceland that could easily become a conduit to cluster infections in the case of false negatives.  Tourists and travellers with limited social networks in Iceland do not pose the same risk, the country’s top doctor said.

In a news release on Friday, the Ministry of Health said it had accepted the recommendations and they would be put into effect by July 13.

Greenland’s five-day quarantine window applies to everyone

Neighbouring Greenland has had a five-day quarantine requirement after arrival since passenger flights resumed June 15.

Travellers arriving in Greenland are required to prove they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 within the last five days. They must then self-quarantine and get retested on day five of their arrival in Greenland.

If they test negative, their quarantine can end.

On Thursday, the Greenlandic government released data that 3,850 passengers were tested since the reopening, and there have been zero positive COVID-19 cases. 

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Inuit gov. in Labrador, Canada tells out-of-province travellers to stay away despite ‘Atlantic bubble’, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Finland joins other Nordic countries in virtual tourism due to pandemic, Yle News

Greenland: Greenland extends COVID-19 entry requirements until July 20, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland lowers price of on-arrival COVID-19 testing, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norwegian Arctic wilderness tourism hit particularly hard by coronavirus, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: All Russia’s North Pole cruises rescheduled to 2021, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Sweden seen as major source of COVID-19 in Western Finland region, Yle News

United States: Airline shutdown creates new challenges for rural Alaska, The Associated Press

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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