The response of the Icelandic authorities and the goal of measures employed against COVID-19 have been clear from the very beginning. The focus has been on ensuring that the necessary infrastructure of the country, particularly the healthcare system, is capable of handling the workload that inevitably results.
Early identification of risk areas.
All residents of Iceland arriving from a risk area obliged to quarantine and/or be tested.
Strong focus on testing as many people as possible.
Tracing all infections to the extent possible.
Everybody having had contact with infected people ordered to quarantine.
Restrictions on gatherings.
Secondary schools and universities using distance learning and limited running of nursery schools and primary schools.
Strong focus on continuously educating the public and providing information.
Information published on the covid.is website in 11 languages. Regular press conferences with the Chief Epidemiologist and the Civil Protection Department broadcast live by Iceland’s major media outlets.
1. june Ban on unnecessary travel from specified high-risk areas due to the COVID-19 pandemic no longer in force.
31. May The provision stipulating a compulsory stay in quarantine facilities for people arriving from specific high-risk areas ceases to apply. As from that time, only those who do not have access to adequate facilities to undergo home quarantine are required to stay in a quarantine facility.
25. May The restrictions on the number of people who are allowed in one location will be expanded to 150. No restrictions on swimming pools, spas and gyms, camp sites and museums. Maximum number of seated guests at events will be extended from 150 to 300 persons. Additionally, the opening time of restaurants will be extended to 23.
21. May Extention of current government regulation on quarantine, isolation and testing at the border of Iceland in connection with COVID-19 until the coming 15th of June.
18. May New list of areas and countries that are considered high-risk due to COVID-19 enters into force. The definition of high-risk areas affects which individuals must quarantine in a quarantine facility upon arrival in Iceland.
10. May The restrictions on the number of people who are allowed in one location will be expanded from 20 to 50, swimming pools, spas and gyms will be able to receive 75% of their permitted maximum number of guests, the maximum number of participants in sports and stage art events will be 75 per each compartment or on stage, and the maximum number of seated guests at events will be extended from 100 to 150 persons. Additionally, the opening time of restaurants will be extended by one hour.
7. May The definition of criteria for determining whether countries or areas are considered high-risk areas has been revised. In addition to criteria on the incidence rate of infection, a condition will be added regarding the ratio of positive samples which influences whether a region or country is considered a high-risk area or not.
4. May Rules on restrictions on gatherings extended for a week.
27 April A new regulation is issued, banning unnecessary travel from specified high-risk areas due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ban does not affect people living in Iceland, their family members, people travelling for special work or students. The ban does not affect people with vaccination fro COVID-19 or people with certificate that they have had COVID-19 and are no longer infectious.
27 April A new regulation introduces obligation for arriving passengers to stay in a quarantine facility if they come from countries with high infection rate of COVID-19 as defined by the regulation.
15 April Relaxation of public gathering restrictions from 10 to 20 persons and rules follow the guidelines for orange COVID-19 warning. The proximity limits is still 2 meters but 1 in schools. In stores, sports, cultural events and religious organizations have an increased number of people allowed and 100 can attend funerals. Restaurants and pubs are open until 21 but all guests are registered. Swimming pools are open for half of the permitted number.
15 April The whole of Iceland is put on an orange alert due to COVID-19 but the civil protection emergency level is still declared throughout the country.
9 April Reykjavík District Court rules that the government does not have a legal ground compelling all travellers to attend quarantine at a government ruled facility. Travellers are still encouraged to finish the quarantine at the quarantine facility. Clearer requirements are made for home quarantine, regarding housing and rules of conduct.
1 April All travellers coming from high risk countrys are compelled to finish their quarantine at a special government facility, wheater they are living in iceland or tourists. Chief Epidemiologist definitions for high risk countries follows the number of new infections per two week periods.
31 March Schools start again and restrictions follow the orange guidelines for orange COVID-19 warning. All other operations continue to follow red COVID-19 warning. New rules come into force on april 15.
25 March Stricter infection prevention measure regulation with 10-person public gathering ban comes into effect. All school levels, except for pre-schools, are required to start their Easter break early, with a ban on on-site study. A change from previous number restrictions is that children born 2015 and later are not included; previously it was 2005. The reason is the sudden increase in infections, especially amongst children with the so-called British variant. Rules concerning school operations apply until 31 March, and rules on public gathering restrictions apply until 15 April.
25 March The whole of Iceland is put on a red alert due to COVID-19 and the civil protection emergency level declared throughout the country due to COVID-19. This is the third time since the beginning of the epidemic that an emergency level has been declared.
