How Iceland is using technology to battle COVID-19
Iceland’s response to the Covid -19 pandemic has been noticeable, to say the least. At the time of writing, restrictions are being lifted sooner than expected, the country is opening itself to tourists in less than a month’s time and there are only 3 active cases, with very few new cases reported since the beginning of May.
One of the key factors in Iceland’s success in reducing the spread of the disease has been technical solutions, both by government-run initiatives and private companies.
These solutions vary from performing widespread tests on the general population, to reducing the burden on the healthcare and welfare systems by creating online practice management platforms for specialists, such as Kara Connect, to tracing individuals that have been in contact with the virus to be quarantined, to tracking symptoms of and communicating with individuals that have tested positive for the virus and are isolating at home.
At the time of writing, Iceland has processed over 58,000 COVID-19 tests, or just over 15% of its population, the highest proportional testing of any country in the world. This is in part thanks to the biopharmaceutical company deCODE Genetics, who began testing the general population on a voluntary basis and sequencing all positive cases.
Testing asymptomatic individuals as well as those showing symptoms and collecting valuable information about how the virus moves and affects individuals has provided valuable knowledge and insight into the virus worldwide while reducing its spread.
Remote platforms for professionals
Kara Connect has enabled specialists in health- and welfare sectors to move their services online to a secure practice management platform that allows them to host remote meetings in a secure manner. As unemployment rises and restrictions on travel and contact continue, the need for individuals to be able to access various kinds of treatment is increasing, as well as the requirement that such treatments be available from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
Rakning C-19, developed by Iceland’s civil protection and emergency management team, tracks the location of registered individuals. If individual tests positive for COVID-19, the app assists tracing teams to isolate all those who have had contact with the infected person. The app currently has the largest penetration rate of all COVID-19 tracing apps, having been downloaded by almost 40% of the population.
Sidekick Health’s COVID app aims to reduce the strain on hospitals and healthcare workers by allowing infected individuals to input their symptoms into the app, which then calculates the severity of the illness to be reviewed by healthcare professionals. This allows less serious cases to be monitored easily from home without the need for travel.
Technology is making a difference, and the Nordics are proof
While the whole world is battling this novel disease, there has been immense variety in response strategies used by governments to reduce the spread, manage active cases, and deal with the economic impacts of the pandemic. However, it goes without saying that the use of technology is crucial, and technologically advanced countries, such as the Nordics, have had noticeably better outcomes thus far. Integrating digital access to universal healthcare systems has been a vital component of each Nordic nation’s response to the pandemic, and Iceland is no exception.