Iceland to review COVID-19 border measures by January 15

People wait in the entrance hall of the Keflavik International Airport, near Reykjavik, Iceland August 4, 2017. Border testing for COVID-19 will be free from December 1 to January 31. (Michaela Rehle/Reuters)
Iceland is planning to keep its current COVID-19 border screening measures in place until February 1, with further decisions on the rules to be made by January 15 at the latest, in light of recent vaccine announcements.

Iceland now offers visitors two choices upon arrival in the country; a 14-day quarantine or a double-testing regime with one test upon arrival followed by a five-day quarantine and then a second test.

“These measures are intended to limit the risk of infections getting into the country across the border,” said Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir in a news release November 21.

Iceland’s double testing regime has been in place since August 19 and was implemented to avoid false negatives. 

“While we can never guarantee that all potential sources of future outbreaks can be stopped, it is prudent to aim to minimize this risk as much as possible. We are hopeful that the development of effective vaccines will allow us to review the border measures in the first weeks of the new year.” 

Free testing starting December 1

Iceland is providing the testing free of charge from December 1. The rule change was put in place to encourage people to get tested at the border rather than chose the quarantine option.

An undated transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, also known as novel coronavirus, the virus which causes COVID-19. “There have been many cases where suspicion regarding the emergence of new infections in Iceland has involved tourists who have only intended to spend short periods in Iceland,” the government said in a November news release, about the need to encourage border testing by making it free. (NIAID Integrated Research Facility/Reuters)

“There have been many cases where suspicion regarding the emergence of new infections in Iceland has involved tourists who have only intended to spend short periods in Iceland,” the government said in a November news release.

“In response to this, it was proposed either that all persons entering the country be obliged to undergo a screening test at the border, unless medical considerations rule this out, or else that the fee for border testing be dropped.”

The free testing is slated to continue until January 31.

New exemption from border measures

Iceland is also adding a new exemption from border measures for those who can provide proof that they’ve already had a COVID-19 infection.

The government says details on the exemptions required will be available on Iceland’s COVID-19 website.

Write to Eilis Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories around the North:

Canada: Elders, internet and COVID-19 dominate most recent meeting of regional gov in Arctic Quebec, Eye on the Arctic

Denmark: Faroe Islands institutes new COVID-19 recommendations until the end of 2020, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: New COVID-19 restrictions for Iceland’s schools and universities, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Sweden’s northernmost county among regions to introduce stricter COVID-19 recommendations, Radio Sweden

United States: After early containment success, there’s now rapid COVID-19 spread in rural Alaska, including the Arctic, Alaska Public Media

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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