Iceland has been testing its population for COVID19 probably more than any other country:
“The latest [April 6, 2020] figures on covid.is (https://www.covid.is) show that a total of 1,486 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Iceland, while 428 people have recovered [5 deaths, 38 patients in hospital]. A total of 25,394 samples have been analyzed [6.97% in a population of 364,134].”
deCODE Genetics, a subsidiary of Amgen, is doing the testing of those in the general population who volunteer while the Icelandic health system is testing those who present symptoms.
In the general population, deCODE has found about 0.9% tested positive for COVID19. They have also sequenced every single positive case of the virus in Iceland. “What is interesting is that there is a string of mutations that is fairly specific for Austria, another for Italy, a third for England, a fourth for the west coast of the United States. Because we are sequencing the virus from everyone who tests positive in Iceland, we can basically determine the geographic origin of the virus in everyone who gets infected. And that is of help when it comes to tracking the infection, when you want to figure out how it moves through society, because you can determine whether people have gotten infected from the same individual by just sequencing the virus, and in that way place it in the context of how the mutation moves,” said deCODE CEO Dr. Kári Stefánsson (https://www.icelandreview.com/sci-tech/icelands-coronavirus-testing-global-pandemic-response/).
Stefánsson continued, “If you think about it, this epidemic is probably the biggest threat mankind has faced in a very long time. You have a virus that is spreading very rapidly all over the world, and because it has spread so widely, there is an enormous accumulation of mutations, in spite of having a lower mutation rate than many other viruses. And these mutations can potentially end up creating a virus that is even more lethal than the one we have now. So it is incredibly important to contain the epidemic as soon as possible to diminish the probability that this will happen.”
“There is also another thing: every year there is a new flu vaccine developed because the influenza virus is mutating and is getting around the immunity of the year before. The same thing could happen with this virus. There are so many ways in which this story could end, and it’s very important for us as a species to try to have an influence on the way in which it ends. So I think we should do everything in our power to contain it, to understand it, and try to prevent it from coming again,”
More than two-thirds of the adult population of Iceland was already participating in the deCODE’s research efforts as of 2019 so the company will be able to screen people’s reaction to COVID19 coronavirus based upon their genetics. “Those data could prove crucial to the very survival of our species, says Kári.”
That’s testing. Iceland is also working hard on contact tracing, to identify the transmission chain from person to person. They have just released a new app, Rakning C-19, and as of midnight Saturday, April 4, 2020, 108,000 people had already downloaded it.
Iceland, I suspect, will be very important in the coming months.