QUESTIONS ABOUT COVID-19 IN ICELAND
Updated April 8, 2021
As of April 6th, Iceland's borders are open to travellers, who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have immunity from the virus.
Until May 1, vaccinated travelers will be tested on arrival and must wait for test results (at accommodation) before they can travel freely. This rule is expected to be lifted on May 1, based on the results of studies about whether vaccinated individuals can transmit the virus.
After May 1, we expect vaccinated and immune traveler to be exempt from testing and quarantine.
Until now, this exemption has only applied to residents of the EU/EEA, but will now apply equally to everyone outside the Schengen area, including residents of the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, according to an announcement made by the Icelandic government.
Proof of Vaccination: Visitors must present proof of vaccination with a vaccine that has been certified by the European Medicines Agency, which includes vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen. This excludes Chinese and Russian vaccines for now. Vaccination cards as approved by the US Centers for Disease Control are valid.
Documentation of Recovery: The exemption also applies to those who can provide valid proof of prior infection. Documentation of full recovery must be in accordance with the requirements defined by Iceland‘s Chief Epidemiologist.
We will update our FAQ below with further details, as they become available.
Iceland has been relatively successful in its response to Covid-19.
The cornerstone of Iceland’s approach has been a policy of early detection, high volume testing, contact tracing, quarantining of individuals at-risk, and isolation of those infected. Iceland has genetically sequenced all its positive COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.
Widespread public support and willingness to abide by social restrictions has also played a major role in controlling the spread of the virus.
A strong focus on public education began in March, 2020. This has included press conferences on a near daily basis with Iceland's Chief Epidemiologist and Civil Protection Department broadcast live on Icelandic media outlets.
Government announcements and statistics related to the pandemic are updated daily at www.covid.is.
A number of factors have worked in Iceland's favor: Iceland is an island-nation with a limited number of entry points and tightly controlled borders; a small population of 360 thousand people lives in a relatively large area (100,000 sq. km) making social-distancing easier; while a strong healthcare system and supportive population have helped control outbreaks when they occur.
Iceland's health care system has never been overwhelmed and no lockdowns have been imposed. Primary schools have remained open, while secondary schools and universities have relied on distance learning. Various social restrictions -- limitations on large gatherings, the 2-meter rule -- have been imposed and adjusted based on the state of the pandemic at any given time.
The pandemic's impact on the Icelandic economy has been significant, primarily due to the collapse of international tourism. This has been met by forceful government countermeasures.
Vaccinations began in Iceland on December 28th and are progressing at a rate similar to other European countries. Authorities are hopeful a majority of Icelanders will be vaccinated by mid-year.
A study by Australian think-tank the Lowy Institute ranks Iceland as seventh in the world in terms of effectively responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The institute compiled data from 98 countries to determine whether significant variations exist between different types of states in the handling of the pandemic.
As of April 6, 2021, travelers are welcome to visit Iceland, if they can show either:
- Certification of full vaccination against COVID-19 (using the certified vaccines, below*),
- Documentation of having recovered from COVID-19.
This includes travelers from countries outside the Schengen area, such as the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.
For travelers who do not have proof of vaccination or of previous COVID infection, the following applies:
From Europe:There are no entry restrictions for visitors holding passports (or valid residency) from EU/EFTA countries, although they are required to undergo two PCR-tests on arrival in Iceland with 5-6 days of quarantine in between. There are other requirements as well.
From the UK, USA and Canada: The external Schengen borders are closed to residents of the UK, US and Canada, who do not hold proof of vaccination or prior infection.
From other countries: Restrictions have been lifted for residents of some non-European countries, which can change with relatively short notice. The countries (note this is not based on nationality, but on provable residency in the country in question) are:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
The list of countries can changes every two weeks; please consult the official website for up-to-date information: Regarding travel restrictions to Iceland as a result of COVID-19.
* Visitors must present proof of vaccination with a vaccine that has been certified by the European Medical Agency, which includes vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen. This excludes Chinese and Russian vaccines for now.
Iceland continues to implement the European-wide travel restrictions imposed for the Schengen Area. These restrictions will remain in place until May 1st, 2021, when they will begin to be eased.
As of April 6th 2021, anyone who can provide valid proof of full vaccination or proof of prior infection will be exempt from travel restrictions to Iceland. This exemption will apply equally to citizens outside the Schengen-area.
