Like the rest of the world, Iceland also has to face the COVID-19 situation. This European country of approximately 3.5 lakh population registered the first case of COVID-19 virus on the 1st March 2020 and the number of the infected hit a peak on the 5th May 2020. The active cases declining afterwards and on 24th of May there were only three active cases. Iceland’s response to COVID-19 has been widely lauded.
The country’s small population enabled extensive testing; instead of simply testing symptomatic or exposed people, also tested the general population. Along with the Icelandic health authorities, deCode Genetics, which is an organization committed to mapping and understanding the human genome, undertook the task of testing the general and non-symptomatic population for free. Consequently, Iceland has tested a higher portion of inhabitants than any other country, making it easier to trace how the infection spreads. There has been no lockdown imposed; however, the government has been taking measures to spread awareness for voluntary self-quarantine measures. The government also banned gatherings of more than 20 people on 24th of March which was relaxed to 200 from 25th of May.
The strategy followed by the government of Iceland was based on robust testing, contact tracing of infections, social distancing, increasing public’s awareness of hand-sanitation and voluntary self-quarantine, along with strict measures in healthcare institutions. Through effective contact tracing the healthcare workers were able to reach out to people who came in contact with COVID-19 infected people and recommend them to self-quarantine.
The government was very open in communicating with the citizens on the status of COVID-19 situation in the country. Half an hour long daily briefing on Iceland’s local response to the pandemic was relayed on the public’s screens for the past months until the 25th of May. The briefings were led by Þórólfur Guðnason, Alma Möller and Víðir Reynisson who are the Chief Epidemiologist, Director of Health and Director of Iceland’s Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management respectively.
Iceland has shown that robust testing regime, contact tracing, and clear communication to the public can be very effective in controlling the COVID-19 before it could turn into a pandemic.