How Iceland beat the Coronavirus

Swimmers at Laugardalslaug, a public pool in Reykjavík, which reopened on May 18th, after an eight-week closure. The pool limits occupancy to three hundred and fifty people at a time.
Valdimar Thorlacius/The New Yorker

Date of Publication: June 1, 2020

Source: The New Yorker

Following the news from China, officials in Iceland’s university hospital began meeting in January to prepare for their first case of COVID-19. They ordered more protective gear for healthcare workers, and assembled a back up team that could help with counselling over the phone.

Their first known case was from a returned traveller on Feb 28. By mid-March, Iceland was seeing between 60-100 COVID-19 cases per day. With a 52 member contact-tracing team, all cases were interviewed and contacts were identified and told to quarantine. Moreover, Iceland’s testing was the highest in the world on a per-capita basis. 

Iceland did not impose a lock down, although a business such as night clubs and hair salons were closed. At the peak of the outbreak, Iceland’s government prevented gatherings of more than twenty people. Restrictions began to be relaxed in early May and by mid-May there were no contacts left to identify. 

With respect to next steps, the Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, is taking cautious steps to reopening the border, experimenting with having individuals choose between testing or quarantining. “We need somehow to insure that people can come and leave the island, and we need to do it without putting too much pressure on the health-care system. So it’s a delicate balance.”

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Summary by: Jayoti Rana