2020 coronavirus pandemic in Iceland

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2020 coronavirus pandemic in Iceland
COVID-19 Outbreak Cases in Iceland.svg
Map of the pandemic in Iceland (as of 27 March)
  1-4 cases confirmed
  5-49 cases confirmed
  50-499 cases confirmed
  500+ cases confirmed
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
First outbreakWuhan, Hubei, China
Index caseReykjavík
Arrival date28 February 2020
(1 month and 5 days)
Confirmed cases1,319[1]
Severe cases19[2] (total ICU patients from beginning)
Official website

The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic was confirmed to have reached Iceland in February 2020. As of 2 April, the total number of cases registered is 1,319, of which 284 have recovered and 4 have died.[1] With a total population of 364,260 (as of 31 December 2019), the infection rate is 1 case per 357 inhabitants which is one of the highest in the world, though this is attributed to more tests have been carried out per capita in Iceland than any other country[6]. These include a screening of the general population run by Icelandic company deCODE genetics to determine the true spread of the virus in the community.[7]

The response to the pandemic by Icelandic health authorities has focused on early detection and contact tracing and social distancing measures such as an ban on assemblies of more than 20 persons. As a member of the Schengen area, Iceland is restricting unnecessary travel by persons who are not citizens of the EU, the United Kingdom or the EFTA countries into the area but has not made other formal restrictions against international or domestic travel.


Origin of COVID-19 infections in Iceland[a]
Imported  Italy 42
 Austria 39
  Switzerland 9
 United States 6
 United Kingdom 2
 Denmark 1
Unspecified Asia 1
Unknown 184
Total imported 284
Communal 659
Undetermined[b] 77
Total 1,020
COVID-19 cases in Iceland ()
     Deaths        Recoveries        Active cases
# of cases
1 (+0%)
3 (+200%)
9 (+200%)
16 (+78%)
26 (+63%)
37 (+42%)
45 (+23%)
50 (+11%)
58 (+16%)
65 (+12%)
81 (+25%)
90 (+11%)
117 (+30%)
138 (+18%)
161 (+17%)
180 (+12%)
199 (+11%)
247 (+24%)
330 (+34%)
409 (+24%)
473 (+16%)
568 (+20%)
588 (+3.5%)
648 (+10%)
737 (+14%)
802 (+8.8%)
890 (+11%)
963 (+8.2%)
1,020 (+5.9%)
1,086 (+6.5%)
1,135 (+4.5%)
1,220 (+7.5%)

January 2020

The Department of Civil Protection declared an uncertainty phase on 27 January in response to the unfolding outbreak of COVID-19 (known at the time by the provisional name 2019-nCov) in China.[8]

February 2020

On 28 February, Iceland confirmed the first case of COVID-19, an Icelandic male in his forties, who had been on a ski trip to Andalo in Northern Italy and returned home on 22 February; when he developed symptoms after his arrival, he was quarantined at Landspítali hospital in Reykjavík.[9][10] Subsequently, The National Commission of the Icelandic Police declared an Alert Phase.[11]

March 2020

On 1 March, a second and a third case were confirmed, an Icelandic male in his fifties who had returned home on 29 February from Verona, and a female in her fifties who had returned home from Italy via Munich.[12]

On 2 March, additional six cases were confirmed, bringing the total to nine: five men and four women. All cases to date have been in the Reykjavík area. Five of those cases have been traced to Italy.[13] In response, the Directorate of Health has defined Italy as a risk area for the disease, and all those arriving to Iceland from Italy are being asked to go into a 14-day home quarantine.[14] The ninth case is that of an Icelander who had spent time in Austria and flew home on 1 March.[15] After additional cases were traced to Ischgl in Austria, the Health Directorate defined Ischgl as a high-risk area.[16] Authorities in the Tyrol state of Austria however contend that the Icelanders returning from Ischgl probably became infected on their flight from Munich but this is considered "very unlikely" by Icelandic health authorities as this group presented symptoms very soon after the flight.[17][18]

On 3 March, in an official press report, sanctions were announced for those who break the quarantine, which includes up to three months in prison, as it is considered an intentional contagion of the virus.[19]

As of 5 March, around 400 people are in home-based quarantine in Iceland and around 330 individuals have been tested for the virus, but no cases of transmission within the community had been identified. Among individuals who had been tested for the virus, 35 had been confirmed as infected with COVID-19, but officials warned that this figure would rise when additional test results become available in the next days.[20]

