Iceland To Offer Free COVID-19 Tests For Tourists

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Iceland has announced plans to open up the country to tourists in the coming weeks. As part of that plan, they’ll provide COVID-19 tests upon arrival with those tests initially being free.

The estimated cost of each test is 50,000 Icelandic Krona which is about $350. The Icelandic government is planning on covering the cost of the tests for the first couple of weeks of the program, with visitors after that two week period being charged for the tests.

Samples that are taken should be analyzed within five hours. You won’t have to wait at the airport though because you’ll be allowed entry into the country and you’ll be contacted with the results. If the test comes back negative then you’ll be free to continue going on your way. If your test comes back positive for COVID-19, it’s not clear yet as to what the procedure will be, but this will likely be announced in the coming days or weeks. I think it’s safe to assume though that it’ll involve being quarantined for the length of your stay. That quarantine could extend beyond your planned return date, so the delay could prove costly.

While I can understand why Iceland wants to encourage tourism and that one way of doing that is by providing the peace of mind that visitors can easily be tested upon arrival, this doesn’t address the issue of what happens if someone does have COVID-19 before traveling. They’ll have traveled on a plane full of people who’d presumably test negative upon entry, but who could end up being positive for it a few days later due to being in close proximity to that passenger on the flight.

This type of issue is something Nick addressed in a post a few days ago:

Gary makes the argument for travel, in summary saying that thanks to Iceland testing all travelers on arrival and the combination of low population density and low rate of infection, it is likely not any riskier than going to the grocery store. I disagree with Gary’s logic if only because the virus is so relatively new and everything that we think we know about it is based on a very short period of study time and a sample size of cases that have been intentionally and artificially limited in scope (and yet still spread in the millions worldwide) by an unprecedented global lockdown. Comparing what we know about this virus with what we know about car accidents and eating fatty foods is a non sequitur. While I won’t wait decades until we know an equivalent amount about COVID-19, I’ll hold off on making any declarations about the relative safety of travel before we’ve had some more months to see the effects of a return to “business as usual”. My opinion is surely biased by having a young son, a pregnant wife, and a parent who went through chemotherapy last year, but my perspective is that even as someone who loves to travel I just don’t feel a sense of urgency in putting myself and those around me at increased risk yet. The time will come. I don’t need to be at the leading edge on that.

If there was a way that Iceland could somehow subsidize tests ahead of time for passengers who’ve purchased tickets, that would be a slightly better situation. Perhaps by requiring that visitors have a confirmed negative test result before arrival, but by offering to refund them for the cost of that test upon arrival.

h/t One Mile At A Time

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