US research station in Antarctica suspends travel after COVID-19 infects 98
The outbreak of COVID-19 has hit the US station in Antarctica, even though it is located in one of the most remote regions of the world.
According to the National Science Foundation, which runs McMurdo Station, the largest base on the continent, at least 98 people tested positive from the beginning of October, from 993 employees.
64 of the cases are active. The NSF said most employees have mild symptoms and are isolated in their rooms. It is unclear how the outbreak started.
To contain the outbreak, NSF is suspending all inbound travel to Antarctica for the next two weeks, except for essential travel required for health and safety reasons.
In a statement, the foundation said it was “reducing population density to reduce the likelihood of transmission” during which it would “reassess the situation”.
It is unclear whether the travel suspension will affect any research projects. This happens when many scientists go to the mainland for their summer field season, where they work for two to three months.
It is also not known whether the pause will be extended for two weeks.
Those who test positive are required to self-isolate for five days and then wear a mask for an additional five days.
After receiving two negative tests, they are allowed to return to work.
Furthermore, the foundation said its “expert epidemiologist” strongly recommends that all base workers wear KN-95 masks at all times, and NSF will “ensure they are available to all McMurdo residents.”
This is not the first case of an outbreak of COVID-19 in Antarctica.
At least 11 out of 33 workers in Belgium in December 2020 Princess Elizabeth Polar Station tested positive for the virus.
Additionally, during the same month, 36 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed among workers at the Bernardo O’Higgins Research Station in Chile on the Antarctic Peninsula.
McMurdo Station was established in 1955 and is one of three scientific facilities in Antarctica operated by the United States.
By: NSF:, the station consists of 85 buildings, including laboratories, dormitories, repair facilities, a power plant, a fire station, and a water distillery. It also contains a marina, two landing strips and a paid helipad.
Scientists focus on research at McMurdo in many areas, including biology, geospace sciences, glaciology, and climate systems.
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