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COVID-19 has reached Antarctica

December 23, 2020:  The COVID-19 is reported to have reached antarctica. The local media in Chile reported that 36 people stationed at a Chilean research base tested positive. All seven continents on earth now have officially reported cases on COVID-19.

Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP)  has confirmed of COVID-19 positive cases.

“COMNAP received information on 18 December saying that “INACH has been informed of positive Covid-19 cases in passengers who would have disembarked in the ports of Punta Arenas and Talcahuano from the vessel Sargento Aldea from the Chilean Navy, which had had operations in the area of the O’Higgins Antarctic Station in the Antarctic Peninsula. For this reason, the Chilean Antarctic Program has decided to monitor the health status of those at its stations and perform PCR tests for COVID-19, in coordination with Chile’s Health Authorities,” read a statement released by COMNAP.

“Sadly #Antarctica is no longer free of COVID-19! The Chilean army today reported 36 personnel at O’Higgins Base have tested positive (26 military and 10 civilians); the station has been undergoing the annual exchange of personnel over the last few weeks,” tweeted Antarctic Report.

Among those who tested positive, 26 members are of the Chilean military and 10 are maintenance workers stationed at the Base General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme in the Antarctic Peninsula.  They were among a group of 60 people who were evacuated from the base to the Chilean city of Punta Arenas.

“Thanks to the timely preventive action that the institution materialized, it was possible to relieve said personnel,” said a Chilean army personnel to the local media. The positive cases are now in isolation. 

General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme is one of 13 Chilean bases in Antarctica. More than 40 countries have research stations in Antarctica including, India, the US, China, and Russia. Many of these stations have research and other personnel stationed throughout the year. Antarctica has between 1000 to 4000 persons throughout the year, but has no permanent residents.