First COVID cases recorded in Antartica

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Antarctica can no longer boast being the only continent free of coronavirus after 36 Chileans reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.

Spanish-language media has reported up to 36 people connected with the Chilean Army base General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme tested positive for the virus on Monday.

The research station, known colloquially as O’Higgins, is one of 13 active Chilean bases in Antarctica.

It is located close to the northern-most tip of the Antarctic Peninsula in West Antarctica — far from Australia’s bases in East Antarctica — and was described by one travel website as “hard to reach even by Antarctic terms.”

The University of Tasmania’s Hanne Nielsen, part of a project examining the impact of the Antarctic tourism season cancellation, said the virus’s presence on the continent would have many implications.

“The detection of cases of COVID-19 in Antarctica will impact upon a range of areas, from planning and logistics of human activity on the continent through to high-level decision-making back home,” she said.