COVID-19 pandemic in Antarctica

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COVID-19 pandemic in Antarctica
Confirmed cases in Antarctica
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
First outbreakWuhan, Hubei, China
Index caseBase General Bernardo O'Higgins (Chile)
Arrival date21 December 2020
(3 years, 5 months and 6 days ago)
Confirmed cases226
Active cases0
Suspected cases1
Chilean Antarctic Territory
Suspected cases have not been confirmed by laboratory tests as being due to this strain, although some other strains may have been ruled out.

The COVID-19 pandemic in Antarctica is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Due to its remoteness and sparse population, Antarctica was the last continent to have confirmed cases of COVID-19 and was one of the last regions of the world affected directly by the pandemic.[1][2][3] The first cases were reported in December 2020, almost a year after the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in China. At least 36 people are confirmed to have been infected.[4] Even before the first cases on the continent were reported, human activity in Antarctica was indirectly impacted.


A nurse at McMurdo Station sets up the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing equipment, in September 2020.

On 12 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a novel coronavirus was the cause of a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan, Hubei, China, which was reported to the WHO on 31 December 2019.[5][6]

The case fatality ratio for COVID-19 has been much lower than SARS of 2003,[7][8] but the transmission has been significantly greater, with a significant total death toll.[9][7]

Impact on scientific research[edit]

People coming to Antarctica research stations have to undergo isolation and COVID-19 screening.[1] The Antarctica research stations of Australia, Norway and Germany have respirators and coronavirus tests; it remains unconfirmed whether the research stations of the U.S. and Britain have them.[1] The British Antarctic Survey implemented precautionary measures.[10] The Argentine Antarctica territories had taken measures at its six permanent bases to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to the territory before the arrival of the virus.[11]

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel caused complications with evacuating British Antarctic Survey personnel from the continent.[12]

As of 14 April 2020, bases in Antarctica contained only skeleton crews, visitors have been limited, and scientific research has been impacted.[13] Several conferences on the topic of Antarctica that had been planned for mid-2020 were cancelled due to the pandemic.[14]


View of the Base General Bernardo O'Higgins, where the first cases of COVID-19 in Antarctica were reported.
COVID-19 cases in Antarctica  ()
     Deaths        Recoveries        Active cases
Last 15 daysLast 15 days
# of cases
# of deaths
Cumulative cases reported in Antarctica to date.

Sources: Ministry of Science and Technology of Chile

In April 2020, a cruise ship headed for Antarctica had almost sixty percent of its passengers test positive for COVID-19. The cruise stopped in Uruguay, where the passengers were allowed to disembark.[15][16][17]

The first official cases were announced on 21 December 2020 by the government of Chile. At least 36 people, including 10 civilians and 26 officers of the Chilean Army and Chilean Navy, were confirmed as positive for COVID-19 after contracting the virus on the Base General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme (in continental Antarctica), where they were doing scheduled maintenance work for the base. The people developed symptoms for COVID-19 aboard the Sargento Aldea ship, and most of the cases were treated after arriving to their destinations in Punta Arenas and Talcahuano.[4][18][19][20]

On 14 December 2021, a positive case was detected at the Belgian research station Princesse Elisabeth in Queen Maud Land. Further tests revealed two more cases that were subsequently evacuated on 23 December. 11 of the 30[21] people present at the station were tested positive.[22]

On 12 January 2022, 13 positive cases were detected at Esperanza Base in Argentine Antarctica. Further tests detected 11 more cases, totaling 24 positive cases.[23]

On 13 September 2022, one positive case was detected at Davis Station in Australian Antarctic Territory.[24] First unspecified case detected at port in Hobart on 10 January 2022.[25]

The first confirmed case at McMurdo Station in Ross Dependency was detected in August 2022. By November, 10% of the population of the station was confirmed to be infected. As of February 2023, a total of 175 positive cases have been detected.[26][27] Covid also reached Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and WAIS Divide.[28][29]

On 8 November 2022, 20 positive cases were detected at Dumont d'Urville Station in Adélie Land. 20 of the 21 people present at the station were tested positive.[30]

Covid reached New Zealand's Scott Base, located several miles from McMurdo Station, in February 2023.[31]


On 18 March 2021, the Chilean Air Force announced they inoculated 49 members of their staff in Antarctica, being the first country to start vaccinating against COVID-19 in the continent.[citation needed]

On 7 October 2021, Astra-Zeneca vaccines arrived in Antarctica to vaccinate 23 members of staff that are working for the British Antarctic Survey in the Rothera base.[32][33]