Pre-travel registration: All visitors to Iceland are required to fill out a registration form prior to arrival. Visitors are also encouraged to download and use the COVID-19 app Rakning C-19 (available for Android and iOS). The app contains important information on COVID-19 and how to contact health care services in Iceland.
Pre-departure test: All travelers to Iceland are required to show a certificate of a negative PCR-test taken 72 hours prior to departure. Information about certificate requirements can be found here.
On-arrival testing and quarantine:On arrival in Iceland, visitors are required to take a second COVID-19 PCR test, quarantine for 5-6 days, and then get tested again, for the third time. The second test takes place inside the terminal of the international airport, while the third test takes place at clinics across the country. The two tests conducted in Iceland are at no cost to travelers. Children born in 2005 or later are exempt from testing, but are required to quarantine with parents or guardians after entering Iceland.
Exemptions: Visitors carrying certificates of confirmed COVID-19 infection or vaccination are exempt from testing and quarantine. Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are not accepted (antigen or antibody tests).
Isolation and tracing: If a traveler tests positive upon arrival to Iceland, they may be offered to undergo further tests to determine whether or not they have an active infection. In the case of an active infection, the passenger must self-isolate.
Foreign nationals who are required to self-isolate and do not have access to a suitable location, will be provided accommodation at a dedicated isolation center at no cost to them.
Medical examination, treatment or medical supervision of notifiable diseases, including COVID-19, is of no cost to the patient. This does not apply to an elective PCR test for the diagnosis of COVID-19.
Further details on travel restrictions to Iceland are available here.
Travelers born prior to 2005 must bring proof of vaccination or immunity (prior infection).
Travelers born 2005 or later do not have to be vaccinated but will be tested upon arrival (at the airport). They can travel with their family to their accommodation but will have to be in quarantine (i.e. not go to public areas) while they wait for their test results. Results are expected to be delivered within 6-24. Most US travelers arrive in the morning and we expect results to be delivered later that same day.
If children test positive, they will have to go into isolation in Iceland for 14 days. Their family must go into quarantine for 7 days and then be tested again
Currently those who are vaccinated will also be tested upon arrival and must wait for test results (at accommodation) before they can travel freely. This rule is expected to be lifted on May 1, but as yet to be confirmed, and depends on the outcome of studies about whether vaccinated individuals are able to transmit the virus.
The Icelandic government has imposed a variety of social restrictions since Covid-19 was first detected in Iceland in late February, 2020.
These restrictions have been adjusted based on the state of the pandemic at any given time. Current restrictions went into effect on February 8, 2021 and will remain in effect until March 3.
As it stands, no more than 20 persons can assemble in any particular location. People must maintain social distancing (2 meters) and masks must be worn wherever this is not possible.
Restaurants may be open until 22:00 hrs., but bars and nightclubs are closed. Stores, swimming-pools and gyms are open, given certain restrictions related to the number of people in their premises and assuming guests respect social distancing rules.
Fortunately, Iceland's health care system has never been overwhelmed during the pandemic and no lockdowns have been imposed.
Vaccinations against Covid-19 began in Iceland began on December 28th and are expected to be completed during the second half of 2021.
Vaccinations began in Iceland on December 28th.
Vaccinations are free and optional, although surveys indicate that 90% of the population are in favor of being vaccinated. Authorities plan to vaccinate at least 75% of the population born 2005 or earlier.
How fast the nation can be vaccinated depends on speed of vaccine delivery, which so far has been at the same pace as in most other European countries.
Iceland's Prime Minister, Katrin Jakobsdóttir, was quoted in January saying she is hopeful a majority of Icelanders will be vaccinated by mid-year.
The Icelandic government has so far signed agreements with four vaccine developers -- Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Astra Zeneca, and Janssen (Johnson &Johnson) -- and is in discussions with CureVac and Sanofi as well.
Strong government support has helped the Icelandic travel industry survive a near complete collapse in business due to Covid-19.
According to the Icelandic Tourist Board, 480 thousand travelers visited Iceland in 2020, compared to almost 2 million in 2019, representing a drop of over 75%.
To counter the economic effects of Covid-19, the Icelandic government has introduced a number of economic stimulus measures, including:
- Furlough scheme for workers of hard-hit companies
- Government-backed bridge loans for businesses
- Offset 2019 taxes with 2020 losses
- Defer 2020 tax payments to 2021
- Year-end grants to SME’s who suffered significant losses in 2020 due to Covid-19
- Increase in unemployment benefits and extension of eligibility period.
