Iceland walks back lifting of COVID-19 restrictions after infection uptick in travellers

Tourists at Djupalonssandur, a beach in Iceland, in 2018. Iceland is delaying the easing of certain COVID-19 restrictions from August 4 to August 18. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)
Iceland is walking back its loosening of COVID-19 restrictions announced July 23, after identifying an increasing number of infections in travellers as well as “domestic spread.”

“In light of the fact that in recent days, imported infections have been increasingly detected here and the spread of COVID-19 disease has become domestic, (Iceland’s chief) epidemiologist believes that care must be taken regarding relaxations in the number limits and opening hours of entertainment and wine restaurants,” the government announced in a news release on Tuesday. 

The news release did not give details on the numbers of imported and domestic infections as of Tuesday that prompted the reversal.

Since June 15, Iceland has required visitors to either observe a 14-day self quarantine period or take a COVID-19 test upon arrival. 

Since July, 16, Iceland has exempted Finland, Norway and Denmark, along with Germany, from COVID-19 screening requirements for entering the country.

Gathering limits, closing times to remain

On July 23, Iceland announced a planned loosening of certain COVID-19 restrictions, after no new domestic COVID-19 infections in the prior three week period, and only 11 active COVID-19 infections detected at border screening during the same period.

A tour bus in western Iceland in 2018. Iceland has slowly been relaxing travel restrictions for certain international travellers saying their lack of close contact with the local population meant there was a low risk of transmitting COVID-19 domestically. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

The country planned to allow groups of up to 1,000 people to gather and allow bars and restaurants to stay open until midnight starting on August 4. 

But now, Iceland will maintain its limit on gatherings to 500 people, and maintain bars and restaurant closing times at 11pm until August 18.

As of Tuesday, Iceland had reported 1,857 confirmed COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began. There’s been 10 deaths. Iceland is currently reporting 34 active infections.

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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