The coronavirus has landed in Antarctica, the last continent that was previously free from COVID-19, the Chilean military announced this week.
According to the Chilean Armed Forces, at least 36 people had been infected at Bernardo O’Higgins’ base, including 26 military personnel and 10 civilian contractors doing maintenance work on the base.
The permanently manned research station, which is operated by the Chilean army, is located near the tip of a peninsula in northernmost Antarctica and overlooks a bay that is often dotted with icebergs.
The base personnel “are already properly isolated and under constant surveillance” by health officials in Magallanes, Patagonia, Chile, the army said, adding that there have been no complications so far.
Research and military stations in Antarctica – one of the most remote in the world – had made extraordinary efforts in recent months to contain the virus, halt tourism, cut back activities and staff, and lock down facilities.
Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey estimate that around 1,000 people at 38 stations on the frozen continent navigated safely through the winter of the southern hemisphere without incident. However, an increase in travel to and from the region this spring and early summer has increased the risk of infection.
An army spokesman said the first COVID-19 cases were reported in mid-December when two soldiers fell ill.
The Magallanes region, one of the most populous areas in Antarctica and the starting point for many boats and airplanes on their way to the continent, is one of the hardest hit areas in Chile.
Much of the area, blown by cold winds from the sea, mountains and glaciers, has been subject to quarantine restrictions for months.
The Chilean Navy reported that it had also discovered three cases of COVID-19 among 208 crew members on a ship that had sailed in Antarctica between November 27 and December 10.
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)