Covid reaches every continent as Antarctica records its first cases in polar research team
ANTARCTICA has recorded its first cases of coronavirus after members of a Chilean research team were struck down the killer bug.
It is the last of the world's seven continents to be affected by the disease after managing to avoid the pandemic up until now.
In total, 36 people stationed at Chile's General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme research base tested positive – including 26 members of the Chilean Army and ten maintenance workers.
A statement released by the Chilean Army says: "Thanks to 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," Newsweek reports.
The 36 team members who caught the virus have since been evacuated to Punta Arenas in Chile, where they are in isolation and recovering.
They were replaced by a new crew who had been quarantined and tested negative prior to their journey.
It comes after global efforts were made to keep coronavirus from reaching Antarctica, with all major research projects halted.
As much of the world frantically locked down in March, the 30 countries that make up the Council of Mangers of National Antarctic Programs agreed the pandemic could become a major disaster.
With the world’s strongest winds and coldest temperatures, the continent roughly the size of the United States and Mexico is already dangerous for workers at 40 year-round bases.
According to a COMNAP document, "A 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."
Visits and social events between stations ceased, and the COMNAP warned "no cruise ships should be disembarking" as contact with tourists was put to a stop.
Almost 1,000 scientists and other support staff stayed on the isolated island over its winter.
Antarctic bases soon slipped into months of isolation, and as spring came around, teams began sending workers out – but fewer than usual.
The polar continent was the only place where coronavirus infections had not been recorded up until now.
Across the world, more than 77.4 million cases have been reported, with a death toll of 1.7 million.
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