Antarctica no longer Covid-free after 36 people test positive

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Antarctica, the only continent to remain unscathed by the coronavirus pandemic, has reported its first Covid infections. Thirty-six people tested positive at the Chilean research base, the Chilean military said on Tuesday. The virus outbreak took place at General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme’s research base in Antarctica, where 26 members of the Chilean army and 10 maintenance workers were infected.

“36 men tested positive for Covid-19, of which 26 are Army personnel and 10 are civilians from a contractor company that was performing scheduled maintenance work at the Antarctic base,” the military said. All the 36 members have been evacuated to the city of Punta Arenas in Chile for isolation and are being monitored by the doctors.   The planet’s coldest and most unwelcoming continent had succeeded in remaining Covid-free until now by halting all the projects on its research bases on the continent.  Though there are no permanent residents in Antarctica, it has 13 Chilean facilities and 1,000 researchers, according to the Associated Press. The experts remain wary that the outbreak on the secluded continent can have greater implications due to its remote nature and subzero temperature.

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 potentially catastrophic consequences,” Associated Press quoted the document by the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs. Hanne Nielsen of University of Tasmania told ABC that the presence of the virus in the  continent has “implications for local wildlife, with the threat of humans transmitting the virus to other species.”

“The remote nature of Antarctica heightens any health risks, so access to Antarctica may be constrained for longer periods,” she added. As the novel coronavirus infected over 77 million people globally and accounted for more than 1 million deaths, a new variant of Sars-CoV-2 found in the UK has sparked a new wave of fear. At least 25 countries imposed a temporary ban on flights to and from the UK after the more aggressive variant of the virus was reported. According to initial data, it is 70 percent more easily transmitted.

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