On 6 March, the total number of infected rose to 45, including the first 4 cases of local transmission of the virus.[18][21] Iceland's Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management declared a civil protection distress phase within minutes of local transmission of COVID-19 being officially confirmed.[22]

On 7 March, 5 additional cases were confirmed: 3 cases of local transmission and 2 from previously defined high risk areas. All seven confirmed cases of local transmission are in the Reykjavík area. A total of 484 tests have been administered to date.[23]

On 8 March, the total rose to 58, a total of 10 of which are cases of local transmission.[24] Three cases identified on 8 March were of Icelandic residents who had returned to Iceland on a special flight from Verona on 7 March; all passengers were Icelandic residents who had spent time in high-risk areas, and special precautions had already been taken to ensure that they would remain isolated from other passengers on arrival to Keflavík International Airport.[25]

On 9 March, two additional passengers from the special flight from Verona on 7 March tested positive for COVID-19.[26] Three cases of local transmission were identified and two cases of Icelandic residents returning from ski areas in the Alps, bringing the total to 65.[27]

As of 8 March, no COVID-19 patients were ill enough to require hospitalisation.[28]

On 11 March, it was reported that a COVID-19 patient had developed more severe symptoms and admitted to hospital, thus becoming the first patient in Iceland to develop more than mild symptoms of the disease. Also on 11 March, 90 people in total had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 700 were under quarantine.[29]

On 13 March, it was announced at a press conference that universities and secondary schools would be closing as of Monday 16 March, on which day a ban on public gatherings of over 100 would be put in place.[30]

On 15 March, it was reported that three COVID-19 patients in Iceland were now in hospital, one in intensive care, and a health clinic in the capital city area (in Mosfellsbær) has been closed after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. A total of 171 cases have been confirmed, a majority of which can be traced to ski areas in the Alps. Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated that half of all persons in Iceland who have tested positive for COVID-19 were already self-quarantining (after either returning home from international travel or having been in contact with an infected person), suggesting that measures to control the outbreak through quarantine and isolation in Iceland have been effective so far.[31] An estimated 2500 persons are self-isolating, with the number rising daily.[32]

On 17 March, the first person with coronavirus was confirmed dead, an Australian citizen around 40 who was visiting Iceland with his wife.[33] He sought medical attention because of serious illness and died shortly after arriving at the Húsavík health clinic.[34] His symptoms were atypical and his condition worsened extremely quickly. With the permission of his family, it was reported on 19 March that he had developed pneumonia and that COVID-19 was the probable cause of death.[35]

On 23 March, an Icelandic woman in her early 70s passed away from COVID-19 after a week-long battle with the illness.[5]

April 2020

Prevention Measures

On 24 January, the Directorate of Health announced preventive measures to curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Passengers arriving at the Keflavík International Airport with signs of respiratory infection and asymptomatic individuals who had been either in Wuhan for the past 14 days were medically assessed at the airport.[36]

From 2 March, healthcare workers in Iceland were being encouraged to avoid travel and to remain in the country.[37]

As of 16 March, no official social distancing measures or limitations or bans on public gatherings are in effect.[38] However, organisers cancelled or postponed a number of upcoming events, including the annual conference of the School of Humanities of the University of Iceland, Hugvísindaþing, which was set to have taken place on 13 and 14 March.[39]

At a press conference on 13 March, it was announced that public gatherings of more than 100 would be banned and universities and secondaries schools closed for four weeks. Later that day, announcements were made that stated or emphasised that:

  • panic-buying was unnecessary;[citation needed]
  • no shortage of food or medicine was foreseen;[40]
  • elementary schools and preschools would not be closed, although restrictions would be in place to maximize social distancing within schools; and that
  • all schools in the Reykjavík area would close on 16 March in order to prepare.[41]

The Directorate of Health and The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management have jointly launched an official website,[when?] with the latest information in Icelandic and English.[42]

On 16 March, the supermarket chain Samkaup announced that 27 grocery shops throughout Iceland would have special shopping times for vulnerable members of the public, including the elderly and those with chronic and underlying illnesses. Beginning 17 March, select Nettó and Kjörbúðin locations would reserve the hour from 9 to 10 a.m. for those shoppers at greatest risk of severe complications should they contract COVID-19.[43]

