Impacts, systemic risk and national response measures concerning covid-19—the island case studies of iceland and greenland

David Cook*, Lára Jóhannsdóttir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The Arctic is a remote region that has become increasingly globalized, yet it remains extremely vulnerable to many risks. The COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges to the region. Using the search, appraisal, synthesis and analysis (SALSA) approach to conduct a metasynthesis of the academic and grey literature on the impacts of the pandemic, an assessment is conducted of the types of risks that have been presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the scales, and the national response strategies for mitigating the risks. Two case studies are explored: Iceland and Greenland, island nations that exemplify the extremes of the Arctic and reliance on tourism, a sector that was nearly entirely suspended by the pandemic. An evaluative matrix is employed which combines five different scales of risk—nano, micro, meso, macro and cosmic—with a sustainability categorization of impacts. The risks of the pandemic cut across the respective scale and categories, with the potential for macro-scale events (systemic risk) to unfold linked to economic spillover effects driven by the curtailment of tourism and various supply chain delays. Both Iceland and Greenland have exemplified risk mitigation strategies that prioritize health over wealth, very strictly in the case of the latter. Strict border controls and domestic restrictions have enabled Iceland and Greenland to have much lower case and death numbers than most nations. In addition, Iceland has led the way, globally, in terms of testing and accumulating scientific knowledge through genetic sequencing of the virus. The academic contribution of the paper concerns its broadening of understanding concerning systemic risk, which extends beyond financial implications to includes sustainability dimensions. For policymakers and practitioners, the paper highlights successful risk mitigation and science-based measures that will be useful for any nation tackling a future pandemic, regardless of whether they are island states, Arctic nations or another country.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8470
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This paper has been funded by NordForsk (grant number 76654) via their financial support to the Nordic Centre of Excellence ARCPATH (Arctic Climate Predictions—Pathways to Resilient, Sustainable Communities).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

Other keywords

  • Arctic
  • Pandemic
  • Prioritization
  • Resilience
  • Risk
  • Risk management


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