Corona in Iceland: “European New Zealand” announces its success

I amSlander is Europe’s answer to New Zealand, and not recently because of its green landscapes and natural wonders. Like New Zealanders on the other side of Earth, Icelanders have dealt with the coronavirus pandemic more than a few other countries.

The fact that the Vikings, with their low number of new infections, are currently the undisputed best in their class in Europe, due in part to an isolated situation – as with Kiwis in Down Under – but also to a strategic rigid state.

“Our fight against the epidemic has gone better than we expected,” said Icelandic Prime Minister Catherine Jacobsdottir from the German news agency. The Icelandic route with comprehensive Corona tests and test results in a few hours, consistent contact tracing and strict quarantine and isolation rules may have shown better results than drastic measures in other countries.

“This is the key to our success: easy access to tests for people, traceability, and the scientific approach,” says the prime minister.

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Excess mortality

This strategy is reflected in very few new infections. After peaking in mid-October, the values ​​decreased rapidly. Aside from some positive tests with travelers after their arrival, Iceland recently had six consecutive days without a local coronavirus infection.

With only 6.59 new infections per 100,000 people in the first two weeks of February, Iceland is looking at the comparative figures for European Union Health Authority ECDC Of its kind. Even other northern European countries such as Norway (66), Finland (88) and Denmark (100) – behind Iceland, the countries with the lowest numbers in the European Economic Area – are several times higher. Coronavirus-related deaths in Iceland in the period: 0.

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What are the advantages of Iceland?

It can now be said that Iceland, with its secluded location in the North Atlantic Ocean, has a clear advantage and can only be compared to larger countries to a limited extent – after all, the island has a population of only 360,000, and therefore close to Bochum. Or Wuppertal. Success depends not only on the location and size of the country, but also on stringent procedures, testing, contact tracing and the high degree of confidence of the population in their experts.

It goes without saying that border controls are much easier for Iceland compared to others: Germany has nine countries borders and has many international airports; Iceland can be reached almost exclusively via Keflavík airport near Reykjavík. Anyone entering the country has to submit a negative PCR test no more than 72 hours old since Friday. There is also a Corona test on arrival, five to six days of quarantine and another test after the quarantine period.

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Penafiel, Portugal - February 5: A funeral worker in protective suits places the body of a Covid-19 victim on February 5, 2021 in Penafiel, Portugal. Regarding the country's population size, Portugal has become the country most affected by the Coronavirus in the world. The death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic has reached 13,257 cases, with nearly half of the cases reported since the beginning of the year alone. Just a few days ago, Portugal recorded more than 16,500 new infections per day for a population of just over 10 million. (Photo by Octavio Bassus / Getty Images)

Quarantine is already an important component of Icelandic Corona strategy: without exception, everyone who has been in contact with an infected person must endure it. For comparison: So far, about 6,000 people in Iceland have tested positive for coronavirus – but fewer than 46,000 people have been temporarily quarantined.

Then there is confidence in the experts. Chief epidemiologist Thórólfur Gudnason, Chief of Civil Defense Feder Rennison and Director of Health Alma Muller are often referred to as the “Trinity” – and despite the strict restrictions on public life, most Icelanders follow their guidelines.

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Fitness studios are open and small parties are permitted

That’s why they were rewarded with some relaxation: bars were allowed to reopen this month, and gym training was allowed again. The maximum number of visitors to cinemas, theaters, museums, concerts and religious events has been increased from 100 to 150.

Despite the good situation, epidemiologist Goodnason emphasizes that further mitigation needs to happen slowly and cautiously. “I don’t think the virus has gone away in Iceland.” He said at a press conference on Thursday “I’m worried he’s hiding somewhere.” At first it was left open to what the additional dilution would look like. Just that: “The last thing I recommend is to take off People have their masks. “

Meanwhile, entry requirements are a way for Iceland to strike an important balance in the tourism industry: allowing vacationers to return to the country, but not the new agents of infection. One of the steps in this direction is that travelers can free themselves from testing and quarantine if they can prove a coronavirus infection or be vaccinated against Covid-19.

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The tourism sector, which is very important for Iceland, experienced a sharp decline in 2020: the number of foreign tourists decreased by 76 percent to less than 500 thousand. Will things get better again in 2021? “In the long term, I am optimistic. We expect a certain number of tourists, but we don’t know if that will happen.” Ultimately, it depends on how fast the vaccinations are in Iceland and in other countries.

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A new entry system is now planned from May 1 that could free travelers from countries with lower risk of infection from quarantine. The industry realizes that tourism in Iceland cannot continue without restrictions from now on. “It’s not about“ the sooner the better, ”says Sigrídur Dögg Gudmundsdóttir, head of Iceland’s state tourism agency.“ It’s about the phrase “the safer the better.”

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