Nation digests stricter border rules

15.08.2020 - 09:42
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Frá sýnatöku á Keflavíkurflugvelli Mynd: Vilhjálmur Þór - rúv
All passengers entering Iceland from Wednesday the 19th August will be subject to COVID-19 testing at the border, quarantine for four or five days, and then a second test. Those born in or after 2005 will be the only exemptions and the list of six ‘safe’ countries will be scrapped.

Industry and tourism minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir says that the new rules may mean the government decides to extend the system of top-up benefits that is currently due to expire at the end of this month. The number of people claiming the benefits while they are on reduced hours has plummeted by some 90 percent since the peak in April—but the new border rules are expected to have a negative effect on the tourism industry while they remain in place. 

The ASÍ Confederation of Icelandic Labour is calling on the government to extend the scheme that helped save many jobs this spring. 

Bjarni Benediktsson, finance minister, has said that while the new rules present challenges, they will hopefully allow the country to tackle the latest COVID-19 wave without imposing harsher rules on daily life than are already in place. If successful, this alone is potentially worth hundreds of billions of krónur to the national economy. The very hard rules in place this spring caused significant damage to the Icelandic economy, as with other countries around the world. 

Bjarni wrote in a government memo that the financial benefits of open borders and diverse transport links have been real, but that the gathering pace of the outbreak in all of Iceland’s closest trading partner countries means the economic case for squashing the outbreak at home has now become stronger and the sacrifice more attractive. 

Icelandair director Bogi Nils Bogason says the rule changes will have a negative impact on the tourism industry, including the airline he runs, but that the financial restructuring and bond issue will go ahead as planned.  

As before, Iceland’s borders remain open, despite the stricter conditions to entry. Foreign tourists are still expected to arrive, though it is likely their numbers will drop. It is not yet clear how the new testing regime will affect tourist numbers in Iceland, or for how long the rule will remain in force. 

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Alexander Elliott
Project manager
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