COVID-19 pandemic in Antarctica

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COVID-19 pandemic in Antarctica
Chilean Antarctica in Antarctica.svg
Territorial claims with confirmed cases (red) and deaths (black)
As of 31 December 2020
Disease COVID-19
Virus strain SARS-CoV-2
Location Antarctica
First outbreak Wuhan, Hubei, China
Index case Base General Bernardo O'Higgins, Chilean Antarctic Territory
Arrival date21 December 2020
(9 months, 3 weeks and 4 days ago)
Confirmed cases58
Active cases0
Suspected cases0
Flag of Magallanes, Chile.svg Chilean Antarctic Territory
Suspected cases have not been confirmed by laboratory tests as being due to this strain, although some other strains may have been ruled out.

The COVID-19 pandemic in Antarctica is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Due to its remoteness and sparse population, Antarctica was the last continent to have confirmed cases of COVID-19 and was one of the last regions of the world affected directly by the pandemic. [1] [2] [3] The first cases were reported in December 2020, almost a year after the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in China. At least 36 people are confirmed to have been infected. [4] <noinclude>Even before the first cases on the continent were reported, human activity in Antarctica was indirectly impacted.



View of the Base General Bernardo O'Higgins, where the first cases of COVID-19 in Antarctica were reported. Bernardo O'Higgins Station 100 9866.jpg
View of the Base General Bernardo O'Higgins, where the first cases of COVID-19 in Antarctica were reported.

On 12 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a novel coronavirus was the cause of a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan, Hubei, China, which was reported to the WHO on 31 December 2019. [5] [6]

The case fatality ratio for COVID-19 has been much lower than SARS of 2003, [7] [8] but the transmission has been significantly greater, with a significant total death toll. [9] [7]

Impact on scientific research

People coming to Antarctica research stations have to undergo isolation and COVID-19 screening. [1] The Antarctica research stations of Australia, Norway and Germany have respirators and coronavirus tests; it remains unconfirmed whether the research stations of the U.S. and Britain have them. [1] The British Antarctic Survey implemented precautionary measures. [10] The Argentine Antarctica territories had taken measures at its six permanent bases to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to the territory before the arrival of the virus. [11]

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel caused complications with evacuating British Antarctic Survey personnel from the continent. [12]

As of 14 April 2020, bases in Antarctica contain only skeleton crews, visitors have been limited, and scientific research has been impacted. [13] Several conferences on the topic of Antarctica that had been planned for mid-2020 were cancelled due to the pandemic. [14]


COVID-19 cases in Antarctica  ()
     Deaths        Recoveries        Active cases
Last 15 daysLast 15 days
# of cases
# of deaths
Cumulative cases reported in Antarctica to date.

Sources: Ministry of Science and Technology of Chile

In April 2020, a cruise ship headed for Antarctica had almost sixty percent of its passengers test positive for COVID-19. The cruise stopped in Uruguay, where the passengers were allowed to disembark. [15] [16] [17]

The first official cases were announced on 21 December 2020 by the government of Chile. At least 36 people, including 10 civilians and 26 officers of the Chilean Army and Chilean Navy, were confirmed as positive for COVID-19 after contracting the virus on the Base General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme (in continental Antarctica), where they were doing scheduled maintenance work for the base. The people developed symptoms for COVID-19 aboard the Sargento Aldea ship, and most of the cases were treated after arriving to their destinations in Punta Arenas and Talcahuano. [4] [18] [19] [20]


On 18 March 2021, the Chilean Air Force announced they inoculated 49 members of their staff in Antarctica, being the first country to start vaccinating against COVID-19 in the continent. [21]

On 7 October 2021, Astra-Zeneca vaccines arrived in Antarctica to vaccinate 23 members of staff that are working for the British Antarctic Survey in the Rothera base. [22] [23]

See also

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The following events occurred in Antarctica in 2020.


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