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Iceland plans to welcome tourists by June 15 - trialling free coronavirus tests at airport

Upon arrival at Keflavik International Airport, visitors will be able to choose between a coronavirus test or a two-week quarantine period

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Blue Lagoon, Iceland. Photo: Deposit

Blue Lagoon, Iceland. Photo: Deposit

Blue Lagoon, Iceland. Photo: Deposit

Iceland has announced that it plans to reopen its borders to tourists by June 15.

The country will welcome travellers from all over the world, but will subject visitors to either testing or quarantine.

Less than two months after limiting arrivals from international travellers, the country announced its reopening plan, which could be moved up if the number of cases stays low.

According to Iceland's Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the timing "depends on when all the practicalities will be in place."

IcelandAir operates direct flights between Ireland and Reykjavík's Keflavík International, though these are currently suspended at least until the end of May.

Earlier this month, the European Commission extended its ban on non-essential travel from outside the area through June 15.

Iceland is a member of the Schengen area and, according to the ministry, will confer with other member states about opening its external border. In addition, the government will not allow visitors to venture into wider Europe without permission from the other countries.

Since late February, the Nordic island nation has recorded at least 1,800 confirmed cases of covid-19 and 10 deaths. The number of confirmed cases has dropped to four so far in May, one of the encouraging developments that helped influence the recent decision.

Officials have controlled the spread of the virus through such measures as testing and tracing, and will extend these practices to the visiting public.

Upon arrival at Keflavik International Airport, visitors will be tested for the coronavirus at no cost during a two-week trial period. The ministry said the planning group has not yet determined the cost to travellers beyond the initial period.

After the test, the visitors can enter the country and start their vacation, but they must provide a contact number in the event of a positive result. Results can be expected in as little as a few hours.

Visitors can also use the tracing app as a point of contact.

The ministry said health officials may also accept a certificate of recent test results from the visitor's home country, as long as the document meets the government's standards.

Visitors who decline testing will be required to undergo a two-week quarantine.

To prevent a rise in cases, travellers will have to download the tracing app, Rakning C-19. Officials can use the technology to contact visitors about their results; the app also helps investigators pinpoint the source of infection and identify individuals who may have been exposed to the virus.

About 40pc of the country's population of 364,000 has downloaded the app.

The ministry said the app will not misuse an individual's personal information: "The app has been developed following the strictest privacy standards, with location data stored locally on the user's device unless released for tracing purposes in case of an infection."

The country will not place any restrictions on healthy travellers beyond its commonly practiced safeguards, it says.

The ministry said the government will likely loosen limits on gatherings from a maximum of 50 people to 200 participants. Patrons at restaurants and other public places must stay about 6.5 feet (2m) apart.

Most hotels and attractions are open, or will soon open. The Blue Lagoon's website said the geothermal pool will remain closed until May 26.

(c) The Washington Post, 2020

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