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Antarctica Just Recorded Its First Cases of COVID-19

by Eben Diskin Dec 22, 2020

In addition to being the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, Antarctica also had the distinction of being the only continent without a single recorded COVID-19 case. Unfortunately, that’s no longer true. There’s recently been an outbreak at a Chilean research base, with 36 new infections recorded among members of the Chilean army and maintenance workers.

Those affected have been evacuated to the city of Punta Arenas in Chile, where they are all in isolation.

The Chilean army said in a statement, “Thanks to the timely preventive action … it was possible to relieve said personnel, who, after being subjected to a medical control and the administration of a PCR test … turned out to be positive for Covid-19.”

Keeping the virus out of Antarctica has come at the expense of research, and projects on the continent have all been paused. The harsh climate, remote location, and lack of sophisticated medical care, makes Antarctica a particularly dangerous place to fall ill.

The Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs wrote, “A highly infectious novel virus with significant mortality and morbidity in the extreme and austere environment of Antarctica with limited sophistication of medical care and public health responses is high risk with potential catastrophic consequences.”

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