By Damon Mitchell • 09 April 2020 • 13:38
THE small population of Iceland, its relative isolation and the genetic homogeneity of its population makes the Nordic country the ideal setting to learn about the evolution of Covid-19 and its mutations from tests.
One of the clearest guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the fight against coronavirus is the intensification of detection tests in order to isolate carriers of the virus. Iceland clearly stands out at the top of the ranking of the countries with the most per capita tests in the world.
The island, with 364,000 inhabitants, is carrying out a massive testing strategy among citizens. So far, 31,000 tests have been carried out, equivalent to 9 per cent of the population.
Almost half of the country’s tests are being carried out by Reykjavik-based biopharmaceutical company Code Genetics who offer free and voluntary tests to the general population, whether or not they have symptoms of Covid-19, with the aim of testing as many people as possible.
So far, the results indicate that the infection rate on the island is below 1 per cent. They also show that, among the positives, around 50 per cent had no symptoms at the time of the test.
“Analysing the general population gives a more concrete picture of how widespread the virus can be in Icelandic society and how it is moving,” said deCode founder and CEO Kári Stefánsson
According to Iceland’s chief epidemiologist Thorolfur Gudnason, the results of deCode’s tests indicate that “efforts to contain the spread of the virus are being effective,” since almost half of the positive cases are from people in quarantine.
The government argues that precisely the massive tests have avoided severe restrictions. In Iceland, concentrations of more than 20 people have been banned; Institutes and universities have been closed, as well as gyms, discos and museums. Instead, schools and nurseries are still open.
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