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For months, the hundreds of scientists and researchers who live in Antarctica have inhabited the only continent in the world without a reported case of COVID-19. But now the virus has reached even there.
Three dozen people at a Chilean base have tested positive, the country's army announced Monday. On Tuesday, a regional health minister in Chile said there are 21 infections involving people aboard the Chilean navy's Sargento Aldea supply vessel.
Passengers on that ship, which sailed to Chile from the Antarctic Peninsula, tested positive for COVID-19, the Chilean Antarctic Institute informed The Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs on Friday, according to a statement emailed to USA TODAY.
Another case has been reported at an Antarctic village where that ship docked, according to regional health secretary Eduardo Castillo.
The U.S. National Science Foundation is aware of reports of the outbreak, a spokesperson said in an emailed statement to USA TODAY. But personnel at U.S. Antarctic Program stations would have no contact with Chilean stations, including the one with the reported outbreak: the O’Higgins Antarctic Station..
No other country with a presence in Antarctica has yet publicly reported cases.
Efforts to keep the virus out of Antarctica have been robust, as leaders have feared an outbreak could be devastating in the remote region where people shelter from the elements in close quarters and medical capabilities are limited.
It’s now a global pandemic in every sense of the word.
The coronavirus scourge has affected all seven continents after COVID-19 cases were recorded in Antarctica for the first time Monday.
The virus reportedly infected 36 people at a Chilean research base. That number included 26 members of the Chilean army along with 10 maintenance workers, Newsweek reported.
The infected, who were stationed at General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme, tested “positive for COVID-19” after the “administration of a PCR test,” according to a statement by the Chilean army to local news outlet 24 Horas. At least some of those infected exhibited symptoms before the positive tests.
Fortunately, all 36 have since been evacuated to the city of Punta Arenas in Chile, where they are reportedly isolated and in stable condition, according to the Guardian.
After managing to avoid the pandemic for around nine months, Antarctica has reportedly become the last of the Earth's seven continents to record COVID-19 infections.
A total of 36 people stationed at Chile's General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme research base in Antarctica, including 26 members of the Chilean Army and 10 civilian maintenance contractors, recently tested positive for COVID-19, according to multiple Spanish-language reports on Monday.
"Thanks to the timely preventive action," the Chilean Army said in a statement, according to 24 Horas. "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."
At least some of the infected individuals were said to have experienced symptoms before testing positive for the virus, according to the Associated Press. All 36 have since been evacuated to the city of Punta Arenas in Southern Chile, where they are reported to be under isolation and in good condition. The station personnel were replaced by a new crew who had been quarantined and tested negative prior to their journey.
Coronavirus has infected a Chilean military and research base in Antarctica – meaning the disease has now spread to every continent.
Thirty-six people at the General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme base tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday.
The outbreak has been traced to the delivery of supplies from the Naval vessel Sargento Aldea which arrived from Chile on November 27.