While the rest of the world is worrying about the new highly transmissible mutant coronavirus strain, Antarctica has recorded its first-ever COVID-19 case. Multiple people have tested positive for the virus at a Chilean research base on the frozen continent. Out of the 36 confirmed cases, 26 are members of the Chilean army while 10 are maintenance workers.
According to the UK daily The Guardian, Spanish media has reported of a COVID-19 outbreak at the General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme research base on Monday. The 36 COVID-19 patients have been evacuated to Punta Arenas in Chile. They are currently under isolation. General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme is one out of 13 Chilean bases in Antarctica.
Three crew members who were stationed on a ship providing support to the research base have also tested positive for the coronavirus. They had returned from their mission to the frozen continent, according to the report.
In an effort to prevent further spread of COVID-19, all major research projects in Antarctica have been paused. As a result, research by scientists from around the world has been interrupted, reported The Guardian.
"Thanks to the 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," The Guardian report cited Newsweek as quoting the Chilean army.
Antarctica does not have a native population but around 1,000 researchers and other visitors are staying on the island continent over the winter, as per the daily.