Keeping Antarctica COVID-19 free?

Antarctica remains Earth's only continent free from the deadly COVID-19 pathogen. But is it for long?

If the coronavirus outbreak continues to escalate and affect supply lines of fuel and food to Antartica the scientific bases have a contingency plan to “ride out the storm”.

The Rothera station leader Michael Brian said: “We have a contingency plan down here to survive for a number of years, but I do not think it is going to come to that and the whole planet would have to be in a very poor place before that situation would arise.”

A coronavirus outbreak in an Antarctic base would be a nightmare scenario, where frigid temperatures as low as -63c means windows must remain closed in cramped conditions - perfect conditions for an outbreak. In the unfortunate circumstance that an Antarctican were to succumb to the respiratory debilitation caused by COVID-19, the closest hospital with an intensive care unit is thousands of miles away in Chile.

Getting to this hospital in the frozen darkness of the Antartica winter would be extremely difficult as there are no flights during the winter and staff are completely cut off with their bases encrusted with ice.

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