COVID Has Been Found Here for the First Time Since the Pandemic Started

This area was entirely COVID-free until recently.

The last continent on Earth to be officially coronavirus-free has lost that status as the first COVID outbreak has hit Antarctica. According to Reuters, Chile's armed forces confirmed that military and civilian staff had been infected at its remote base in Antarctica, General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme, a research station near the tip of a peninsula in the northernmost part of the continent. Read on for the full details of this new development, and for more COVID news, check out If You're Not Doing This, Your Mask Won't Protect You, Study Says.

Read the original article on Best Life.

How many people are affected?

Emperor penguin and researcher at progress station, antarctica photos of wild penguins

Chile's armed forces announced that at least 36 people had been tested positive at the base, including 26 army personnel, and an additional 10 civilian staff who had been carrying out maintenance on the base. And for more previously unaffected areas, check out This Was the Last Place in the U.S. Without a Single Reported COVID Case.

How did COVID get to Antarctica?

Argentine Research Base Antarctica Planet Earth Facts

Extensive safety measures had been put in place to keep Antarctica COVID-free, with tourism canceled, facilities locked down, and staff numbers reduced, disrupting many ongoing scientific research projects. Reuters reports that, according to researchers with the British Antarctic Survey, around just 1,000 staff remained at 38 stations dotted across the continent.

2020 had largely passed without infection, however, an increase in travel to and from the region over recent months has heightened the risks. The first COVID cases were identified in Antarctica in mid-December when two soldiers fell ill, an Army press officer revealed. The Magallanes region of Chile, where transport to and from the base departs, is one of the hardest hit areas in the country. And for more on where COVID is the worst in the U.S., check out This Is How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.

Why is COVID particularly dangerous in Antarctica?

mount erebus antarctica

Antarctica is already one of the most dangerous places on Earth for humans to live, even short-term (there are no permanent residents). In 2018, scientists surveying the continent reported the lowest temperatures ever recorded on Earth: around -144 degrees Fahrenheit. More than a few breaths at this temperature will cause your lungs to hemorrhage. According to a document by the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs, as reported by The Guardian: "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." And for more regular coronavirus updates, sign up for our daily newsletter.

What condition are the patients in?

Shutterstock/Supavadee butradee

Newsweek reports that the Chilean Army issued a statement saying all 36 COVID-positive patients have been evacuated to Punta Arenas in Chile where they are currently in isolation but are reported to be in a good condition. And for more on the latest news in the battle against COVID-19, check out why If You Live in This State, You May Be Getting Your COVID Vaccine Sooner.

John Quinn
John Quinn is a London-based writer and editor who specializes in lifestyle topics. Read more
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