Cases by territories and sites
Territory Site Operating country Cases Historical cases Deaths References
Adélie Land Dumont d'Urville Station, Cap Prud Homme  Italy,  France 28 0 0 [30]
Argentine Antarctica Esperanza Base, Base San Martín, Base Orcadas, Estación Carini, Belgrano II, Base Marambio  Argentina 42 0 0 [23]
Australian Antarctic Territory Davis Station, Estación Mawson, Estación Soyuz, Druzhnaya, Zhongshán, Bharati, Vostok,  China,  Russia,  India,  Australia 58 1 0 [24][25]
British Antarctic Territory Rothera Research Station  United Kingdom 27 0 0
Chilean Antarctic Territory Base General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme, Villa Las Estrellas  Chile 133 0 0 [20][34]
Peter I Island Sandefjord Cove  Norway 0 0 0
Queen Maud Land Princess Elisabeth Antarctica, SANAE IV, Estación Princesa Isabel, Estación Tor, Estación Showa  Norway,  Japan,  Belgium 73 0 0 [21]
Ross Dependency McMurdo Station, Estación Zucchelli, Base Scott  USA 125 0 0 [28][26]
Marie Byrd Land Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station  USA 8 0 0 [29]
9/9 494 1 0
Last update 8 February 2023.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Taylor, Adam; Pitrelli, Stefano (24 March 2020). "One continent remains untouched by the coronavirus: Antarctica". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 1 April 2020. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  2. ^ Torres, Elle (20 March 2020). "What life is like on Antarctica, the only continent without a case of coronavirus". ABC News. Archived from the original on 1 April 2020. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  3. ^ Agence France-Presse (31 March 2020). "Pacific islands, Antarctic bases: coronavirus-free living in some of Earth's most isolated places". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 3 April 2020. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Reportan brote de coronavirus en base chilena en la Antártida". infobae (in European Spanish). 21 December 2020. Archived from the original on 23 December 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  5. ^ Elsevier. "Novel Coronavirus Information Center". Elsevier Connect. Archived from the original on 30 January 2020. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  6. ^ Reynolds, Matt (4 March 2020). "What is coronavirus and how close is it to becoming a pandemic?". Wired UK. ISSN 1357-0978. Archived from the original on 5 March 2020. Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  7. ^ a b "Crunching the numbers for coronavirus". Imperial News. 13 March 2020. Archived from the original on 19 March 2020. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  8. ^ "High consequence infectious diseases (HCID); Guidance and information about high consequence infectious diseases and their management in England". GOV.UK. Archived from the original on 3 March 2020. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  9. ^ "World Federation Of Societies of Anaesthesiologists – Coronavirus". Archived from the original on 12 March 2020. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  10. ^ "British Antarctic Survey response to COVID-19". British Antarctic Survey. 24 March 2020. Archived from the original on 2 April 2020. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  11. ^ Mosle, Julio (20 September 2020). "Las bases argentinas extremaron cuidados para que el Covid-19 no llegue a la Antártida" [Argentine bases are extremely careful to prevent that Covid-19 does not reach Antarctica]. Télam (in Spanish). Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  12. ^ Amos, Jonathan (7 April 2020). "Coronavirus complicates journeys home from Antarctica". BBC News. Archived from the original on 8 April 2020. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  13. ^ Laing, Aislinn; Garrison, Cassandra (14 April 2020). "'Isolated within isolation': keeping out coronavirus in the frozen Antarctic". Reuters. Archived from the original on 20 April 2020. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  14. ^ "International Antarctic conferences cancelled due to coronavirus". Australian Antarctic Division. 19 March 2020. Archived from the original on 23 March 2020. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  15. ^ "Greg Mortimer: Uruguay evacuates Australians and New Zealanders on coronavirus-infected ship". Archived from the original on 23 January 2021. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  16. ^ Griffiths, James; Castillo, Jackie (8 April 2020). "Passengers to be evacuated from Antarctic cruise ship after almost 60% test positive for coronavirus". CNN. Archived from the original on 17 April 2020. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  17. ^ Al-Arshani, Sarah (9 April 2020). "Nearly 60% of the passengers on an Antarctic cruise ship have tested positive for the coronavirus". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 18 April 2020. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  18. ^ "Antártida: 36 relevados de base chilena por COVID-19". Associated Press. 21 December 2020. Archived from the original on 22 December 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  19. ^ Díaz Montero, Felipe (17 December 2020). "Posible brote COVID enciende alarmas de base chilena en Antártica tras visita de buque de la Armada". Bío Bío Chile. Archived from the original on 17 December 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  20. ^ a b "El coronavirus llegó a la Antártida; base militar chilena registra 58 casos". El Financiero (in Spanish). 22 December 2020. Archived from the original on 23 December 2020. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  21. ^ a b Andreas Frei: Wie Corona in die Antarktis kam – und was dabei optimistisch stimmt. Tages-Anzeiger, 5 January 2022, retrieved 6 January 2022.
  22. ^ "Le Covid s'invite à la station polaire Princesse Elisabeth". RTBF Info (in French). 28 December 2021. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
  23. ^ a b "Evacúan una base argentina en la Antártida tras 24 casos de Covid-19". Retrieved 21 January 2022.
  24. ^ a b "COVID-19 and the AAP: Information for expeditioners". Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  25. ^ a b "Covid-19 scuppers Australian Antarctic research trip". Research Professional News. 10 January 2022. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  26. ^ a b "Information from NSF on Coronavirus | National Science Foundation".
  27. ^ "Antarctica's biggest Covid outbreak yet puts US station McMurdo on pause". 8 November 2022.
  28. ^ a b "NSF Response to Covid cases at McMurdo station Antarctica". NSF - National Science Foundation. 4 November 2022. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  29. ^ a b "At one of Earth's most remote research stations, Covid is still a problem". NBC News. 4 November 2022. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  30. ^ a b "Antarctique : 20 des 21 occupants de la base française Dumont d'Urville sont positifs au Covid-19". Le Parisien (in French). 8 November 2022. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  31. ^ "COVID at Scott Base".
  32. ^ "AstraZeneca Covid vaccine arrives in Antarctica". BBC News. 7 October 2021. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  33. ^ Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office UK (7 October 2021). "Tweet about British Antarctic Survey Vaccines". Twitter. Archived from the original on 7 October 2021. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  34. ^ "Situación Nacional de COVID-19 en Chile". Gobierno de Chile (in Spanish). Retrieved 12 February 2022.

External links[edit]