COVID-19: Iceland opens up after success of Covid testing regime

Iceland became one of the first European countries to start opening up again after the second wave of Covid-19 as it reaps the benefits of having the region’s lowest infection rate.

The north Atlantic island of 360,000 people reopened bars and gyms for individuals on Monday, while more people will be allowed to attend concerts, theatre performances and religious services.

Iceland is at present the only country in Europe rated “green” by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, meaning that it has low Covid infection rates and a test positivity rate of less than 4 per cent.

“These are cautious steps, not big ones, but we think it reflects the fact that Iceland is green,” the country’s health minister, Svandis Svavarsdottir, said when announcing the relaxation a week earlier than scheduled.

Medical Experts say that Iceland has benefited from its relative isolation, but it has also been widely praised for its use of widespread testing and data analysis to track the spread of the virus, as well as the testing and quarantining of all arrivals.

Iceland was hit relatively hard early on in the second wave of the pandemic in September and October — when it had one of the highest infection rates in Europe — but has since stemmed the spread with nearly all cases occurring in quarantine.

Thorolfur Gudnason, Iceland’s chief epidemiologist, said that while the country appeared to have the virus under control at the moment, it had not managed to eliminate it completely in the community and therefore will need to proceed carefully.

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