Iceland reopening for tourists — free coronavirus test included

It’s hard enough for sick Americans to get a coronavirus test, but over in Iceland they’re giving them away.

Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir announced this week that the country would begin allowing tourists to enter as early as June 15. Additionally, each visitor will be given a free COVID-19 test upon arrival, results of which are processed immediately. Those who text negative will be free to enter, while infected tourists will be required to self-isolate for 14 days, at their own cost.

In an official statement, Jakobsdottir explained Iceland would loosen travel restrictions “no later than June 15 2020, while from May 15, some professionals arriving in Iceland — including scientists, filmmakers and athletes — will be eligible for a modified quarantine, Lonely Planet reported.

The statement added those who can prove they recently tested negative may be able allowed to forego the arrival exam, though exactly how to apply for said waiver was not reported.

Newcomers may also be asked to download and join their official contact tracing smartphone app, which is already being used by nearly 40% of their population. The country has been lauded for its rigorous testing and research efforts, which has helped the isolated island country avert disaster.

“When travelers return to Iceland we want to have all mechanisms in place to safeguard them and the progress made in controlling the pandemic. Iceland’s strategy of large-scale testing, tracing and isolating have proven effective so far,” said Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir, minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation. “We want to build on that experience of creating a safe place for those who want a change of scenery after what has been a tough spring for all of us.”

Iceland’s tourism industry leaders are eager to restart the vacation season.

“I believe that if everything goes well, we should see some tourists here this summer,” said Bjarnheiour Hallsdottir, the chair of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association, according to the Reykjavik Grapvine. “For those who want to come, this will be a very real possibility.”

Icelandair has struggled to stay alive amid record-low bookings. The airline recently was forced to lay off 3,000 of its employees, according to Insider.

“There is a lot at stake that Icelandair continues operations, and it’s in reality a life-or-death question for tourism in Iceland,” Hallsdottir continued. “Hopefully people realize that the situation isn’t just about Icelandair but tourism in Iceland as a whole, and not just tourism but the economy and our whole society.”

Out of about 364,000 citizens of Iceland there have been just over 1,800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date, and ten deaths, according to data reported by John Hopkins.

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