Story at a glance
- The infected include 26 members of the Chilean army and 10 maintenance workers.
- The infected Army and maintenance personnel have been evacuated to the city of Punta Arenas in Chile, where they are reportedly under isolation and in good condition.
The coronavirus has officially touched all seven continents after COVID-19 cases were reported at a Chilean research base in Antarctica for the first time on Monday, according to local news reports.
Authorities confirmed 36 positive cases among those stationed at General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme. The infected include 26 members of the Chilean army and 10 maintenance workers. At least some of those who tested positive for COVID-19 exhibited symptoms before undergoing a PCR test (nasal swab).
Sadly #Antarctica is no longer free of COVID-19! The Chilean army today reported 36 personnel at O’Higgins Base have tested positive (26 military and 10 civilians); the station has been undergoing the annual exchange of personnel over the last few weeks; pic @Base_OHiggins pic.twitter.com/OKtjqQQ4Om— The Antarctic Report (@AntarcticReport) December 22, 2020
At least three workers on a ship that had taken supplies and personnel to the research station also tested positive for the virus after returning from their trip. The Sargento Aldea arrived at the base on Nov. 27 and sailed back to Chile on Dec. 10. Chile’s navy said those who embarked on the trip had previously tested negative for COVID-19, according to the BBC.
“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,” the Chilean Army said in a statement, according to 24 Horas.
The infected army and maintenance personnel have been evacuated to the city of Punta Arenas in Chile, where they are reportedly under isolation and are in good condition.
While Antarctica is considered the most isolated continent on Earth, an estimated 5,000 scientists and researchers live in Antarctica in the summer and about 1,000 do so during winter. The Bernardo O’Higgins research station is one of 70 permanent research stations scattered across the continent.
Chile is the sixth worst-affected country in Latin America, with more than 589,000 coronavirus cases and more than 16,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
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