The government’s goal has been to help companies and core staff weather the storm and preserve necessary infrastructure, knowledge, and experience until the pandemic has been brought under control, so that firms are ready to rehire and resume operations when international travel returns.
These programs have in general been deemed a success. At year-end, bankruptcies within the travel industry were far fewer than had been predicted last spring.
Tourism has in recent years become one of the main pillars of the Icelandic economy, accounted for over 8% of GDP in 2019. In 2019, approximately 20-thousand people were working in the travel industry, or 1 in 10 working age Icelanders.
Due to the collapse in tourism, the rate of unemployment in Iceland rose considerably in 2020 (from 3.9% in December 2019 to over 10.7% one year later), but analysts are hopeful it will recover once international travel picks up again later this year.
A number of airlines have announced plans to fly to Iceland this summer. Here is a summary of what the largest carriers are planning:
Icelandair accounts for nearly half of all airline passengers who travel to Iceland. The airline has announced plans to fly to 32 international destinations in 2021, including 10 flights a week from JFK and daily from Newark. Other destinations in N-America are: Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis, Washington DC, Denver, Chicago, Portland (OR), Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. Icelandair also plans to fly to 22 destinations in Europe this year: Oslo, Bergen, Copenhagen, Billund, Stockholm, Helsinki, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich, Geneva, Zurich, Brussels, London, Glasgow, Manchester, Dublin, Madrid, Barcelona, Milano, and Tenerife.
Deltahas announced they will begin flying to Iceland from New York on May 1st. This flight will be operated 5 times a week using Boeing 757's. Flights from Boston(a new route for Delta) will commence on May 20th and from Minneapolis/St. Paulon May 27th.
United Airlines plans to begin daily flights to Iceland from Newark in June using Boeing 757-200's
American Airlines which has operated a seasonal flight to Keflavik out of Dallas in recent years, had announced it was moving its Iceland operation to Philadelphia, starting in June 2021, but those plans have now been called off and the future of American's Iceland program is uncertain.
Air Canada plans to fly to Iceland from Montreal and Toronto starting early summer.
SAS will introduce daily flights from Oslo and Copenhagen starting in May and plans to add Stockholm by the end of June.
British Airways will offer flights from London.
Lufthansa is currently flying twice a week between Keflavik and Frankfurt, but has yet to announce plans for the summer.
Wizz Air currently flies twice weekly to Warsaw and plans to add flights from 9 other European cities starting in May.
Many countries now require passengers to present a negative COVID-19 test on arrival. (See for example the CDC Order of January 12, 2021.)
The following applies visitors to Iceland who require test results before returning back to their country of origin.
Appointment for test: Contact the nearest health clinic in Iceland to make an appointment for a COVID-19 test due to international travel. (Note: if you need testing on a weekend, please contact the clinic before the weekend.)
It is necessary to state when the trip is planned, so that the timing of the test can be planned. The need for a certificate must be stated. Payments are processed when sampling is ordered.
The test:You will be assigned a barcode for your test and a time to attend. In Reykjavík, the address for the test is Suðurlandsbraut 34, 108 Reykjavík.
You can also be tested outside the capital, but you need to ensure test results are possible within the timeframe you require.
Test results: It can take up to 24 hours for results to arrive by SMS. Note that most authorities do not accept SMS results. A certificate showing the time of your COVID-19 test is required.
Obtaining a certificate for authorities: You can get a certificate in Icelandic or English sent electronically via heilsuvera.is if you have access to the online healthcare platform, or pick up a printed certificate at a health clinic. You should be in touch with your health clinic regarding specifics.
It is important to check whether authorities at your destination will accept an electronic certificate or require a printed one (for example, the UK and US will accept electronic certificates, Denmark requires a printed certificate).
If necessary, a certificate can be obtained at Læknavaktin(after-hours medical clinic) at Háaleitisbraut 68, 103 Reykjavík (open 5pm to 11:30pm), in which case an additional fee will be paid for the service.
Cost of testing and certificate: If you have the European Health Insurance Card your test will cost the same as if you were insured in Iceland. Foreign nationals should bring their passport for identification purposes.
- for Icelandic citizens and residents with kennitala, plus visitors with the European Health Insurance Card: 13,395 ISK
- for others: 24,475 ISK
More details can be found at the website of Heilsugæsla Höfuðborgarsvæðisins (Reykjavík health clinics), currently only in Icelandic.