COVID-19 Cases Have Now Been Recorded In Antarctica, Making It The Last Continent To Be Hit

Almost a year after the coronavirus pandemic broke out in Wuhan, the first cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Antarctica.

A total of 36 people – 26 members of the army and 10 civilians – tested positive for COVID-19 at Chile’s General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme research base. That makes Antarctica the last continent to be affected by the virus, which is reminiscent of Greenland for anyone who’s played Plague Inc.

“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,” a spokesperson for the Chilean army said in a statement.

“All present a favourable diagnostic and without any complication associated with the virus.”

The base is populated by humans and penguins. (CC-BY / Stone Monki)

Those 36 people have since been evacuated to the town of Punta Arenas, towards the southern tip of mainland Chile. They’re currently in isolation and are faring well.

Although heaps of Antarctic research has been halted since the start of the pandemic, just over 1,000 people remained on the continent during winter.

Deliveries by air and sea meant there was always a chance the virus would eventually spread to Antarctic bases.

With no proper hospitals and a limited ability to get supplies at short notice, things could’ve been much worse without early intervention.

A view over the General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme research base. (CC-BY / Stone Monki)

Earlier this year, a document from the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs read: “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.”

The General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme research base is one of 12 Chilean research bases in Antarctica.

It’s right on the other side of the continent from the Australian Antarctic Territory.

But luckily because the bases are far apart with nothing but ice and maybe a few penguins between them, it’s not as if the pandemic is about to ravage the whole continent anytime soon.