Iceland: Measures to Address Coronavirus Pandemic

By Misha Radkevitch
Reykavik, Iceland © Einar H. Reynis/Unsplash

Mikhail Radkevitch

Building on our UK-Arctic Coronavirus Observatory, we are now compiling all of the relevant Covid-19 information pertaining to Iceland’s measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, so you can have the information you need at your fingertips.

As of Friday 25 February 2022, all public restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be lifted, both domestically and at the border.

The following restrictions applied prior to this announcement and remain here for reference:

  • International Travel: All travellers (applies to all Icelandic citizens, EEA/EFTA citizens and third country citizens (individuals who are neither citizens of EEA/EFTA states nor citizens of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or the Vatican – e.g. UK nationals), who are exempt from travel restrictions (see below) MUST upon arrival to Iceland either:
    • Present a valid certificate of full vaccination against COVID-19 or certificate of previous COVID-19 infection, and a negative PCR or antigen (rapid) test that is no more than 72 hours old before departure to Iceland.
      • From 30 August 2021: If a traveller has recently been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has a positive PCR test that is older than 14 days (isolation completed) but younger than 180 days, they do not need to present a negative PCR or rapid antigen test at the border. This is the only exception from the duty to present a negative Covid-test upon arrival to Iceland. 
    • OR – Present a negative PCR test result (no older than 72 hrs at departure),  undergo PCR testing at the border upon arrival, and quarantine for 5 days that ends with a second PCR-test.
      • As there is now limited access to official quarantine facilities in Iceland – travellers must themselves ensure appropriate housing while in quarantine.
    • Exemption list: 
      • Icelandic citizens
      • EEA/EFTA citizens as well as citizens of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican
      • Relatives of Icelandic or other EEA/EFTA citizens/residence permit holders or citizens/residence permit holders of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or the Vatican
        • Relatives are only exempt from the travel restrictions if they are travelling to Iceland in order to visit a relative who legally resides in Iceland.
      • UK nationals (and their family members) benefiting from the BREXIT Separation Agreement who have a right of residence in Iceland prior to 1 January 2021.
      • Foreign nationals with a valid residence permit or another type of right to stay or reside in Iceland or any other EEA/EFTA state or Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or the Vatican.
      • Foreign citizens that are verifiably residents in and travelling from one of the following countries (list updated 17 January 2022):
        • Bahrain, Chile, Colombia, Hong Kong (SAR), Indonesia, Kuwait, Macao (SAR), New Zealand, Peru, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay
        • Those who are not fully vaccinated or with a confirmed previous infection will need to present a certificate of negative PCR-test before departure, and undergo two PCR-tests and a 5 day quarantine in between tests upon arrival
      • Foreign citizens who can provide appropriate proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a prior COVID-19 infection 
    • People travelling from Greenland can travel without restrictions as it is considered a safe area.
    • Starting on 1 October 2021, all travellers who enter Iceland, and are considered to have close ties within the Icelandic community, will need to undergo an additional COVID-19 test upon arrival in Iceland. They are not required to quarantine, but are asked to limit their interactions in the first few days after arrival. The following groups are considered to have close ties within the Icelandic community are:
      • Citizens of Iceland
      • People who live in Iceland
      • Anyone intending to work or study in Iceland for more than 7 days
      • People with a permit to work in Iceland, including applicants for such permits
      • People seeking asylum in Iceland
      • The families and relatives of those travelling with anyone who belongs to the categories above
    • Following the Omicron variation, new border regulations are in force from 29 November 2021; anyone who has spent 24 hours or more in Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe or South Africa within 14 days of coming to Iceland must take a PCR test, go into immediate quarantine, and then take another PCR test five days later, whether they have been vaccinated or not.
  • Domestic Travel: Passengers who are vaccinated against COVID-19 or have recovered from it are able to fly domestically straight after arrival in Iceland. For passengers undergoing double screening, quarantine is lifted after a negative result from the second COVID test, 5-6 days after arrival in Iceland. During the quarantine period, passengers are not permitted to use public transport, which includes domestic flights.
  • Closures and Restrictions: The following rules apply and will remain in force until at least 25 February 2022:
    • The general gathering limit is 200 people. Children born in 2016 and later are not included in this number.
      • The gathering limit does not apply to public transport, including domestic flights and passenger ferries.
    • There is a requirement to wear face masks indoors wherever it is not possible to maintain the 1-meter rule.
      • Children born in 2006 and later are exempt.
    • Pharmacies, grocery stores and other stores have no maximum limit on customers.
    • Events: The 2021 Arctic Circle Assembly (14-17 October 2021) took place as a full scale in-person Assembly in Reykjavík Iceland. 2,000 people gathered for the event as per the existing rules at the time in Iceland.
      • The current rules from 14 February 2022 are as follows:
        • Up to 1000 people may attend an event if the following criteria is met:
          • All guests are seated and not facing each other
          • All attendees wear a mask.
        • Performing arts, cinemas and other cultural events may have up to 200 persons on stage, i.e. during rehearsals and shows.
          • Up to 1000 seated attendees may be accommodated in a given area, provided the criteria above is met.
    • Swimming and bathing pools, spas and gyms, and ski slopes are open for 100% of their maximum allowed capacity.
    • Restaurants where alcoholic beverages are allowed may stay open until 00:00 all days of the week with a maximum of 200 guests in each area and must maintain the 1 meter distance rule. Guests must have left by 01:00.
    • Private gatherings at alcohol licensed premises may not continue after 01:00.
  • Economic measures: Several measures to combat the economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic have been prolonged by the Iceland government (see here). In relation to investing in Iceland, as a member of the EEA, Iceland adheres to the European State Aid Rules. These rules allow for regional incentives for new direct investment in defined areas. In Iceland all the regions outside the capital area are generally eligible for regional investment aid. Commission Regulation (EC) No 651/2014, on General Block Exemptions, declares certain categories of state aid compatible with the common EEA market, which Iceland is part of. These include: 
    • Incentives as Training aid of up to a maximum of 2 million Euros
    • Incentives as aid to SMEs investment, up to 10% of investment cost in Medium Sized Enterprises or 20% of investment cost in Small Enterprises , with a ceiling of 7.5 million Euros
    • Incentives as aid to environmental protection investment projects up to a maximum of 15 million Euros.
    • As of 08 October 2021, Iceland has halted its use of the Moderna vaccine, citing issues of cardiac inflammation as the reason for said stop. (See more here)

Mikhail Radkevitch is a Global Leadership Fellow at Polar Research and Policy Initiative. He is part of the PRPI team behind the UK-Arctic Coronavirus Observatory, and serves as the lead for the Canada and Iceland.
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