Where are the cases reported in Antarctica?
Antarctica, as we are well aware, was the only free zone from Covid-19 when the rest of the world was still undergoing the stress from it even when the new variant had arrived in Britain. But now it can no longer claim to be coronavirus-free after 36 Chileans reportedly tested positive for the virus. Reports confirmed these 36 people who were connected with the Chilean Army base General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme were tested positive for the virus on Monday. The research station, colloquially known as O’Higgins is one of the 13 active Chilean bases in Antarctica which is located to the northernmost tip of the Antarctic Peninsula in West Antarctica. This is really far from Australia’s bases in East Antarctica which is also described by a travel website as “hard to reach even by Antarctic terms.”
The University of Tasmania’s Hanne Nielsen which is a part of a project that examines the impact of the Antarctic tourism season cancellation told that the presence of the virus on the continent would certainly have implications. The Australian Voyagers were isolated for two weeks in Hobart and were Covid tested three times before traveling to Antarctica. However, the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) was already looking at how the Covid-19 pandemic had affected the region.
Dr. Buchanan’s detailed explanation
A lecturer in Deakin University Strategic Studies, Dr. Elizabeth Buchanan had to say some detailed analysis on this occurrence now as she expected the policymakers in Chile would be working to find out how the transmission occurred in the first place when a large amount of planning that was involved to test and clear the naval and army personnel before their early December transit was given. She said, “ the detection of cases in Antarctica will impact upon a range of areas from planning and logistics of human activity on the continent through to a high-level decision making back home. This also will have implications for local wildlife, with a threat of humans transmitting the virus to other species as well.” “Of Course the military footprint here has both introduced Covid-19 to Antarctica but also allowed for the rapid evacuation of infected expeditioners,” Dr. Buchanan said.
In distinction to Australia’s limited military footprint during this season, it had shown that Canberra relied on Chinese and US assistance to “medivac” an Australian at Davis Station which was not Covid-19 related. The transmission between stations would be just insignificant as the number of expeditioners is very low in O’Higgins and the place is very remote. But the German Antarctic program has an outpost within the grounds of O’Higgins according to Dr. Buchanan. She said,” I would think protocols have been put in place there. Australia sent about 250 expeditioners to Davis, Mawson and Casey stations as well as Macquarie Island this season which was about half the usual half.”
According to the Australian Antarctic Division website, only staff who are considered essential to keeping the stations operational and monitoring wildlife and climate traveled South. The place is waiting for the opinions from WHO and other resources to have a clear picture and remove the threat as soon as possible.