18 March Exemption for people from third countries, i.e. outside the EEA/EFTA area, who have valid certificates issued for unnecessary cross-border travel and is due to enter into force on 26 March. Later postponed to 6 April.
18 March Existing restrictions from 24 February extended to 9 April. Changes regarding cultural events are made so that intervals are still allowed, but catering is prohibited.
16 March COVID-19 infection certificates and vaccination certificates are valid, wherever they come from, if they meet the requirements of the Chief Epidemiologist. Previously, only WHO and EEA/EFTA certificates were valid. People with a certificate are exempt from cross-border operations but are not exempt from cross-border rules.
24 February Relaxation of public gathering restrictions. Now 50 people can come together and up to 200 people at events where individuals are registered in their seats (all facing in the same direction), with a distance of 1 m and the obligation to wear a mask. The relaxations apply, amongst others, to performing arts, spectators at sporting events, lectures and conferences. Restaurants serving alcohol may be open until 23:00, but the last guests must be seated before 22:00 and the restaurant must be empty by 23:00.
24 February New rules on restrictions in schools enter into force. In primary schools, 150 students can now be in the same area. In colleges and universities, a total of 150 students and staff may be in each area, which must be disinfected between groups. Masks are required in colleges and universities where it is not possible to maintain the distance limit (1 m). The rules are valid until 30 April.
19 February Requirement to present a certificate of a negative PCR test before departure and arrival in Iceland. Authorisation is granted to authorities to require people to stay in the quarantine house if the individual has no adequate place for quarantine/isolation. Furthermore, anyone who is diagnosed with other variants of the virus are obliged to stay in the quarantine house.
8 February Relaxation of infection prevention measures within Iceland. Restrictions on gatherings continue to apply to 20 people, but for performing arts and shops, up to 150 adult customers/guests can gather in one area. Pubs and entertainment venues may open and follow the same rules as restaurants. Gambling machines and arcades may open and follow the same rules as e.g. pubs. Gyms may open their equipment areas, with conditions for registration and infection prevention measures.
21 January Electronic vaccination certificates for residents of Iceland made available on Heilsuvera’s website.
15 January Changes to the rules at the Icelandic border. Everyone arriving in Iceland is obliged to be tested twice with a 5-day quarantine in between. This removes the option for people to choose a 14-day quarantine. EEA/EFTA vaccination certificates are also valid. These rules are valid until 30 April. At the same time, a plan of action at the border from 1 May is published.
13 January Restrictions are relaxed and Iceland is moved to an orange level warning due to COVID-19. Restrictions on gatherings are limited to 20 people, but stores will continue to be allowed to have up to 100 customers, depending on the size of the store area. Performing arts may have 50 staff/artists on the stage, 100 adults in the hall and in addition, 100 children born in 2005 and later. Sports activities, indoors and outdoors, with and without contact, are allowed again, and gyms may open under strict conditions. Pubs, nightclubs, arcades and gambling machines are still closed.
13 January Children born in 2005 and later obliged to quarantine upon arrival in Iceland. Previously, children of this age were excluded from quarantine upon arrival in Iceland. Children are still excluded from border testing.
1 January New rules on school restrictions take effect. Upper secondary schools are thus enabled to start on-site studies to a large extent, and more relaxed rules apply to pre-schools and primary schools. The rules take effect subject to the epidemic continuing to recede within Iceland and take into account the reference tables for the orange level COVID-19 warning. It is valid until and including 28 February.
29 December Vaccination against COVID-19 starts. The first to receive the vaccination were 4 healthcare professionals, and this was done live. Subsequently, vaccination of nursing home residents began.
28 December The first shipment of vaccine arrives in Iceland. The vaccine comes from Pfizer and the total dose is 10,000, which is enough for 5,000 people, as each person has to have two doses for full vaccination.
11 December The Icelandic Health Authority signs an agreement with the vaccine manufacturer Pfizer. The first dose is expected to be received by 29 December at the latest, provided that the marketing authorisation is approved by the European Medicines Agency.
10 December Certificate of confirmation of previous COVID-19 infection from countries within the EEA/EFTA area enter into force at the border. Certificates in English, Nordic languages (other than Finnish) for measured antibodies and/or a positive PCR test that is older than 14 days are taken as valid. International vaccination certificate (yellow book) is valid at the border.
10 December Public gathering restrictions relaxed. An increased number of people can be let into stores depending on size, up to a maximum of 100 people. Swimming and bathing pools may open for 50% of the permitted number according to the operating license. Sports high achievers and top divisions within ÍSÍ may train without contact. Performing arts, cinemas and other cultural events are authorised to have 30 people on stage, 50 adult guests and 100 children in addition. The maximum number of people allowed at funerals is 50 people. These rules are valid until 12 January. Less restrictive rules come into effect in schools. Obligation to wear masks is abolished for students in primary schools. Reading areas in upper secondary schools and universities are allowed 30 people. Restrictions for schools are valid until 31 December.
