Coronavirus reaches Antarctica according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) eliminating the continent's status as the only one that was still free of coronavirus so far. Chile reported 36 infected people at its Bernardo O'Higgins research station.
26 military members and ten civilians from a maintenance company were infected with SARS-CoV-2, reported the Chilean media, citing the army that operates the Bernardo O'Higgins research station. Those affected were brought to the Chilean city of Punta Arenas in Patagonia, the starting point of many Antarctic expeditions.
The news of the coronavirus infections comes just days after the Chilean Navy confirmed three cases on the ship "Sargento Aldea" that brought supplies and personnel to the research station. The entire crew had been subjected to PCR tests before leaving for Antarctica. All results were negative.
For months, the southern continent had been one of the last places where you could be quietly with people in closed rooms. Strict measures helped prevent a corona virus outbreak. Countries with research stations in Antarctica quickly issued bans on cruise ships and other visitors who do not provide vital supplies. Each of the more than 80 research stations, in which up to 4,000 scientists from all over the world work at times, turned into its own bubble.
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Bernardo O'Higgins station is located on the northernmost tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. It is one of more than a dozen Chilean stations on the continent and named after Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme, who fought for independence from Spain.
The station was built in 1948, making it one of the longest continuously operated stations in Antarctica. In 1991 the German satellite ground station "Gars-O'Higgins" of the German Aerospace Center was built in the immediate vicinity.