What are the corona virus and COVID-19?

The corona virus is a widespread form of virus that can cause mild cold symptoms, but which can also lead to serious respiratory infection. Other corona virus epidemics have included SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which broke out in 2003, and MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), which broke out in 2012.

COVID-19 is also a corona virus. The first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Wuhan in the Hubei province of China in 2019, and the infection spread quickly to the rest of the world. On 11 March 2020 the World Health Organisation, WHO, declared the virus outbreak to be a pandemic, which means an epidemic that has spread to several continents. The first case in the Faroe Islands was confirmed on 4 March.

The WHO has named the new corona virus COVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019).

What do we know about the corona virus and COVID-19?

Several other milder forms of corona virus have occurred in the Faroe Islands for a number of winters, causing colds and influenza.

However, we have not before experienced this new corona infection, COVID-19. There is still much we do not know about COVID-19, as our immune system has not previously been exposed to this particular virus. This means that nobody is immune, and everyone can be infected and become ill. This is also why the measures being taken to deal with the outbreak are different from normal influenza.

We are learning more about COVID-19 from testing here in the Faroe Islands and elsewhere, such as in China, as well as from international health authorities and from monitoring how the disease is developing in other countries.

What are the symptoms and how serious is the disease?

Symptoms occur from two to 12 days after a person has been infected. Most have symptoms after five to seven days.

Usually the symptoms are similar to those of influenza, such as a sore throat, aching muscles, a dry cough and fever. For this reason, it can also be difficult to distinguish between a normal cold or flu and the COVID19 virus, and professional medical care will not usually be needed if the symptoms are not more serious than this.

Common symptoms include:

  • Dry og wet cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Loss of sense og taste
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain, joint pain or body pain

Less common symptoms

  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Shortness of breath or chest tightness

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, we urge you to call your GP. After opening hours you should call the after-hours GP service on 1870. It is important that you get tested as soon as possible. 

How does COVID-19 spread?

The virus spreads from one person to another through droplets. Droplets can be carried up to two metres through the air from coughing and sneezing, before falling quickly to the ground. The virus does not remain in the air after coughing or sneezing for more than a few seconds and is therefore not an airborne infection. It cannot infect through skin, such as on the hands, and only infects through mucous membrane, typically in the nose, mouth and eyes. The virus cannot infect through sweat.

You can be infected if you stand close to someone who transmits droplets through, for example, hugging, coughing or sneezing and the droplets end up in the mucous membrane of your nose, eyes or mouth. You can also be infected by coming into contact with droplets on a surface, and then touching your nose, eyes or mouth.

We do not yet know with any certainty whether infected people can spread the virus before they develop symptoms.

Can I take pain killers if I have symptoms?

For headaches and muscle pain, paracetamol, such as Pandodil or Pinex, can be used. For mild pain you can also use preparations containing paracetamol and those of the NSAID variety, such as Ipren and Ibuprofen. Never take more than the recommended dosage.

It is important to drink plenty of liquids, especially if you have a high fever.

If you are having breathing difficulties, or other symptoms become worse, you should call your doctor.  To avoid infecting others, do not go in person to the doctor’s clinic.

I have had contact with someone who has had contact with an infected person. What should I do?

To become infected you must have been in direct contact with an infected person. This means, for example, that you have shaken that person’s hand, interacted face-to-face or been within 2 meters of the person for more than 15 minutes, or you have been caring for a person with COVID-19 without using protective gear.

You are not at risk until the person who has had direct contact with an infected person also becomes infected.

The Chief Medical Officer is responsible for tracing those who have been in direct contact with infected people and assess whether they should also be in quarantine.

How will I be tested and what is the treatment?

If you feel ill or have symptoms, you should first call your local doctor. If he or she is not available, you can call the after-hours GP service on 1870. It is very important that you call and do not go to a clinic in person.

The doctor will decide if you need to be referred to a hospital, either in Suðuroy, Klaksvík or the National Hospital in Tórshavn. You will be referred to the hospital closest to where you live.

Testing is done by taking a swab of saliva from the back of the mouth, which is then analysed for the presence of COVID-19.

There is no special treatment for the new corona virus. People who are ill with COVID-19 will be treated to relieve the symptoms.

Health authorities support researchers and companies capable of quickly developing medicine and vaccines to combat COVID-19. No vaccine against COVID-19 has yet been developed, so no preventative treatment is yet available.

Isn’t COVID-19 just the same as the flu?

It seems that most people who are young and otherwise healthy only get mild symptoms. In this sense, COVID-19 resembles the flu, but there are some clear differences between COVID-19 and the flu. This is why authorities are dealing much differently with COVID-19.