7 December Colour warning system for COVID-19 introduced and enters into force. The whole country is at level red, which is the highest level of risk. Reference tables for each colour are published on covid.is. At the same time, reference tables for all school levels are presented.
4 December The government approves the proposal from the Civil Protection Department of the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police and the Office of the Directorate of Health on a COVID-19 colour warning system. The system is intended to increase the predictability of the epidemic and give people the opportunity to make informed decisions about their own behaviour based on the risk of infection.
1 December Testing at the border is made free of charge. The goal is to encourage people to be tested twice instead of the 14-day quarantine. Valid until 31 January 2021.
1 December Infection prevention measures extended to 9 December.
28 November Regulation on COVID-19 vaccination priorities enters into force.
27 November Landspítali moved down to uncertainty alert level. Was previously at danger alert level.
25 November Samsýn publishes a video about the development of the epidemic from its beginning.
24 November Restrictions on school activities in music schools reduced in accordance with the rules in other children’s leisure activities.
18 November Meeting restrictions and restrictions on school activities reduced. Children’s sports, youth and leisure activities in pre-schools and primary schools are allowed. The mask requirement is for children in grades 8–10 instead of grades 5–10 previously stipulated. The mask requirement for teachers in pre-school and grades 1–7 is removed. Services that require close contact are allowed, so long as a face mask is used. The number of individuals allowed for public gatherings is still 10. Valid until and including 30 November.
12 November Landspítali moved down to danger alert level. Was previously at emergency alert level.
3 November Rules on restrictions of school operations amended. Public gathering restrictions vary by age, but all organised sports and leisure activities are prohibited. Mask requirement for children born in 2010 and earlier, as well as in schools.
3 November Rules regarding the number of customers in shops and restaurants are further explained, and the number of people restrictions in areas are based on customers on the one hand and employees on the other.
3 November Regulations changed and children born in 2011 and later do not have to wear a face mask.
31 October Infection prevention measures are tightened throughout Iceland. Strictest restrictions since the pandemic began. Public gathering restrictions are based on 10 people; all sports activities and performing arts are prohibited. Valid until 17 November. Mask requirement for all individuals born before 2005.
25 October Landspítali University Hospital put on emergency alert level. The hospital was previously at danger alert level.
20 October New regulation on infection prevention measures enters into force. New regulation on restrictions on gatherings due to the pandemic and an amendment to the regulation on restrictions to schooling due to the pandemic.
7 October Stricter infection prevention measures in the greater Reykjavík area. Restrictions on gatherings as of yesterday apply unamended elsewhere. These restrictions will remain in effect up to and including 19 October.
5 October Changes made to rules on gathering restrictions and school operations. The Minister for Health confirms new rules on restrictions on gatherings and school operations laying down stricter measures to combat the spread of COVID-19.
28 September Seating obligations introduced in all restaurants serving alcohol. All restaurants serving alcohol must have seats for all diners and ensure that they remain in their seats most of the time, as is usual in restaurants and cafés.
21 September Closure of pubs and clubs extended to 27 September. The temporary closure of pubs and clubs is extended to Sunday 27 September, inclusive. This measure was taken as a result of the high number of COVID-19 infections traced back to pubs and clubs in central Reykjavik.
21 September Updated guidance for secondary schools and universities. Masks to be used during on-site tuition. The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture issues updated guidance for secondary schools and universities in light of the recent recommendations of the Chief Epidemiologist on wearing masks during on-site tuition in secondary schools and universities in the Greater Reykjavik area. This guidance indicates that students, teachers and other staff of secondary schools and universities should wear masks at all times.
18 September Pubs and clubs in the Greater Reykjavik area temporarily closed. Pubs and clubs in the Greater Reykjavik area are temporarily closed for four days (18-21 September) in order to combat the spread of COVID-19.
14 September Quarantine shortened from 14 days to seven with end-of-quarantine COVID-19 test.
7 September Wider-scale restrictions on gatherings. The safe distance is reduced from two metres to one and the maximum number of people who may gather together is raised from 100 to 200. These changes are in line with proposals from the Chief Epidemiologist. Quarantine may be terminated after seven days if a test at the end of that time reveals no signs of COVID-19 infection. Even after completion of quarantine, individuals must observe infection prevention measures and avoid contact with vulnerable people. Testing is organised by the Chief Epidemiologist and is free of charge. These changes concern domestic infection protection measures and do not cover passengers arriving in Iceland.
