Kari Stefansson of DeCODE Genetics on Iceland’s Lessons for the United States


Iceland’s strategy to track the spread of the coronavirus can be used in the United States, deCODE Genetics CEO Kári Stefánsson told CNBC on Wednesday.

Stefánsson, whose Reykjavík-based company is known for his analysis of the human genome, noted the obvious size differences between the United States and Iceland.

For starters, the United States has about 330 million people, while Iceland has only 347,000, according to the US Census Bureau.

But Iceland’s ability to test around 10% of its population and deploy robust contact tracking when someone is diagnosed with Covid-19 should not be seen as something that only small countries can do, a explained Stefánsson in an interview with Meg Tirrell from CNBC.

“It should be even easier in a country of your size with your resources, with this incredible amount of talent that you have,” said Stefánsson of the United States. “If you exposed all of this, you would easily be able to do the same as we do.” “

Iceland has 1,727 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and eight deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

In the United States, where approximately 3.2 million people have been tested for the disease, there are more than 634,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, according to UCJ data. Almost 28,000 people died.

Stefánsson, a neurologist formerly a professor at Harvard University, said that in addition to an early commitment to generalized testing, the Icelandic government has also deployed an “extraordinarily vigorous” contact tracing system.

This involves isolating all those who tested positive and then identifying all those who have been in contact with people with the disease, he said. Those who have come into contact with an infected person are quarantined, he said.

“In doing so, we seemed to have placed this epidemic under some kind of control,” he said.

The residential properties are located on the roofs of the city of Reykjavik, Iceland.

Arnaldur Halldorsson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Stefánsson said the strong American university system was a vital weapon in the battle against Covid-19.

“You have all this talent, all this equipment in your universities, that could simply be written to apply to this epidemic,” he said. “You could ask the universities to do the tests. You could ask universities to analyze the data and help plan how to manage it. “

Although there are many more people, Stefánsson suggested that the United States probably had “5,000 times more resources” than Iceland.

“So it is all a question of willpower, desire, determination, to do it right and I guess to do that there has to be some kind of central control,” he said.

Stefánsson said an early and aggressive response to the Covid-19 epidemic is more important in limiting its spread than the overall population or the density of the population.

“The whole world knew there was an epidemic going on in China in January,” he said. “Basically, the Icelandic authorities have prepared for it. They started testing before the virus arrived. And I think there’s nothing else that matters here. “


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