Antarctic research station hit by COVID outbreak

(News)
– One of the most isolated places on the planet has been hit by a coronavirus outbreak, but all cases detected at the Princess Elisabeth polar station in Antarctica have been mild and workers at the Belgian station plan to stay put. At least 16 of the station’s 25 workers have been infected in the past three weeks despite strict quarantine procedures, Sky News reports. Arrivals at the station are now interrupted. Authorities said workers were to quarantine themselves in South Africa, one of the countries where the omicron variant was first detected, before traveling to Antarctica. The first case of COVID at the station was discovered on December 14 in a member of a team who arrived a week earlier.

“The situation is not dire,” Joseph Cheek of the International Polar Foundation told the BBC. “While it was a downside to having to quarantine some of the staff who caught the virus, it did not significantly affect our work at the station overall,” Cheek said. He says all of the workers were given the option to leave on a January 12 flight and they all chose to stay. Workers at the station, which opened in 2009, are fully vaccinated and there are two emergency doctors at the site. (Antarctica lost its status as the only COVID-free continent over a year ago.)

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