Covid outbreak at Antarctic base prompts evacuation — Analysis

Covid-19 has infected more than half of its La Esperanza staff.

After more than half of the scientists and military personnel at Hope Bay’s Antarctic base tested positive for Covid-19, nine unvaccinated staff members were evacuated to Buenos Aires. That’s according to Patricia Ortuzar, the polar researcher who heads up the Argentine government’s department of Antarctic affairs.

Ortuzar said that none of the people who were tested positive had symptoms. However, those not vaccinated are being evacuated to avoid any complications. It was determined that the remaining infected should be kept at the station.

Before vaccines were made available in Argentina this year, the evacuated people had been at La Esperanza. They had declined to be inoculated before the end of their mission due to concerns they might develop side effects in Antarctica’s extreme environment.

Ortuzar says that the La Esperanza outbreak began January 12. The virus was likely brought to La Esperanza by an unknown person. Covid-19 was not reported on the South American continent until the end of the year. The first cases were reported in December 2020 at Chile’s General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme base.

Covid-19 hit remote Antarctic station

Argentina holds the most footprint in Antarctica. There are six permanent bases, and seven other bases that only operate during the warmer season. In the summer, 200 people live in permanent residences. Buenos Aires claims a sector of Antarctica as its national territory, but other countries don’t recognize it.

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