Iceland Is Lifting All COVID-19 Travel Requirements, Social Restrictions

According to a government news release, Iceland is set to lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, February 25, including pandemic-related border policies. International travelers will be able to come and go without needing to fulfill vaccination, testing or quarantine requirements.

In so doing, Iceland joins its Nordic neighbors—Sweden, Norway and Demark—in taking perhaps the most profound step toward normalcy the world has seen so far.

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Domestic public protection protocols will also be eliminated, including limits previously placed on social gatherings and school operations, as well as reduced opening hours and capacity restrictions for bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. Gone, too, will be the quarantine requirement for people who test positive for COVID-19.

“We can truly rejoice at this turning-point, but nonetheless I encourage people to be careful, practice personal infection prevention measures and not to interact with others if they notice symptoms,” said the Minister of Health, Willum þór þórsson.

Pending the policy change, foreign travelers to Iceland are required to provide a certificate of full COVID-19 vaccination or proof that they’ve recovered from the virus. From the start of February, vaccination certificates have been considered valid only up to 270 days (nine months) from the date an individual received his/her final dose of a primary vaccine series, unless they’d since received a booster injection.

Although the Arctic nation is currently experiencing a peak in new COVID-19 cases, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist þórólfur Guðnason wrote in a memorandum that, although 2,100 to 2,800 new infections are being recorded daily, “serious illness has not increased in the same manner”. It’s a pattern that’s proven characteristic of the Omicron variant and is no doubt influenced by the fact that 80 percent of Icelanders are now fully vaccinated, according to Reuters’ tracker.

Guðnason opined that, at this point, getting past the pandemic will require “widespread herd immunity”, meaning that up to 80 percent of the population eventually will have contracted the virus and developed natural immune system defenses.

According to Reuters, the Health Ministry expressed this sentiment in a statement, saying, “Widespread societal resistance to COVID-19 is the main route out of the epidemic.” It added, “To achieve this, as many people as possible need to be infected with the virus, as the vaccines are not enough, even though they provide good protection against serious illness.”

With a population of roughly 368,000 people, Iceland has recorded more than 110,000 COVID-19 cases over the course of the pandemic; but, based on antibody testing, the ministry believes that about the same number of Icelanders have already been infected without actually being diagnosed.

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