Iceland will adopt a new testing and quarantine regime this week, which could reduce the self-isolation requirement for travellers returning from higher risk foreign countries from two weeks to less than a week.
Starting on Wednesday (19 August), those travelling to Iceland will be tested on arrival before self-isolating for five to six days. They will then be able to take a second test which, if also negative, will allow them to exit self-quarantine.
The rules will apply to all arrivals in Iceland, excluding children born in 2005 or later.
Iceland’s stringent border checks had previously only applied to returning residents, or those arriving for longer stays.
The country’s health ministry though has decided to strengthen the country’s border procedures, citing rising rates of infection in neighbouring countries.
It comes after the UK government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies, or Sage, last week published minutes from a June meeting in which a similar double testing requirement was suggested – the first on arrival, with a second following an "optimal" five to eight days later.
According to Sage, double testing would "significantly reduce" the risk of false negatives, and could reduce the UK’s current 14-day self-isolation requirement for arrivals from certain higher risk destinations.
Quash Quarantine spokesperson Paul Charles, founder and chief executive of The PC Agency, urged the government to consider a regime similar to that of Iceland.
“The UK quarantine policy is scarring the economy," he said. "It puts off people from travelling and booking ahead, or forces them to consider flouting the law in order to simply go back to work and earn money.
"Let’s see fresh thinking and do what other countries, like Iceland, are doing – a swab test on arrival at the airport at just £50, a mandatory five-day quarantine only, and then a second test free of charge which, if negative, means tourists and business travellers can then continue with their freedom to roam.
"What is the hurdle to doing that in the UK, with its far bigger infrastructure and testing capability than Iceland?”
The Foreign Office has updated its advice for Iceland in light of its new testing proposals.
"All passengers arriving by commercial flights in Iceland can chose to be tested for Covid-19, or self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival," reads the new advice. "The test fee is ISK 11,000 (£60) or ISK 9,000 (£50) if booked in advance. Children born in 2005 or later will be exempt from both testing and self-isolation.
"Until Tuesday 18 August, if you are normally resident in Iceland or plan to stay for 10 days or more, you must take special precautions for five days upon returning to Iceland and be tested for a second time, four to five days after arrival, even if you test negative on arrival.
"From Wednesday 19 August, all people travelling to Iceland opting to test instead of the 14-day quarantine must be tested for a second time four to five days after arrival and now follow quarantine measures until the result of the second test is known.
"This will significantly affect what you can and cannot do on arrival. If you have booked a trip to Iceland, you should contact your tour operator and travel insurer about what this means for you and your plans."