Iceland’s size helped it grabble the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that other nations couldn’t. The country was able to test half its population and keep a close eye on how the virus spread due to really good contact tracing. Like other countries which have successfully dealt with the pandemic, a robust response proved to be the solution. Iceland even went a step further and has collected their data not only for current protection and safety but also to make it easier for researchers to look back on 2020 to understand how the virus spread.
If the test is negative, the person receives an all-clear text. If the test is positive, it triggers two chains of action: one at the hospital and one at the lab.
At the hospital, the individual is registered in a centralized database and enrolled in a tele-health monitoring service at a COVID outpatient clinic for a 14-day isolation period. They will receive frequent phone calls from a nurse or physician who documents their medical and social history, and runs through a standardized checklist of 19 symptoms. All the data are logged in a national electronic medical record system. A team of clinician-scientists at the hospital created the collection system in mid-March with science in mind. “We decided to document clinical findings in a structured way that would be useful for research purposes,” says Palsson.
In the lab, each sample is tested for the amount of virus it contains, which has been used as an indicator for contagiousness and severity of illness. And the full RNA genome of the virus is sequenced to determine the strain of the virus and track its origin.