Iceland reopens borders amid volcano eruption

The north Atlantic island looking to rebound from tourism losses will open its borders to visitors who can prove they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19, making it the first European country to do so. However, it now seems like the Fagradalsfjall volcano located 25 miles from the capital Reykjavik has other plans.

In a statement issued last week, Iceland has officially reopened its borders not only to visitors from Schengen countries, but to all arrivals from anywhere in the world, including the US and UK, if they have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

To qualify, travelers must “provide proof of full vaccination with a vaccine that has been certified for use by the European medical agency such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson’s single dose and Moderna vaccines,” according to the statement.

Reykjavik city bird's view
Reykjavik city bird’s view. Photo: 123rf

“The world has been through a lot in the past twelve months, and we are all hoping for a slow and safe return to normalcy,” said Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland. “This also includes the resumption of the opportunity to travel, which is valuable to culture, trade and enterprise.”

Tourism is one of Iceland’s main industries since 2010, when visitors flocked to the island following the publicity of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption that grounded most of Europe’s air traffic back then. Tourism leapt from just 3.4 percent of Iceland’s GDP in 2010 to almost 9 percent in 2019. Then came COVID-19, and the numbers fell back to 3.5 percent.

Now, just as Iceland aims to reopen its borders to visitors, it seems that Mother Nature is intervening again. As reported on the Icelandic Met Office website, “At around 20:45 UTC 19 March 2021, a volcanic eruption began at Geldingadalur, close to Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes Peninsula.”

All flights into or out of Reykjavík–Keflavík Airport were canceled last Friday, following the eruption. Icelandair, the Icelandic national flag carrier issued a statement that all their flights are expected to operate as normal. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely and make sure to keep our passengers informed if we have to make any changes to our flight schedule. The health and safety of our passengers and employees is always our priority and at the heart of every decision we make.”


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