Santiago – COVID-19 reached the only continent on the planet that apparently remained free of the new coronavirus: at least 58 people, military and civilian, were infected at two bases in Chile in Antarctica, one belonging to the army and the other to the air force. “Sargento Aldea” was reported on Tuesday.
The Chilean authorities are the first to report infections in Antarctica and so far no other country has reported infections. No one mentioned how the virus could have reached the white continent.
It is said that those infected are in good condition. There was no public reference to the possible effects of the virus on the local fauna.
The Regional Minister of Health of the Biobío region, Héctor Muñoz, said on Tuesday that, according to the Navy, “there are 21 positive cases … (and) 76 close contacts” aboard the multipurpose ship “Sargento Aldea”, where on Tuesday they were performed another 124 tests to detect possible new cases. The institution reported three of the 21 infected last week.
The ship transferred personnel and equipment to the Antarctic army base “Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme” between November 27 and the first week of December, and before returning landed at an Air Force base.
Marina said in a December 18 statement that “on December 14, two members of the Chilean army landed in Punta Arenas were notified that there were positive cases of COVID-19,” after they were examined in the city. The institution said that before sailing to Antarctica, the entire crew tested negative for the new coronavirus.
The 208 crew members have been in quarantine for almost a week in their base port of Talcahuano.
The army reported on the eve of 36 infected at its base, 26 soldiers and 10 civilians performing scheduled maintenance tasks. All are quarantined in Punta Arenas.
The institution has evacuated all its staff and the replacement with whom it was to begin its tasks in 2021, which previously served a quarantine.
The virus also reached Villa Las Estrellas, where the civilian personnel of the “Lieutenant Rodolfo Marsh Martin” air base are located, who were also visited by the ship “Sargento Aldea”.
The substitute regional secretary of Magallanes Health, Eduardo Castillo, reported an infected person in Villa Las Estrellas, who along with eight close contacts were transferred to the southern city during the day.
The “Lieutenant Rodolfo Marsh Martin” base of the Air Force is the largest of the Chilean bases and is located on King George Island, where there are other bases, including those in Argentina, Germany, Russia, Uruguay and Korea. The closest are the Russian and the Uruguayan.
A press source in the Argentine Presidency told The Associated Press that the Argentine base in Antarctica has no COVID-19 infection.
Every summer in the south, the population of bases in Antarctica grows, some go to replace staff, and others have to conduct scientific studies for short periods.
The FACH base has a runway of about 1,300 meters and receives about 200 flights in the summer season that transport Chileans and many foreigners from nearby bases.