Iceland is among the first countries in Europe to lift quarantine for all foreign travellers who are vaccinated or who’ve already been infected with Covid-19 and have an immunity certificate.

Iceland is thus making its first steps to reopen to international travellers and bring back some normalcy to its tourism industry.

So far, protocols for foreign travellers allowed into the country remain relatively strict. Only citizens from the European Economic Area (including the EU and Switzerland) can enter the country. All travellers are obliged to complete a registration form and follow infection prevention rules, and are encouraged to download the “Rakning C-19” app. This is a local tracking app to control the virus’s circulation.

Since January 15, 2021, all passengers have had to undergo a PCR test upon arrival in Iceland, followed by a five to six day quarantine and a second screening at the end of quarantine period. The first test is at arrival and the second, five days later. Quarantine is lifted when a negative result is obtained from the second testing.

Choosing a 14-day quarantine instead of taking PCR tests is no longer an option. This procedure will remain in place until May 1st. By then the government plans to take steps to ease restrictions, based on the epidemiological situation at the passenger’s point of departure.

It will follow the “zoning colour” system of the European Union which will give a green, orange, red or dark red colour to EU members according to the epidemic situation.

More flexible rules for vaccinated travellers

Iceland is already showing more flexibility for some categories of travellers. For those who have previously been infected by Covid-19 and have since fully recovered, upon arrival in Iceland, they need only present a valid certificate of prior Covid-19 infection with a recent negative PCR test. The traveller is then exempted from testing and quarantine, based on their presumed immunity. Only citizens from the EU/EAFTA countries are included in this scheme.

Any traveller who presents a valid international vaccination certificate for full vaccination with an approved vaccine against COVID-19 are exempt. The vaccine certificate can be established in Icelandic, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, English or French language.

Beside usual identity details of the traveller, the certificate must include when the vaccination was performed, if it has been fully completed (two injections), the name of the certificate issuer, the name of the administered vaccine (only comprising the ones authorised by the European Medicines Agency), the manufacturer as well as the batch or lot number of the vaccine.

Less than half a million tourists in 2020

These measures should contribute somewhat to reviving a tourism industry which was severely battered by the pandemic last year. Last year, total international departures at Keflavik airport – the main international gateway to the country – decreased by 75.9% to reach 478,510 travellers. This brought back the tourism industry to a performance equivalent to year 2007. In 2019, more than 1.98 million travellers were recorded at Keflavik airport.

The UK represented the main source of incoming visitors with a 21.6% market share in 2020 followed by the USA with 12%, Germany with 8%, Poland with 7.1% and France with 6.7%. The USA was the largest incoming market to Iceland in 2019 with a 23.4% share.

A steep decline was also recorded for Greater China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan). While Greater China had a share of 7% in 2019 and was the third largest incoming market, arrivals in 2020 represented only a 5.5% market share, pushing the country to rank #6.

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