Chilean army confirms 36 COVID-19 infections at Antarctic base

Nicky Souness, a photographer and expedition guide from South Africa, prepares a flotilla of kayaks during a tourist expedition in the Yalour Islands, Antarctica.

The Chilean army has confirmed that 26 soldiers and 10 civilians who were performing maintenance work at a base stationed in Antarctica tested positive for COVID-19.

In a statement released on Monday by local press and confirmed on Tuesday, the army announced that in recent days “personnel who were performing functions at the Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme Antarctic Base had presented symptoms associated with COVID-19.”

According to the statement, the contagion of these 36 men was subsequently validated through PCR tests. Among them, 26 were in uniform and the other 10 belonged to a contractor company that was carrying out scheduled maintenance work in that place.

The army explained that those infected had already been isolated without complications and were being monitored and supported by the health authorities of Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica Region, the southernmost region with the highest incidence of COVID-19 per 100,000 inhabitants nationwide.

The base is a scientific research station inaugurated in 1948 and managed by the Chilean army for the longest period of continuous operation. 

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