With other viral infections, a part of the population is normally immune, as they have been vaccinated or have been previously infected with similar viruses. COVID-19, on the other hand, is a new virus which can infect everyone, because human immune systems have not before been exposed to this kind of virus.  This means that many people can become sick at the same time, putting health services under extreme pressure.

The Chief Medical Officer is urging everyone, including young and healthy people, to follow the official recommendations for minimising the risk of infection in order to protect those members of society whose health condition puts them at greater risk of serious illness.

How do I talk to children about the disease?

The most important thing is for children to feel safe and secure. Don’t let children try to understand the situation on their own and come to their own conclusions. Ask them specific questions so you know what they are wondering about and how they are feeling, and tell them the truth. Answer their questions honestly, without going into unnecessary detail. Remind your child that relatively few people actually die from the corona virus

If you need advice on dealing with the psychological aspects of these changing circumstances, and what you can do to sustain your own mental health, or if you have any doubts or questions, you can call  Barnabata. The line is open every day from 20.00 to 22.00 and on weekdays from 9.00 to 16.00. The number is 116 111.

Am I at special risk of infection and illness?

Those at special risk of infection and of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 are:

  • Elderly people, in particular people over the age of 80
  • People with chronic illnesses
  • People with cardiovascular disease (not including well-treated high blood pressure)
  • People with lung disease (not including well-treated asthma)
  • People with weakened immunity, either genetic or due to medicine or diseases, such as AIDS, which reduce
  • People with diabetes 1 or 2
  • People with cancer
  • Children with chronic disease
  • As a precaution, pregnant and postnatal women are also considered at risk
I am at special risk, should I or my household take extra precautions?

Yes, you should.  Stay at home as much as possible. Avoid places where people are gathered. Pay particular attention to hand hygiene. Consider using gloves when you go out. Follow all advice regarding hygiene in relation to COVD-19:

  • Wash your hands well and frequently with soap and water
  • Cough or sneeze into your arm – not your hands
  • If you use a tissue, discard it immediately and wash your hands again
  • Avoid physical greetings such as handshaking, hugging and kissing
  • Avoid gatherings of more than 10 people
  • Maintain strict hygiene both at home and at work
  • If you feel unwell or have symptoms of virus, stay at home to avoid infecting others


What is home quarantine?

Travellers to the Faroe Islands from other countries than Denmark, Greenland, Iceland, Norway or Germany, are advised to ímmediately self-quarantine at home for 14 days upon arrival.

This means that you:

  • Stay at home; this can be together with your family.
  • Do not receive visitors from outside.
  • If you have to work, do so from home.
  • You may go for a drive in your own car and take a nature walk, but only where you will not come into contact with other people. You should avoid all places where there are other people.
  • Remember to maintain personal distance and good hygiene, also when at home with your family.
  • You will be contacted twice by a member of the Quarantine Team and you will be assigned a contact person.
  • You should pay particular attention to any signs of illness which could indicate a coronavirus infection, such as fever and coughing. If you have symptoms of infection, you should call your local GP during working hours or the after-hours GP service on 1870.

It is also recommended that you:

  • Keep the house clean, in particular frequently used areas such as toilets, bathrooms and kitchens
  • Wash towels, bedclothes and undergarments at a minimum of 80°C
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly

Read more about quarantine here.

When and how does quarantine end?
  • If you have had a confirmed COVID-19 infection and have been in isolation:

An infected person will be released from isolated quarantine when the Chief Medical Officer determines that he or she has made a full recovery.  This will not be until at least 14 days after the infection was first confirmed. The person will be contacted by a doctor the evening before the quarantine period ends.

  • If you have been in direct contact with an infected person and have been in quarantine:

People who are in quarantine because they have had direct contact with an infected person will be contacted by a doctor the evening before their period of quarantine ends.

  • If you have returned from overseas and have been in home quarantine

You are responsible for your own quarantine. If you do not develop any symptoms within 14 days, your quarantine ends and you can move freely in the community, but remember to follow the official public healt guidelines.

Can I go out while I am in quarantine (isolation, quarantine, home quarantine)?

Those who are infected with coronavirus (isolation) and those who have had direct contact with anyone infected with coronavirus (quarantine) may not leave the proberty on which they are staying in quarantine. 

Those who have recently returned to the Faroe Islands (home quarantine) may go for a drive in your own car and take a nature walk, but only places where they will not come into contact with other people. All places where there are other people are to be avoided.

I am not in quarantine, can I go for a walk or run?

Yes, but remember to keep the recommended distance from other people (2 meters) and be aware that the coronavirus spreads easily and quickly.