Dr. Cindy Prins, as an epidemiologist at the University of Florida, he told me once that COVID-19 is a “behavioral disease”. What he meant was that people who work from home, or those who generally avoid other people, have a very low risk of getting the infection. This is because the coronavirus spreads from person to person, through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing or speaking. This is one of the reasons remote locations that people rarely travel to, such as Antarctica, have been able to avoid its deadly grip until now.
Unfortunately, the icy southernmost continent is no longer untouched by the pandemic.
Last week, Chilean officials confirmed that the new coronavirus had appeared in Antarctica, which means it has now infected humans on all continents of the Earth. Second the Wall Street newspaper, 26 Army personnel and 10 civilians, who are contractors for a company that maintains the research base, General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme, are infected. All were evacuated to the city of Punta Arenas, Chile, where they are isolated and monitored. As of December 22, none of those infected had severe symptoms.
Second BBC News, Navy ship S argento Aldea arrived at the research station in Antarctica on November 27, 2020. Prior to departure, all aboard underwent a COVID-19 nasal swab PCR test and received negative results. He returned to Chile on December 10, when part of the crew disembarked from the ship, when some members began to develop symptoms. On December 14, two people tested positive. In light of this, every member of the ship’s crew had to be re-tested and quarantined. But while this was happening in Chile, people at the Chilean Antarctic base developed symptoms of COVID-19.
So how did the novel coronavirus get to such a remote location when everyone was tested before departure? While the investigation is still ongoing, there are immediately available clues.
“My guess – and it is simply this – is that the original infection occurred in Chile prior to departure, or aboard a ship or plane while transiting to the station,” Arctic specialist Alan said. Hemmings Euronews. “Once there is only one infected person at the station, closeness and proximity would presumably favor its wider spread.”
Could it be that the spread took place on a ship? At the start of the pandemic, cruise ships were the main ones coronavirus spread vector. Indeed, the close spaces of a ship are the main conditions for the spread of the coronavirus.
However, it is curious that all of them were tested before the trip and received negative results, which could talk about the inherent flaws in the test.
According to a study by Johns Hopkins researchers, If a coronavirus positive patient is tested too early in the course of infection, a false negative test is likely to occur. There’s a reason state health departments recommend that asymptomatic people who think they are at risk for COVID-19 be tested five to seven days after exposure.
“A negative test result only means that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of the test or that your sample was collected too early during the infection,” say the Centers for Disease and Control. “If you test negative for COVID-19, you probably weren’t infected at the time the sample was taken; that doesn’t mean you won’t get sick.”
In this sense, the Antarctic epidemic could be similar to the White House epidemic, as it reveals the shortcomings of our test technology. After President Donald Trump tested positive, several people close to him initially tested negative after being exposed, then eventually tested positive after a few days. It can take days for someone who has been exposed to the virus to develop symptoms or test positive.
Although Antarctica is now plagued by the pandemic, there are other places in the world where the pandemic is under control and epidemics are a thing of the past. In New Zealand, the the coronavirus has been eliminated. As BuzzFeed recently reported, life has returned to normal in parts of Australia, South Korea, Taiwan, China and Thailand.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Antarctic epidemic is the way it embodies the incredibly virulent spread of the virus. The continent is sparsely populated with transient scientists and military personnel and is a symbol of isolation, psychological tension, and limited resources. Yet, in the midst of the pandemic, Antarctic residents had more freedom of movement and interaction than the rest of the world. As a field guide said AP news in September: “In general, the freedoms we are granted are wider than those in the UK at the height of closure; we can ski, socialize normally, run, use the gym, all within reasonable limits.”
As there are 70 research bases in Antarctica, this outbreak is unlikely to spread to others.
“Personnel from United States Antarctic Program stations have had no interaction with the Chilean stations in question or with personnel residing there,” a spokesperson for the US National Science Foundation (NSF) he told CBS News. “NSF remains committed to not exchanging personnel or accepting tourists at USAP stations.”