COVID-19 reaches Antarctica, 36 tests positive at Chilean base– reports

by Rjay Zuriaga Castor


The isolated continent of Antarctica, once the only continent not to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, has reportedly registered its first coronavirus cases on Monday, Chilean time. 

According to multiple Spanish-language reports, the first-ever 36 registered infections are among people stationed at a Chilean research base and include 26 members of the Chilean army and 10 maintenance workers.

The research station, known colloquially as the General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme Research Base, is one of 13 active Chilean bases in Antarctica.

It is located close to the northern-most tip of the Antarctic Peninsula in West Antarctica — far from Australia's bases in East Antarctica — and was described by one travel website as "hard to reach even by Antarctic terms".

To decrease the risk of virus at bay in Antarctica, all major research projects in the land have been halted. As a result, research by scientists around the world has been interrupted.

While the continent has no permanent residents, the 1,000 researchers and other visitors stayed on the island over winter and about 5,000 in summer, according to the media reports.

Antarctica has reportedly become the last of the Earth's seven continents to record deadly coronavirus infections after managing to avoid the pandemic for around nine months.

The coronavirus outbreak has claimed more than 1.7 million lives in 191 countries and regions since last December, according to the US' Johns Hopkins University. Over 77.5 million cases have been reported worldwide.

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