Medical Technology

COVID-19 Outbreak Hits Research Station in Antarctica

A COVID-19 outbreak has occurred at one of the most remote places on earth – the Princess Elisabeth Polar Station in Antarctica.

Two thirds of the 25 workers have tested positive at the station, despite all of them being fully vaccinated and going through several testing stages being allowed entrance, the Belgium publication Le Soir reported.

So far, all the cases are mild at the station, which is owned by Belgium and operated by a private group, the International Polar Foundation.

The first case was discovered Dec. 14 among a group that arrived a week earlier in Antarctica, Le Soir reported. The first three people to test positive evacuated Dec. 23, Le Soir said, but the virus continued to spread among the remaining workers at the base.

Le Soir, citing a virologist, said the Omicron variant probably caused the outbreak because the crew made its last stop in South Africa before arriving in Antarctica. 

New arrivals to the station have been put on hold until the outbreak is brought under control, and one of the missions planned for the base has been postponed, Le Soir said.

“The situation isn’t dramatic,” Joseph Cheek, a project manager for the International Polar Foundation, told the BBC. “While it has been an inconvenience to have to quarantine certain members of the staff who caught the virus, it hasn’t significantly affected our work at the station overall.”

The BBC said there was another COVID outbreak in Antarctica about a year ago at the Bernardo O’Higgins research station operated by Chile.


Le Soir: “The Princess Elisabeth Station paralyzed by the covid”

BBC: “Coronavirus pandemic: Antarctic outpost hit by Covid-19 outbreak”

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