Policy responses for Iceland - HSRM

Iceland


Policy responses for Iceland

1. Preventing transmission

The section on PREVENTING TRANSMISSION includes information on key public health measures that aim to prevent the further spread of the disease. It details how countries are advising the general public and people who (might) have the disease to prevent further spread, as well as measures in place to test and identify cases, trace contacts, and monitor the scale of the outbreak.

1.1 Health communication

Civil Protection uncertainty phase (the first of three Civil Protection Emergency levels/phases), was declared on January 27th 2020 by the National Commissioner of Icelandic Police in consultation with the Chief Epidemiologist (CE) and the Directorate of Health (DoH). The first Status Report documenting issues regarding the COVID-19 discussed and decided upon at their meetings was published on January 28th and published on the DoH´s website almost daily from then on, in Icelandic and English. On January 31st the National Crisis Coordination Centre (NCCC), which is formed by the CE, the National Director of Health and Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management (DCPEM) was activated with daily consultation meetings. This team and their meetings are the executive platform of the IPIPP. Following the declaration of an uncertainty phase in early February, Public health advice was published on the DoH´s website emphasising hygiene and general infection control such as hand washing, coughing and sneezing practises and no hugs or hand-shakes. 
On February 25th guidelines to health care staff were issues on the DoH´s website on how and where to channel patients into the health care system, how to perform tests and patients arriving to Primary Care and other ambulatory settings. The main issues addressed by the DoH included information about symptoms from the respiratory system, information about traveling in COVID-19 high-risk areas, contact with affected persons, care of patients with respiratory illness due to COVID-19 and information for those who visited hospitals or clinic in areas where COVID-19 had been reported. People with serious symptoms were advised to call Primary care services during daytime hours and call to a direct phone line staffed with nurses outside of office hours. People with minor symptoms were directed to access their own e-health pages on the health care system´s website (Heilsuvera.is) and to communicate either by an email or an online chat.
On February 26th the DCPEM, DoH and CE gave the first press conference, broadcasted live on the Public Broadcasting Service´s TV and Radio stations. On February 28th the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Iceland in a patient coming from Northern Italy and the same day NCIP in consultation with the CE and DoH declared the second Civil Protection Emergency phase, i.e. a state of Alert. Since February 28th this panel of “The Three” have been giving daily press conferences broadcasted live at 2PM, informing the public on the day-to-day development, in figures, and measures taken under the authority of CE and the DoH. Various senior civil servants, and CEOs and leaders from the private sector are invited to join the panel to convey information on the effects and responses of their relevant institutions and services.
On February 26th, the CE defined China and some regions in Northern Italy, South Korea and Iran, as the first high-risk areas of infection. High-risk areas were gradually redefined as the pandemic spread: on February 29, all of Italy were defined as high-risk area; on March 5th Ischgl in Austria was added; on March 9 the entire Alps were added retroactively from 29 Feb. On March 12, Germany, France and Spain were further declared high-risk. From March 19th and onwards the entire world was considered high-risk, and all residents of Iceland that entered the country were obligated to go into 14 days of quarantine, regardless of where they were arriving from. Instruction on home-based quarantine followed on the official website. On March 6th when the first cases of domestic spread of the virus were identified, the NCIP declared the highest Civil Protection Emergency Phase, i.e. the state of Emergency.
On March 13th the DoH and the DCPEM opened a new website www.covid.is publishing in Icelandic and 8 different languages all the latest news, announcements, statistics, advice, information on Iceland´s responses, Q&As and available posters advertised and promoted for use in public places. An information campaign was simultaneously launched with the following slogans: “Now we are all Civil Protection” and “Civil Protection in our hands” also appearing in the media as well as on social media.
On March 14th Icelandic residents were advised against all unnecessary travel abroad and Icelanders abroad were to consider earlier return back to Iceland.
Sources:
Directorate of Health, Status report, February 28th 2020. https://www.landlaeknir.is/servlet/file/store93/item38862/Koronaveira_Stoduskyrsla_28012020_LOK.pdf
RÚV National Broadcasting News, January 31st 2020.  https://www.ruv.is/frett/virkja-samhaefingarstod-i-varudarskyni-vegna-wuhan-veiru
NCIP press release: https://www.almannavarnir.is/frettir/haettustig-almannavarna-vegna-covid-19/
DoH Press release, February 26th 2020: https://www.landlaeknir.is/um-embaettid/frettir/frett/item39203/Uppfaerdar-radleggingar-til-ferdamanna--vardandi-koronaveiruna-COVID-19-
NCIP press release: https://www.almannavarnir.is/frettir/neydarstig-almannavarna-vegna-covid-19/
Government of Iceland, March 14th 220  https://www.stjornarradid.is/efst-a-baugi/frettir/stok-frett/2020/03/14/Radleggingar-islenskra-stjornvalda-til-Islendinga-vegna-ferdalaga/