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Image / Editorial

Iceland’s Covid-19 tests prove it’s vital to keep your distance even if you don’t feel sick


by Grace McGettigan
23rd Mar 2020
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There may be more ‘silent spreaders’ of Covid-19 than previously thought, as half of Iceland’s positive test results came from people with no symptoms


With the population of Iceland at just 364,000, the country has the capability to test all of its citizens for Covid-19 – not just those presenting with symptoms.

So far, Iceland’s government says it has tested a larger percentage of inhabitants than any other country in the world, and it is their hope that their findings will contribute to a global response.

Positive results, but no symptoms

Half of the people who have (so far) tested positive for Covid-19 in Iceland had no symptoms at all. This suggests there are more ‘silent spreaders’ of the virus than previously thought, and elevates the importance of staying at home even if you feel healthy.

Thorolfur Gudnason, Iceland’s chief epidemiologist, told Buzzfeed News, “Iceland’s population puts it in the unique position of having very high testing capabilities,” adding that the medical research company, deCode Genetics, is offering to perform large scale testing.

“This effort is intended to gather insight into the actual prevalence of the virus in the community,” he continued, “as most countries are most exclusively testing symptomatic individuals at this time.

“Early results from deCode Genetics indicate that a low proportion of the general population has contracted the virus and that about half of those who tested positive are non-symptomatic,” Gudnason said.

“This data can also become a valuable resource for scientific studies of the virus in the future.”

Iceland responds to the findings

Since these results came to light, Iceland’s Minister for Health, Svandís Svavarsdóttir has introduced stricter controls on the population.

From Tuesday, March 24, there will be a ban on gatherings of 20 people or more. The ban will be in force until at least April 12 and is a reduction on the previous 100-person limit (which was in place since March 16). “This ban also affects public places such as swimming pools, gyms, pubs and museums,” the government’s statement said.

“People must ensure that they keep a distance of at least two meters between individuals,” it added. “No changes are made to the organisation of schools at this point.”

Stay at home

In Ireland, the HSE continues to ask everyone to limit unnecessary social contact as much as possible.

This includes avoiding crowded places, working from home where possible, and keeping a distance of at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) between you and others.

The HSE also asks at-risk groups to avoid close contact with people outside the home.

For more information from the HSE about Covid-19 in Ireland, visit hse.ie/coronavirus

Photo: Wiki Commons


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