Iceland and Sweden
Two northern European countries are also making a name for themselves: Iceland and Sweden. Ski tourists had brought the virus from Ischgl (Austria) to Iceland. The Icelandic authorities then tested their entire population - the curve went up steeply. But that is precisely why the outbreak was quickly contained. It is important to keep an eye on the size of the population. Iceland has only around 360,000 inhabitants, while Sweden has ten million. Although the curve looks much more dramatic in Iceland, only around 70 people fell ill there in the worst days, in Sweden it was 600 per day.
Iceland: With mass tests from the corona crisis
Iceland is far from Europe. And yet the Corona crisis hit the island very early. At the end of February, returnees who had spent their skiing holidays in the Alps brought the virus to Iceland. The country with its approximately 360,000 inhabitants pursued a clear strategy from day one: test, test, test. No country has had more tests per capita than Iceland.
Summer has already started in Iceland. Because the old Icelandic calendar knows no spring. Icelanders won't be forgotten this winter either. Gudrun and David feel the same way. They are traveling with their children in Thingvellir National Park, where the Eurasian and North American continental plates are drifting apart. Far from the rest of the world, the Icelanders closely follow what is happening around them: "You hear from friends in Spain who are not allowed to leave their homes - not even the children. We really feel sorry for them. For us this is the one pure luxury that we can be outdoors in nature, "says Gudrun Hardardottir.
Spread of the corona virus stopped - for now!
In the meantime, they breathe easy in Iceland. A few days ago, the authorities were able to announce for the first time: no new infections in the country. Iceland has stopped the spread of the Coronavirus - for now. The key to this success: DeCODE genetics, a company that is now in US hands. It is supposed to collect the health data of all Icelanders and examine them for their genetic predispositions to diseases. Now the laboratory has become a huge test center. The founder and boss of deCODE, Kari Stefansson, is one of the heroes of the Icelandic Corona saga. It begins at a time when the world is still staring at China: "The authorities here in Iceland started testing people who had returned from risky areas on January 31st. It was several weeks before February 28th we found the first infection in Iceland. We tested for a month before we could identify the first patient. It's unique. I don't know of any other country that has done anything like it, "says Stefansson. It is the Icelandic authorities who alert their Austrian colleagues to the infections in the ski resort of Ischgl - initially to no avail.
Corona tracing app helps authorities
And something else is driving the Icelanders forward: They are quickly introducing a corona tracing app in order to be able to understand the contacts. More than half of the population has now voluntarily downloaded the app. The so-called contact tracking team works in Reykjavik. With each positive test, the employees immediately call all persons with whom the person concerned was in contact. This way they know exactly how the virus spreads in the country.
While other countries quickly stopped tracking infection chains - because there were just too many - the Icelanders keep track of the virus. One result: not a single case was found in the whole country in which an adult infected a child. This contradicts other studies. But next week, the Icelanders will open all schools for students up to 16, without any restrictions such as masks or distance rules.
At least 40 mutations of the Corona virus
Almost 15 percent of all Icelanders have now been tested. In relation to the total population more than in any other country. The scientists have discovered at least 40 mutations of the virus. You can even tell when the virus appeared in which country. "The genetic pattern differs depending on the location. So if you examine the mutations in the virus, there is a pattern that is typical for Austria, another for England and another for the west coast of the USA," explains Stefansson.
Iceland is gathering knowledge that can help the world face the next pandemic. But their isolated location also worries people. Because Iceland lives from tourism. More than two million people travel to the island every year mainly because of the unique nature. But how many will come this summer? The economic consequences could hit Iceland much harder than the virus from distant China.
The current COVID data for Iceland (Population 360,000) today (May 4th 2020) are:
People infected with CoV-19: 1799
Confirmed deaths from COVID-19: 10
Number of people saved: 1723