Your summer trip to Iceland might be back on — with a catch

May 13, 2020

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Iceland will welcome international travellers back “no later than 15 June”, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said during a Tuesday press conference.

Since 20 March, foreigners (excluding EU citizens, U.K. citizens, EFTA citizens and people living in the Schengen Area) have been forbidden from entering Iceland, except for essential reasons, according to Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration.

At this time, only travellers from within the approved areas may travel to Iceland, and they must immediately enter a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. But on Friday, Iceland will begin to slowly ease travel restrictions.

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The first phase will allow travellers from the Faroe Islands and Greenland to visit Iceland without enduring a quarantine period, according to The Reykjavík Grapevine, an Iceland-focused magazine and website.

Though precise details are still in development, Iceland expects to ease entry restrictions for visitors from overseas by mid-June.

When an expanded set of travellers are again permitted to visit Iceland, hopefully by June 15, Bloomberg reported that travellers will be able to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival at Kevlavík International Airport (KEF) and, if the results are negative, enter without the mandatory two-week quarantine. Without taking the test, the 14-day quarantine period would still be required.

According to The Reykjavík Grapevine, travellers will also be asked to install a contagion-tracing app.

Travellers would be tested at the international terminal, and then be allowed to head to their hotel or other accommodations while awaiting the results, which could arrive on the same day.

So, who will pay for those tests? An AFP report published by Barron’s said the testing expense will initially be covered by the government, but that travellers will later be asked to repay the cost.

Another possibility for entry without quarantine is that travellers could seek out a clean bill of health from their healthcare provider or a travel clinic prior to departure. If Iceland’s health officials approve of the certificate, visitors may be able to avoid both the on-site testing and the two-week quarantine.

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Iceland’s strategy seems similar to that of Austria, which recently introduced on-site coronavirus testing at Vienna International Airport (VIE). The results, Skift reported, are available within two to three hours and — if negative — allow travellers to skip the requisite 14-day quarantine. The tests cost 190 euros (about £168). Travellers can also provide a health certificate from home that shows a negative test result. Only travellers from within the Schengen Area and exempt individuals are allowed to travel to Austria at this time.

On-site testing for COVID-19 may be the key to reopening borders around the globe.

“Iceland’s strategy of large-scale testing, tracing and isolating have proven effective so far”, Iceland’s tourism minister, Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir, said in a statement.

The U.S. News and World Report called Iceland a “world leader in mitigating the threat from COVID-19” earlier this month. Approximately 15% of the population has been tested, and the coronavirus threat has been declared nearly eliminated.

Feature photo by DieterMeyrl / Getty Images.

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