Iceland’s Mass Testing Suggests 50% of COVID-19 Cases Show No Symptoms

In response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic, the island-nation of Iceland has carried out mass testing for its population of 360,000.

covid 19 patient

Photo by Cui Nan/China News Service via Getty Images

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As of March 31, Tuesday Iceland had conducted comprehensive testing for 17,900 individuals, which is about 5% of their population. Testing is being conducted by its National University Hospital for people who are high-risk or show symptoms while biopharma company deCODE Genetics focuses on testing for the wider population.

Iceland’s Directorate of Health explained that  deCODE’s “screening program accepts everybody who is not showing symptoms and not currently in quarantine.” DeCODE Genetics has conducted about half of the tests so far, with 9,000 people voluntarily having themselves tested.

While less than 1% of the tests have come back with positive results so far, the company’s founder Dr. Kári Stefánsson told CNN that around 50% of those who tested positive said they were asymptomatic. This confirms multiple studies claiming that asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases have been instrumental in the virus’ spread.

“Keep in mind that the screening is now randomized, but voluntary so there is some bias in the data,” the Directorate of Health said in a statement, adding that a “randomized screening program has started and a blood serum screening for antibodies is planned.”

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