How Will Iceland React to Increasing Influx of Tourists?

Tourists on Skólavörðustígur, Reykjavík.

Tourists on Skólavörðustígur, Reykjavík. mbl.is/Árni Sæberg

Vala Hafstað

Icelandic authorities are looking for ways to react to the increasing number of tourists visiting  the country, since Landspítali National University is reaching its maximum capacity in terms of border testing for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, mbl.is reports.

At a press conference yesterday, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason revealed that the Ministry of Transport and Local Government is in the process of drafting a regulation aimed at limiting the number of tourists arriving in the country, should the need arise.

Minister of Transport and Local Government Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson does, however, believe that increasing Landspítali’s capacity for testing, which currently is limited to about 2,200 tests a day, would be the best solution.

Minister of Transport and Local Government Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson.

Minister of Transport and Local Government Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson. mbl.is/Kristinn Magnússon

At yesterday’s press conference , Þórólfur was asked whether it might be necessary to resume testing of travelers arriving from Denmark and Germany – countries peresently exempt from testing – since the number of COVID-19 cases there is on the rise there.

“We may very well have to…take them off the safe list and start testing them,” he responded. “In my mind, that means a change in the number of people we can receive.”

The limiting factor with regard to testing is the equipment for analysis of samples at Landspítali’s Department of Microbiology. New, more efficient equipment, which will increase the capacity for testing, is on the way to Iceland  and expected to arrive in October.

“Whether we like it or not, our capacity is limited,” Þórólfur stated. “All we can do is accept it and adjust to it the best we can.”

Sigurður Ingi states that interest in visiting Iceland in August is increasing among tourists. “We do, of course, have to be able to deal with that,” he states. “One way is to increase testing capacity. Another would be to classify countries in a different way. Still, it is unlikely that the number of countries listed as ‘green’ will increase.

From Landspítali National University Hospital.

From Landspítali National University Hospital. Landspítali/Þorkell Þorkelsson

More likely, some of the ‘green’ ones could become ‘red.’ Simultaneously, Europeans’ willingness to travel could change. We have been analyzing the situation and preparing for the possibility of having to intervene in other ways,” he explained.

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