Iceland Adds Double Testing & Quarantine For Visitors

Filed Under: Icelandair

Iceland was one of the first countries in the world to introduce what seemed like a viable tourism plan. Well, about two months into opening its borders to visitors, Iceland is tightening up its rules.

Iceland will require double testing & quarantine

Iceland will be imposing more comprehensive border screening measures as of Wednesday, August 19, 2020. As of that day, all arriving passengers:

  • Will have to get a PCR test at the airport upon arrival
  • Will have to get a second PCR test four to five days after arriving in Iceland
  • During those four to five days, travelers will need to self-quarantine; travelers can only stop their self-quarantine after it’s confirmed that both tests came back negative

This applies to everyone arriving in Iceland (meaning visitors and residents), with the exception of children born in 2005 or later.

As an alternative, travelers can just enter a 14-day quarantine.

Why is Iceland adding new travel restrictions?

These new restrictions follow two new clusters of infections having been identified in Iceland since July 23. One was almost immediately contained, and the rate of infection for the other one has slowed down.

Iceland’s 14-day domestic incidence is now 21 per 100,000 inhabitants, which is down from 27 per 100,000 inhabitants one week ago. Currently there are 112 active infections in the country, with 642 people self-quarantined, and one person hospitalized.

The government is also adding these precautions because of the increase in coronavirus cases worldwide, including in Europe.

As Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir describes this move:

“Given the uptick in infections worldwide and the widespread effect that a small infection can have on the functioning of our society, the Government has decided to strengthen our border-screening measures to further limit the number of infections entering the country. These measures will be reviewed and revised according to how the situation develops, both domestically and internationally.

However, we know that there is no way of eliminating the risk of infection. We are confident that our well-established measures of testing, tracing, and isolating, will continue to serve an important role, along with effective early treatment of all patients.”

Iceland’s impressive approach to tourism

Iceland is still only welcoming visitors from a limited number of countries. Since the country belongs to the EEA, it’s following EU recommendations in regards to which countries visitors can come from.

Several months back the plan was for Iceland to welcome visitors from everywhere as of June 15, but with the EU extending restrictions on travelers, that didn’t happen. Instead Iceland is just welcoming visitors from the EU/EEA, and about a dozen “low-risk” countries.

What has stood out about Iceland from the beginning is how responsibly the country has approached tourism in the age of coronavirus — Iceland more or less has coronavirus under control, the country is doing testing on arriving passengers, and the country also has good contact tracing.

Unfortunately even that hasn’t proven to be sufficient (at least by Iceland’s standards), which is why the country is adding more restrictions. Context is of course important here — with Iceland’s recent “spike,” we’re talking about a maximum of 20 new cases per day.

Bottom line

In mid-June Iceland opened its borders in what seemed like the most responsible way imaginable — the country had coronavirus under control, did testing on arrival, and also did contact tracing.

While that plan has mostly worked pretty well, Iceland is adding further restrictions as of August 19, as the country will require two coronavirus tests, plus a four to five day self-quarantine.

I imagine these new restrictions will be a significant deterrent for a lot of visitors, but I also can’t blame the country.

What do you make of Iceland’s new requirements for arriving passengers?

  1. Not to rehash the whole to travel or not to travel issue but…why all this praise of Iceland?
    Are you implying that the place that you just visited hasn’t been responsible because it doesn’t require testing? If that’s the case why did you go there?

  2. Most people visit for a few days
    If there’s a 4-5 quarantine to start with , there’s little point in visiting

  3. I’m not sure responsible is the right word. Cautious may be better. What’s exactly does responsible mean? The country depends on tourism and if you need to quarantine for 5 days then it’s not realistic for most people to visit. Adding that to the number of countries it’s open to, the impact on its economy will be enormous.

    The reality at this point is that some level of infection is inevitable and precaution is good to MINIMIZE risk to everyone. But too many restrictions will cause long lasting harm to the economy and as a result the country

  4. Have anyone heard if the Icelandic government will provide accommodation for the 4-5 days in quarantine or if tourists can arrange their own?

  5. @Ben: please do proper research instead of copying and pasting headlines which causes misunderstandings.

    About the Covid test

    The 1st is at the border on arrival and the 2nd by the primary health care service 4-6 days later. In between the two tests special precautions need to be taken. The 2nd test is free of charge and testing is available at health care services all over the country.

    By the way: greetings from Iceland. And prices have dropped @ Frederik

  6. Yes, but 20 cases per the population of Iceland is the equivalent of 20,000 per the population of the US. Certainly easier to control but no less concerning!

  7. So if you have to self quarantine for 5 days or so, thats my 7 day trip cancelled next month.

  8. This is almost identical to the visitor rules that Sri Lanka will require when it opens up. The government will provide a PCR test and accommodation in a 4-5 star resort for one night near BIA for $100, I think. Then visitors have to stay in an authorized 4-5 star hotel in Colombo for five days at own expense. Colombo is not yet open to foreign visitors; the govt. keeps postponing the date. Although Sri Lanka has had less than 3000 cases and only 11 COVID-19 deaths so far in a population of 22 million, the authorities are desperate to keep the numbers low in order to ensure that hospitals in this poor country are not overwhelmed. It is an Italian visitor who brought the first case of COVID-19 to the island. It is important to note that rules in Sri Lanka, like these rules elsewhere, evolve with time and experience.

  9. Good for Iceland. Now, when will Icelandair ever begin to refund tickets that no longer can be used?

  10. I am out 4 days in iceland in a hotel room then 14 days on a boat from iceland next year, unless the conditions are relaxed from countries with a very low infection rate such as Australia

  11. Don’t blame Iceland. I certainly understand why they wouldn’t want a bunch of americans there, especially from the southern portion of the US

  12. Makes massively more sense to do a repeat test after a few days – the whole test on arrival thing completely misses anyone that has just contracted it before leaving or when in transit!

  13. The requirement for a second test after 4-6 days was already in place. If you look at the number of cases per day over the past few months, it seems like a bit of an overreaction to add the quarantine in between the two tests. Why not ensure people are tested before leaving their country of origin and boarding a plane, with the second test on (or soon after) arrival instead?
    I will unfortunately be cancelling our trip to Iceland today as it will impossible to explore much of the island in 4 days rather than 10.

  14. As with Ian Calland, that’s effectively put the kibosh on our holiday in a few weeks. Little point in going if most of the break is going to be in quarantine. Totally understand from the Icelandic governments point of view but it will have a devastating effect on their tourist industry if the restrictions are extended for a significant period of time.

  15. I have a 5 day trip to Iceland (Golden Circle) planned at the end of October with my family. I will be looking into cancelling it now unless there is news of a relaxing of the present quarantine measures. it is a shame, my daughters were really looking forward to this trip.

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