31 August covid.is online chat function launched. The aim of this new function is to handle queries relating to COVID-19 in Iceland. The online chat has been set up to streamline and improve public service and to simplify the work of experts working in different fields but all dealing with tasks relating to COVID-19. In most cases, it will be possible to resolve issues via the online chat, but it will sometimes be necessary to direct enquiries to others with specialist knowledge of the topic in question.
19 August Passengers arriving in Iceland as of 19 August may choose either to take two COVID-19 tests with a five-day quarantine interval until the result of the second test is available or to decline testing and quarantine for 14 days from their date of arrival in Iceland.
14 August New rules on restrictions on gatherings. A new Notice on restrictions on gatherings as a result of the pandemic issued by the Minister for Health lays down wider rules on minimum distances in secondary schools and universities and for sports. In all other respects, the general two-metre rule remains in force. Masks must be worn in professional situations necessitating closer contact than two metres and on public transport where the journey lasts longer than 30 minutes. Nursing homes, other healthcare centres and similar institutions must set rules governing their operations, e.g. regarding access by external visitors. The upper limit for the number of people remains 100. There is strong focus on personal and general infection prevention, with regular cleaning in places where people congregate.
30 July Restrictions on gatherings tightened to a maximum of 100 people. Travellers arriving in Iceland from risk areas and staying in Iceland for longer than 10 days must take two tests over that period. Read more
14 July Travellers from Denmark, Norway, Finland and Germany are added to the list with the Faroe Islands and Greenland and, from Thursday 16 July, are exempted from COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements. Read more
10 July On the basis of a proposal by the Chief Epidemiologist, the Minister for Health has decided that, as of 13 July 2020, all residents of Iceland or Icelandic citizens who have chosen to be tested upon arrival in Iceland must observe the a preventive measure regime for 4-5 days before taking a second test. If the second test is negative, the individual in question leaves the preventive measure regime. This is to reduce the chances of an incorrect test result upon entry into the country resulting in large group infections in Iceland. Read more
9 July The results of the SARS-CoV-2 virus antibody tests conducted by deCODE genetics on behalf of the Chief Epidemiologist from 3 April to 20 June 2020 are received by Heilsuvera. The tests covered just over 30,000 people. The presence of antibodies indicates a previous infection and suggests that the person in question will not catch the virus again. Read more
26 June Domestic infection detected again in Iceland. Two more domestic cases of COVID-19 have been detected. A second case was detected this morning, which is thought to be linked to the case confirmed yesterday. The first case originates from outside of Iceland, while the second is a domestic infection. This is the fourth domestic infection since mid-May. An estimated 200 people will need to go into quarantine. Efforts are being made to trace the infections and the case is being treated as a possible group infection in the Greater Reykjavik area. Read more
15 June Passengers arriving in Iceland after 15 June 2020 will be given the opportunity to take a COVID-19 test instead of having to quarantine for 14 days. Children born in 2005 and later do not need to be tested. Testing will be available at Keflavík International Airport and for passengers arriving at other international airports and ports. Travellers must complete a registration form before arrival and follow infection prevention rules. They are encouraged to download the Rakning C-19 tracking app.
Restrictions on gatherings will be further relaxed. The maximum number of people rises from 200 to 500. The current rule of 75% of the authorised maximum number of people at swimming pools and in gyms also expires on 15 June.
25 May Easing of restrictions on gatherings and school operations. The maximum number of people rises from 50 to 200. Gyms may operate with a maximum number of patrons not exceeding half of the maximum number stipulated in their operating licence. All restaurants, including pubs, clubs and gaming outlets, may remain upon until 11:00pm. Maintaining a distance of two metres is encouraged, wherever possible. There are some changes to implementation of the two-metre rule. The aim is to protect those who are vulnerable by creating conditions for those who wish to to keep a distance a two metres.
18 May Swimming and bathing facilities may operate with a maximum number of patrons not exceeding half of the maximum number stipulated in their operating licence.
15 May New quarantine rules enter into force. Everyone arriving in Iceland must now quarantine for 14 days, but with greater scope for work quarantine. All areas except Greenland and the Faroe Islands are now risk areas. This means that no infection prevention measures are imposed in Iceland on those arriving from Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Border rules will be reassessed before 15 June.
4 May Easing of restrictions on gatherings and school operations. The maximum number of people rises from 20 to 50, nursery schools and primary schools may open and sport and youth-club activities may be conducted without restrictions. Efforts are being made to open secondary schools and universities and various other types of operation are re-opening.
