It’s been a little while since I wrote with A Luxury Travel Blog but I’m glad to be back and sharing such illuminating news. Hopefully I’ll be sharing more good news on Iceland more regularly again going forward.
Iceland drops all border and domestic restrictions
As of the 25th of February 2022, the Icelandic authorities have made the ground breaking decision to not just reduce current restrictions but remove them all together. As a resident of Iceland, I can say that this will likely create a big boost for travel in the country and allow us to do our jobs in a similar manner as we did before the COVID-19 pandemic. In that respect, it’s great news.
With that said, there is always the worry that the loosening (or removing) of safety measures will create another surge. It is a bold move. But, and it’s a big BUT, things are not the same in Iceland anymore. Not compared to previous surges.
In fact, the Chief Epidemiologist has advised that removing all testing, quarantining, border controls and even mandatory social distancing and mask wearing, is the right thing to do to protect us from the virus. For one simple reason, namely that herd immunity is within reach. A bold statement but one that is potentially a future reality.
Is herd immunity within reach?
Firstly, Iceland has one of the highest vaccination records in the world with over 80% of all people over the age of 5 years old being fully vaccinated.
Secondly, 123,000 people have already been diagnosed with the virus to date with many more believed to be undiagnosed. For reference, that means almost 1/3rd of the population have had the virus officially and another 1/3rd may have been infected without knowing it too, based on antibody testing. Therefore, if close to 2/3rds have already had and recovered from the virus already, then we’re not far from reaching the necessary 80% herd immunity mark.
Thirdly, despite Iceland seeing a big surge in cases for the past few months, the vast majority is the omicron variant with very few people getting seriously ill. At time of writing only 2 people in the entire country are held in the ICU for covid related symptoms.
Should I still protect myself in Iceland?
That is a resounding yes from me. Protecting yourself should always be of paramount importance. I personally will still be wearing a mask whenever I am likely to be closer than 1 metre from people around me in an enclosed space. Hand-sanitising will still be a big factor across the nation and in the most part I believe individuals and companies alike will remain as prudent as they have ever been, even if it’s no longer a legal requirement to do so. After all, no one wants to catch covid, even if the symptoms are likely less severe than in the past. Further more, just because you won’t have to quarantine anymore if you catch it, it doesn’t mean the country you return home to will allow you to to re-enter if you have the virus so it’s best to play it safe and remain cautious anyway.
In fact, the Chief Epidemiologist agrees, despite their assertion that herd immunity is within reach,
We can truly rejoice at this turning-point, but nonetheless I encourage people to be careful, practice personal infection prevention measures and not to interact with others if they notice symptoms
So my thoughts are that you should still avoid unnecessary interactions, avoid large gatherings when possible and wear a mask when you feel uncomfortable.
So what are the new rules now?
My colleagues and I quipped that the new rules are that ‘there are no rules’, which isn’t far away from the truth (for now). To be honest, Iceland has been very impressive at switching the rules to suit the situation at lightning speed which has protected us from any serious outbreaks over the past 2 years. So take what is written below with a pinch of salt and always consult the official COVID page before travelling.
In short, this is what has been removed:
1. There will no longer be a requirement to test when entering Iceland.
2. You do not need to be vaccinated or show proof of previous infection to enter Iceland.
3. No quarantine measures are in place if you catch covid, though special precaution is recommended (isolate for 5 days and as long as you have symptoms, though this is not a legal requirement).
4. Large gatherings are allowed again.
5. Bars and clubs will return to normal hours.
6. Mask wearing and social distancing are no longer required, though prudence is still recommended.
7. Although testing is not required, you still have access to free testing centres in various locations in Iceland.
8. Iceland’s domestic rules have no bearing on future travel so consult with your airline and country of origin for what you need to do to re-enter your own country.
Should I travel to Iceland? Is the time finally right for me?
As always, this is a very personal decision. Not one to be taken lightly.
On the one hand, visiting Iceland has never been more open. Things almost feel like they’re back to normal (in the most part).
On the other hand, the reduced restrictions may have an impact on the likelihood of you catching the virus while in Iceland. This means, despite the reduced rules, personal protection and keeping safe distances should remain a priority.
Therefore, the most important questions you need to ask yourselves are;
1. Do you (or close loved ones) have underlying health considerations that could make catching covid-19 a larger concern?
2. What limitations do you have for travelling home if you do contract the virus in Iceland?
If the risks associated with travel are not something you are comfortable with, then perhaps now is not the time to travel for you.
With that said, travel has become a reality for many people again. Thankfully, some of these people have considered Iceland to be a great destination during the pandemic, showing a small rebound in tourist numbers in the last 6 months. After all, Iceland is set up to allow for plenty of remote activities, often in outdoor settings. Perfect for social distancing and immersing yourself in nature away from the crowds. Something that has become even more important in a cautious world.
One way or the other, Iceland will be ready and waiting when the time is right for you.
See you in Iceland… when the time is right.
Ryan Connolly is Co-Founder of Hidden Iceland. Hidden Iceland specialises in private trips, taking you to some of the hidden gems of Iceland with a passionate and experienced guide.