As of 18 March, the whole world is defined as a high risk area. All travel abroad is discouraged and residents in Iceland who are currently abroad are encouraged to return home as soon as possible. Residents in Iceland who arrive from abroad will now go into quarantine.[44]

On 21 March, a stricter ban on public assemblies was put in place in Vestmannaeyjar. Assemblies there with more than 10 persons would now be prohibited.[45] A still stricter ban was announced for the Húnaþing vestra district, where all inhabitants have been ordered to stay at home except to buy necessities.[46]

From 00:00 on 24 March, a nation-wide ban on public assemblies over 20 took effect. All swimming pools, museums, libraries and bars closed, as did any businesses requiring a proximity of less than 2 m (hairdressers, tattoo artists, etc.).[47]

Testing and quarantine

Icelandic health officials have used voluntary home-based quarantines for all residents returning from defined high-risk areas and virus testing as the primary means of preventing transmission within the community. Icelandic health officials have tested a proportionately high number of arriving passengers from high-risk areas for COVID-19, with the hope that early detection of infections will prevent their spread. The high number of infections identified thus does not reflect the prevalence of COVID-19 in Iceland.[48][failed verification]

An early concern among Icelandic residents placed in home-based quarantine has been employees' rights to paid leave while being quarantined; it was announced on 5 March that the COVID-19 outbreak will likely result in changes to legislation within the next weeks.[49]

Those with symptoms of COVID-19 were asked to avoid health care centres and hospitals without calling ahead, to avoid exposing vulnerable individuals to the virus. Even mild symptoms of illness should be reported to 1700 (+354 544–4113 for foreign numbers) for further guidance.[50]

Official quarantine facilities for healthy individuals unable to enter a home-based quarantine (for example, foreign nationals) have been established at a local hotel in Reykjavík. The Icelandic Red Cross will assist those who require help with acquiring necessities during quarantine and isolation. Any person in quarantine or isolation in Iceland can contact the Red Cross Helpline at 1717 (+354 580 1710 from foreign numbers), which is open 24/7.[citation needed]

Initially, COVID-19 testing for Icelandic residents in quarantine took place mainly in their own homes. Due to the high volume of tests required, the decision was made to use mobile units parked outside health clinics; individuals not experiencing severe symptoms who require testing must currently contact 1700/+354 544–4113 to book a time and location.[28]

A shortage of tests has reduced the volume of COVID-19 testing in Iceland, hampering control and tracing efforts. It was announced on 22 March that an order of 5000 swabs set to arrive the following week had been reduced at short notice by 3.000.[51] The unexpected discovery of an additional 6.000 swabs in a warehouse was announced on March 26, 2020.[52]


