“We are trained to live in isolation but under special conditions like today, we are isolated within an already isolated life,” said Alejandro Valenzuela Pena, head of a navy corps. in the territory of Chile in Antarctica said.
Talking over the phone with a Reuters correspondent from Escudero military base in Bahia Fildes Bay, Valenzuela said, 100 of his soldiers were in isolation. However, earlier actions have helped them quite a lot.
Ice sheets near Faurnier Bay, Antarctica (Image: Reuters)
“The bases closed at the right time,” he recounted. Boats and flights, respectively, stop to Antarctica from the beginning and the end of March. “Since then, we have been completely isolated without any connection.”
This means that some normal activities to kill time are also canceled such as playing table tennis and basketball.
Antarctica is currently the only continent where no human has been infected with COVID-19 (photo: getty)
Weeks ago, tourist activities in Antarctica were discontinued after news of yachts full of people infected with COVID-19 appeared and governments began restricting tourism.
Now, the grounds in the base are filled with researchers and soldiers – along with elephant seals, penguins and surrounded by thousands of kilometers of ice and snow.
With about 170 scientists and soldiers still in Antarctica, Argentina has limited the number of people it can visit its bases. Employees receive protective recommendations before COVID-19 from early February.
According to Dr. Alexandra Isern, head of the Antarctic Science Division of the National Science Foundation, measures such as frequent hand washing have become very common at bases in Antarctica. In a confined living space, the virus can spread very quickly.
“We always maintain a common security system and health rules to deal with disease,” she said, noting that the US stations are fully equipped to cope with COVID- 19.
The increase in social spacing has caused some of the very few “exchanges” between scientists from Russia, China, South Korea and Uruguay bases on King George Island – now canceled. revoke. Weekend gatherings, sporting events and skiing are all paused. Even a souvenir shop at the Russian base is closed indefinitely.
Officials fear the COVID-19 crisis could seriously affect scientists’ research on Antarctica.
Professor Peter Convey from the British Antarctic Research Organization warned that the stalled projects would disrupt climate change monitoring.
“It is an extremely important field of science and you need to have people perform on-site instrumentation and control work,” said Mr. Convey. “If we can’t get people to Antarctica, we won’t be able to do these things.”