After gradually beginning its lockdown measures after only six weeks starting May 4, the government of Iceland anticipates that it will continue to ease restrictions regarding international arrivals by June 15.
“The exact details of the revisions will be decided by the government’s multisector working group. However, it is expected they will give travellers the choice between a test for the virus on arrival or a two-week quarantine,” the official government announcement explains.
Minister of Tourism Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir explains in the announcement that the country wants to be appropriately prepared and implement the necessary protocols to protect returning travellers as well as safeguard the progress the country has made in managing COVID-19.
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He added that the country’s approach to the pandemic, driven by “large scale testing, tracing and isolating” has been effective thus far and that Iceland wants to expand on and continue to create an environment that is safe for those wishing to experience a “change of scenery” following what has been a difficult few months for everyone.
Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, also emphasized the point that even though Iceland is an island, it has continually prospered from international commerce and collaboration.
“With only three cases of the virus diagnosed in May, we are once again ready to carefully open our doors to the world. While we remain cautious, we are optimistic as a country that we can successfully begin our journey back to normality,” he explained.
Beginning May 15, select professionals will be permitted to enter the country granted they participate in a “modified quarantine.” These professionals include filmmakers, scientists, and athletes.
The modified quarantine permits businesses to request home quarantine exemptions as long as they adhere to various requirements surrounding their workspaces and implement appropriate safety protocols. Journalists became eligible for this quarantine option on May 7.
Regarding travellers entering the country, the exact parameters surrounding the 14-day quarantine or other verification methods are continuing to be determined and further specified. However, travellers will most likely be expected to download and utilize the country’s official tracing app, which 40% of the population of Iceland already uses.
The app, called Rakning C-19, uses GPS data to construct a map showing where users have been. If a user is diagnosed with coronavirus, they are requested by the Directorate of Health to disclose that information to assist in identifying anyone that may have been exposed to them.
The technology was created to adhere to the most stringent privacy standards, the announcement explains. Information pertaining to a user’s location is locally stored on their device unless shared for the purposes of tracing potential infections.
Iceland’s borders have been open to other Schengen countries for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, and international arrivals have been required to self-isolate for 14 days since April 24. As well, all Icelandic citizens and residents arriving in the country from “high-risk areas” have been ordered to quarantine.
“Iceland will continue implementing travel restrictions imposed for the Schengen Area and the European Union, which are currently due to remain in place until May 16,” the announcement continues.
The Icelandic government will disclose additional details surrounding the easing of quarantine measures by the end of May.