  1. ^ a b c "Tölulegar upplýsingar". (in Icelandic). Landlæknir & ríkislögreglustjóri. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  2. ^ "COVID-19 á Landspítalanum". Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  3. ^ "Lést af völdum kórónuveirunnar" [Died due to coronavirus]. Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic). 24 March 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  4. ^ "Ferðamaður sem lést á Húsavík reyndist smitaður af kórónuveirunni" [A tourist who died in Húsavík was infected with the coronavirus]. Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic). 17 March 2020. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  5. ^ a b Sunna Valgerðardóttir (24 March 2020). "Liðlega sjötug kona látin af völdum Covid 19" [A woman in her seventies dead due to COVID-19] (in Icelandic). Retrieved 24 March 2020.
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  7. ^ "COVID-19: First results of the voluntary screening in Iceland". Nordic Life Science—the leading Nordic life science news service. 23 March 2020. Retrieved 30 March 2020.
  8. ^ "Óvissustig vegna kórónaveiru (2019-nCoV)". Almannavarnir. Ríkislögreglustjórinn. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
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  10. ^ "Kom til landsins 22. febrúar – veiktist hér á landi" [Came to the country on 22 February – got sick here in Iceland] (in Icelandic). 28 February 2020.
  11. ^ "First Case of COVID-19 in Iceland". Almannavarnir. 28 February 2020. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  12. ^ Freyr Gígja Gunnarsson (1 March 2020). "Annar Íslendingur með COVID-19 veiruna" [A second Icelander with the COVID-19 virus]. RÚV (in Icelandic). Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  13. ^ "Þrjú ný COVID-19 tilfelli og níu smitaðir á Íslandi" [Three new COVID-19 cases and nine infected in Iceland] (in Icelandic). 2 March 2020.
  14. ^ "Press release. Coronavirus-COVID-19. 02.03.2020". Icelandic Directorate of Health. 2 March 2020. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  15. ^ Sólveig Klara Ragnarsdóttir (3 March 2020). "Níundi smitaði Íslendingurinn hafði verið í Austurríki" [The ninth infected Icelander has been in Austria]. RÚV (in Icelandic). Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  16. ^ Skíðasvæðið Ischgl í Austurríki í hóp skilgreindra áhættusvæða. Retrieved on 6 March 2020.
  17. ^ "Coronavirus: Isländische Gäste im Tiroler Oberland dürften sich bei Rückflug im Flugzeug mit Coronavirus angesteckt haben". Land Tirol (in German). 5 March 2020. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  18. ^ a b "Tvö innanlandssmit og neyðarstigi lýst yfir". Vísir (in Icelandic). 6 March 2020. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
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  20. ^ "COVID-19 smitin orðin 35 talsins". RÚV (in Icelandic). 5 March 2020. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  21. ^ "Innanlandssmitum kórónuveiru fjölgar". 6 March 2020. Retrieved 7 March 2020.
  22. ^ "Neyðarstig almannavarna vegna COVID-19". Almannavarnir (Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management). 6 March 2020. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  23. ^ Sólveig Klara Ragnarsdóttir. "5 ný smit greind í dag - þar af 3 innanlands". Retrieved 7 March 2020.
  24. ^ Brynjólfur Þór Guðmundsson (8 March 2020). "Sex til viðbótar greinast með COVID-19". Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  25. ^ Sólveig Klara Ragnarsdóttir (8 March 2020). "Þrír farþegar úr Veróna fluginu smitaðir af COVID-19". The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RÚV).
  26. ^ "Tveir til viðbótar úr Verónaflugi smitaðir". The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RÚV) (in Icelandic). 9 March 2020. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  27. ^ Dagný Hulda Erlendsdóttir (9 March 2020). "Smitin á Íslandi orðin 65". Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  28. ^ a b Alma Ómarsdóttir (8 March 2020). "Enginn á sjúkrahúsi vegna COVID-19" [Nobody is hospitalized due to COVID-19]. The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RÚV). Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  29. ^ "90 greindir með COVID-19 – einn lagður inn á sjúkrahús" [90 diagnosed with COVID-19 - one hospitalized]. The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RÚV). 11 March 2020. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  30. ^ Ingvar Þór Björnsson (13 March 2020). "Samkomubanni komið á og skólastarf takmarkað". RÚV (in Icelandic). Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  31. ^ Andri Yrkill Valsson. "Einni heilsugæslu lokað - staðfestum smitum fjölgar" (in Icelandic). Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  32. ^ Þórdís Arnljótsdóttir. "Viljum bara að hrausta fólkið smitist" (in Icelandic). Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  33. ^ Elliott, Alexander. "Infected man dies in Húsavík". Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  34. ^ Jelena Ćirić. "Foreign Tourist With Coronavirus Dies in North Iceland". Retrieved 17 March 2020.
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  39. ^ "Hugvísindaþing 2020". Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  40. ^ "Upplýsingafundur Almannavarna um COVID-19" (in Icelandic). Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  41. ^ Jóhann Bjarni Kolbeinsson. "Hvorki grunnskóli né leikskóli á mánudaginn". RÚV. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
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  43. ^ Birgir Þór Harðarson. "Sérstakar verslanir fyrir eldri borgara og viðkvæma" (in Icelandic). Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  44. ^ "Útvíkkun áhættusvæða vegna COVID-19". Embætti landlæknis. Retrieved 19 March 2020.
  45. ^ "Fjöldasamkomu með fleiri en tíu bannaðar í Eyjum". Ríkisútvarpið. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
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  47. ^ Alma Ómarsdóttir. "Hert samkomubann: Ekki fleiri en 20 mega koma saman". Retrieved 23 March 2020.
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  49. ^ "Samkomulag um launagreiðslur til fólks í sóttkví" [Salary pay agreement for people in quarantine]. RÚV (in Icelandic). 5 March 2020. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  50. ^ Questions and answers regarding novel coronavirus (COVID-19). (27 February 2020). Retrieved on 2020-03-06.
  51. ^ Freyr Gígja Gunnarsson. "Pinnasending til Íslands skorin niður um 3.000". Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  52. ^ Erla María Markúsdóttir (26 March 2020). "Fundu óvæntan lager með sex þúsund pinnum". Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic). Retrieved 27 March 2020.

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