Three dozen people at a research base in Antarctica tested positive for the virus

By Georgia Slater
December 23, 2020 10:58 AM
Advertisement
Argentina's research station Esperanza
Credit: Adriana Tamayo/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty

The novel coronavirus has officially reached Antarctica, making it the final continent on Earth to be affected by the pandemic.

Antarctica, which has stayed free from the virus for more than nine months, recorded its first COVID-19 case after 36 people tested positive for the virus on a Chilean research base.

According to Newsweek, General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme Base confirmed this week that 26 army personnel and 10 civilians working on the base tested positive for the illness.

The infected individuals have been evacuated to the city of Punta Arenas in Southern Chile and a new crew has replaced them at the station.

The 36 individuals are reported to be in good condition and under isolation while in Chile.

Three crew members of a ship that had been supplying logistical support to the base also tested positive for the virus, despite the entire crew testing negative before embarking on the voyage

All 208 crew members on the vessel, which serviced the base between Nov. 27 and Dec. 10, are being quarantined aboard the ship, according to the Associated Press.

Antartica ice
Credit: Getty

The Chilean base is one of 13 active Chilean bases in Antarctica. No other country with a presence on the continent has reported any COVID-19 cases.

As of Wednesday, there have been more than 78.1 million cases of the coronavirus worldwide and at least 1.7 million deaths, according to data from The New York Times.

Earlier this week, public health officials in England confirmed the existence of a new, faster-spreading strain of the virus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that London and other parts of Southeast England would move to the highest level of restrictions after officials said that a variant of COVID-19 found in the country is moving 70 percent faster than other types.

The strain, which Public Health England (PHE) has named ‘VUI – 202012/01,’ was first identified in September as experts analyzed samples from positive COVID-19 cases in southeastern England. However, experts emphasize that it's common for different strains of viruses to exist and that COVID-19 has already mutated multiple times before.

Officials said that while this strain appears to be spreading faster than others, there is no evidence that it leads to more severe COVID-19 illness or is more deadly.

COVID-19 cases with this strain have been identified in Australia, Denmark and the Netherlands.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.