Iceland Beats COVID, Opens Borders for Tourists

The Island of Iceland, with a population of about 364,000 people, has managed to become one of the first countries in the world to eliminate the COVID-19 widespread. Normalcy slowly returns to the island as curfews on social gatherings and mandatory physical distancing norms were lifted. Schools, gyms, restaurants, workplaces are now open and operating under proper hygiene regulations.

The public healthcare of Iceland and deCODE Genetics, a bio-pharma company headed by Kári Stefánsson, together, started early contact-tracing and aggressive testing to track people infected with the virus based on their international travel history from January 31st, 28 days before the first reported case in the country. “We were following the news from China very closely,” said Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, in an interview with The New Yorker Magazine.  They closely followed the regulations of the World Health Organization (WHO) to curb the disease. As countries around the world reported a shortage in protective gear for its front-line workers, hospital officials in Iceland set out to buy more before the crisis fell upon them. Veteran doctors and nurses were also urged to sign up.

Iceland’s National Crisis Coordination Centre set up a tracking team to locate the carrier of the virus and possible people who have been exposed to it. The exposed individuals were then mandated to quarantine strictly for fourteen days while they waited for their test results. After the initial rampant tests of high-risk individuals, the country welcomed its general population (those without travel history or who were not in contact with anyone diagnosed with the virus) for testing and isolating if the result is positive. “It turned out that (both screens) gave us around the same percentage of infected (0.8%). We did not just screen. We took samples of the virus from every person infected. Even though the mutation rate is not particularly high, the virus had infected so many it has had an ample opportunity to mutate”, said Stefánsson.

Furthermore, the government devised a contract-tracking phone app that simplified the tracking process excessively. To tackle privacy problems, complete transparency was maintained in its working by conducting regular press conferences with their scientists addressing citizen’s queries.

The total figure of confirmed cases in Iceland due to COVID-19 is 1810, of which ten have died. The mortality rate for the same is one of the lowest in the world – one out of every 180 confirmed cases, or just 0.56 percent. In May, only six new cases were detected in the country. And no new cases in the month of June so far.

The authorities have reopened the borders for international travelers with an experimental testing facility. “Utmost care is being taken not to jeopardize the success achieved in Iceland during the COVID-19 pandemic as Iceland prepares to offer tests for travelers on the 15 June 2020,” stated Prime Minister Jakobsdóttir. The travelers could opt to show a certificate confirming a recent negative COVID-19 test, be screened for the virus, or go into quarantine as a precautionary method.





Featured Image Via Canva.

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