The Government of Iceland announced yesterday new loosening on COVID-19 measures. The general limit on gatherings is raised from 20 to 50, with ongoing emphasis on distancing and other personal precautions.
The new rules allow fans to attend sporting events and higher number of spectators to attend cultural events, where attendees are seated, face in the same direction, wear facemasks and the opportunities for mingling are reduced.
The maximum number of people allowed cultural, religious and sports settings, as well as shops will be 200. Bars and restaurants can stay open until 23:00, and capacity restrictions at public swimming pools and gyms have been loosened.
Those who test positive in first screening may be required to isolate in a managed facility
Temporary measures at border are intended allow speedier loosening of domestic restrictions
Those who provide valid proof of vaccination are not required to provide a PCR-test prior to boarding and are also exempt from screening and quarantine measures at the border
Iceland will implement a new system, based on the ECDC colour scheme on 1 May
No cases of community transmissions have been identified since 20 January
New border measures will come into force on February 19 which requires all arriving passengers in Iceland to present a negative PCR taken within 72 hours of their time of departure to Iceland.
This is in addition to the current system of double screening, that also requires all arriving passengers to submit to a PCR test upon arrival, followed by a 5-day quarantine and a second PCR test. Those who provide valid proof of having been vaccinated against COVID-19 are not required to provide a PCR-test prior to boarding and are also exempt from screening and quarantine measures at the border. The same applies to those who can provide proof of prior infection.
A new regulation on border measures also includes provisions that require individuals to isolate in managed isolation facilities (quarantine hotels) if the first border test is positive and the infected individual is unable to provide credible plans for self-managed isolation. The requirement for isolation in a managed facility may also apply to individuals who are infected with virus strains that are classified by the Chief Epidemiologist as particularly worrisome in terms of contagion and morbidity. These measures were introduced to the Icelandic cabinet by the Minister of Health earlier today. The stricter measures are based on recommendations by the Chief Epidemiologist.
Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrín Jakobsdóttir said: "By requiring every passenger to present a negative PCR test prior to boarding we are reducing the likelihood of a person starting a journey while unknowingly infected by the virus. Many countries in Europe have already introduced similar measures and we have already announced plans to allow travellers from low-risk countries to bypass quarantine measures from 1 May on the condition that they present a negative PCR test prior to boarding. We believe that requiring a negative PCR test prior to boarding is an effective and proportional requirement, especially in light of the fact that people now have good access to such testing in most countries in Europe."
The current levels of COVID-19 in Iceland are low and are being closely monitored, with only one active infection having been diagnosed domestically in a person outside quarantine since 20 January. The domestic 14-day incidence rate stands at 1.9 per 100,000 inhabitants. 24 people are currently in-home isolation with an active infection, none over the age of 60.
Minister of Health, Svandís Svavarsdóttir said: "We view these tighter control measures as a way to allow us to ease the domestic measures sooner and allow us to start taking gradual steps towards normalcy, while maintaining utmost caution. This is a delicate balance, as easing of domestic measures increases the risks associated with imported cases. However, we have had very good experience with our current system of double screening so any additional layer of risk reduction will give us increased confidence."
The Minister of Health, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, has approved proposals from the Chief Epidemiologist regarding cautions relaxations to the restrictions on gathering sizes as from 8 February. The general limit on the number of persons in a gathering will continue to be 20, but with more exceptions than have been allowed up to now. The 2-metre social distancing rule and the obligation to wear face-masks remain in place. Night-clubs, bars, gaming establishments and slot-machines can open again, subject to certain conditions. Audience numbers attending stage performances will rise from 100 to 150, and religious and life-stance associations will be permitted to hold ceremonies, including funerals, attended by a maximum of 150 guests.
The maximum number of customers permitted in shops will be 150, taking account of the floor area; the same will apply to visitors to museums and galleries. Fitness centres will be permitted to open their changing facilities again, and guests will be able to use their exercise equipment, subject to certain restrictions. A new regulation allowing for these changes has been issued and will remain in force until 3 March 2021.
Around 4,500 people in Iceland have received their second vaccination injection against COVID-19 and will thus be considered fully vaccinated. The Directorate of Health is now finalizing a digital solution that enables those individuals to obtain a vaccination certificate online at www.heilsuvera.is. The certificate must be in accordance with existing European standards and the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis. The aim is to facilitate the movement of people between countries, so that individuals can present a vaccine certificate at the border and be exempt from COVID-19 border measures in accordance with the rules of the country concerned.
As announced earlier this month, the Minister of Health has decided that vaccination certificates that meet the Chief Epidemiologist of Iceland’s guidelines and are issued in an EEA/EFTA state will be valid at the Icelandic border. Those presenting such a certificate are exempt from official border restrictions and are therefore not obliged to undergo a screening.