Remote Antarctic station hit with Covid-19 outbreak — Analysis
However, the Belgian scientific foundation reported several cases even though its staff was fully vaccinated
Researchers working at Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth Polar Station have contracted Covid-19, even though all personnel have been inoculated and any new arrival has to follow rigorous safety protocols.
Developments at the station, which is located miles from civilization, have proven there is no escape from the omnipresent virus that’s been holding the planet in its grip for almost two years.
Two-thirds of the station’s staff of 25 have been infected with the coronavirus, Belgium’s polar secretariat confirmed to local media earlier this week. The mystery of how the virus got to the remote station located 220km (137 mi) from Antarctic coast remains.
“All those present have received two doses of vaccine, and one person has even received a booster shot,” said Alain Hubert, the facility’s executive operator and head of security measures. On their long trip to the station, all staff must also undergo several PCR tests.
Those en route to South Africa must pass one PCR test in Belgium prior to departing for South Africa. Another five-day follow-up is required. The station is self-isolated for 10 days. They then have to undergo another test, one before they leave for Antarctica.
However, these strict controls were not enough to prevent the Covid-19 outbreak. The first Covid-19 infection was discovered at the station by a new group of arrivals in December. Although the person was quickly placed in isolation and two other cases were confirmed to be infected, they also received coronavirus treatment.
Although all three of the infected scientists were evacuated by the polar secretariat on December 23, this did not stop further spread of Omicron. A virologist contacted by the polar secretariat said the variant that has infected personnel at the station might be Omicron – the highly transmissible strain recently discovered in South Africa.
The media reported that there are two emergency physicians and all of the equipment necessary to care for anyone who becomes ill at the station. All personnel have been placed under quarantine by the polar secretariat until they can dissipate the Covid-10 cluster. The arrival of two additional expeditions to explore the Arctic was expected by January 12th, but they have been delayed.
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