Antarctica, once the only continent not to be affected by the coronavirus, has now recorded its first cases, after 36 people stationed at a Chilean research base tested positive, reported Reuters on Tuesday.
The virus was detected in 26 members of the Chilean military and 10 contractual maintenance workers stationed at the Bernardo O’Higgins base in the Antarctic Peninsula, Chile’s military said this week. The 36 individuals have since been evacuated to the city of Punta Arenas in Chile, where they are reported to be under isolation and in good condition, according to The Guardian.
Chile’s Navy reported that it too had detected three cases of Covid-19 among 208 crew members of a ship that had sailed in the Antarctic region between November 27 and December 10.
“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 Newsweek.
Research and military stations in Antarctica, which are among the most remote in the world, had gone to extraordinary lengths in recent months to keep the virus out, canceling tourism, scaling back activities and staff and locking down facilities.
The continent has no permanent residents. However, 1,000 researchers and other visitors stayed on the island over winter.
Covid-19 has infected more than 7.79 crore people and killed over 17 lakh in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins University. Over 4.36 crore people have recovered from the infection.