24 April New quarantine rules brought in. Everyone arriving in Iceland must quarantine for 14 days from arrival. In parallel, temporary border controls will be adopted at internal borders. These rules are valid until 15 May.
21 April Announcement on easing the restrictions on gatherings and school operations which are to enter into force of 4 May. The maximum number of people rises from 20 to 50, nursery schools and primary schools may open and sport and youth-club activities may be conducted without restrictions. Efforts are being made to open secondary schools and universities and various other types of operation are re-opening.
3 April The Minister for Health announces her decision to extend to 4 May the restrictions on gatherings and school operations which were due to expire on 13 April.
2 April The Rakning C-19 tracking app is brought online and made available in App Store and Google Play. The aim of the app is to make it easier to trace infections.
31 March Iceland signs up to the agreement enabling the country to participate in joint European procurement of various types of healthcare equipment.
27 March The Public Prosecutor sends all chiefs of police in Iceland instructions for responding to and collecting fines for infringements of the Minister for Health’s rules on quarantine and isolation.
24 March Tougher restrictions on gatherings enter into force. The death of a patient at Landspítali University Hospital caused by COVID-19 is announced.
22 March The Minister for Health announces further restrictions on gatherings in line with recommendations from the Chief Epidemiologist. The limit is set at 20 people. The new rules enter into force at midnight on 23 March.
19 March All countries designated as risk areas. All Icelandic nationals and people resident in Iceland returning to Iceland after a visit abroad are obliged to quarantine for fourteen days.
15 March The first results of public testing suggest that there are few unknown cases of infection at large.
14 March The Icelandic authorities advise Icelanders not to travel and encourage those on holiday abroad to bring forward their return journey.
13 March Gatherings restricted to 100 people. Secondary schools and universities closed and limited running of nursery schools and primary schools. The first untraceable cases of infection detected. deCODE genetics begins general COVID-19 testing.
6 March First two cases of person-to-person infection in Iceland confirmed. Both cases are traced back to individuals who had travelled to northern Italy. The Civil Protection Department declares an ‘emergency alert level’.
1 March Iceland designates the whole of Italy as a risk area.
28 February First case of COVID-19 in Iceland confirmed. The Civil Protection Department declares a ‘danger alert level’.
27 February First press conference of the Chief Epidemiologist, the Director of Health and the Chief Constable of the Civil Protection Department of the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police. The conference is streamed by Iceland’s major media outlets.
26 February Iceland designates certain risk areas, such as northern Italy and Tyrol, before other countries and implements more stringent measures. All people arriving from those areas are obliged to quarantine for 14 days.
24 February The Chief Epidemiologist advises against unnecessary travel to four regions in northern Italy.
31 January Meeting held at the National Security Council with the Minister for Health and the Chief Epidemiologist. The Civil Protection Department’s Coordination Unit in Skógarhlíð is activated.
30 January The World Health Organisation declares a global emergency.
29 January The Chief Epidemiologist advises against unnecessary travel to China and recommends 14-day quarantine for people arriving in Iceland from there.
27 January ‘Uncertainty alert level’ regarding coronavirus declared in Iceland. Contingency and response action plans are inspected and stocks of necessary equipment are surveyed.
Objectives and measures taken by the authorities
On 6 March 2020, the Chief Epidemiologist and the Civil Protection Department of the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police declared the highest danger level – emergency alert level – in respect of the pandemic of the virus that causes COVID-19. This was done in accordance with the National Response Plan for Global Pandemics. The measures taken involved key institutions and companies in Iceland which took the necessary action to combat the pandemic. All measures taken in the context of a quarantine situation affect daily life, albeit to varying extents. This is why measures known to be effective are taken. We therefore avail ourselves of tried and tested methods that we know to be effective, such as quarantine for those who have been exposed, isolation for those infected, early detection of infections, and extensive provision of information to the public. Other measures have also been taken to halt the spread of the virus and a ban on gatherings was established limiting the number of attendees to 100 persons. This number was further decreased to 20 persons or less as of 24 March. The Minister of Health has ratified and published rules on COVID-19 quarantine and isolation. These rules apply to all persons placed in quarantine or isolation by the Chief Epidemiologist on the basis of the Act on Health Security and Communicable Diseases.
A prerequisite for these measures is widespread consensus in society to follow advice and to pull together in this huge effort. Infection prevention important not only for personal health but is also in the interest of society as a whole. We are all Civil Protection.
You can consult Civil Protection Department COVID-19 status reports here. Information meetings are also held in the media.
Easily readable information on the coronavirus can be found here. The information was prepared by the National Association of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities.