Antarctica is still free of COVID-19. Can it stay that way?

Updated: 13 September, 2020 07:40 IST | Agencies | Johannesburg

"In general, the freedoms afforded to us are more extensive than those in the UK at the height of lockdown," said Taylor, who arrived in October and has missed the pandemic entirely

A field guide at the Brunt ice shelf in January this year. Pic/aFP
A field guide at the Brunt ice shelf in January this year. Pic/aFP

At this very moment a vast world exists that's free of the Coronavirus, where people can mingle without masks and watch the pandemic unfold from thousands of miles away.

That world is Antarctica, the only continent without COVID-19. Now, as nearly 1,000 scientists and others who wintered over on the ice are seeing the sun for the first time in weeks or months, a global effort wants to make sure incoming colleagues don't bring the virus with them.

From the UK's Rothera Research Station off the Antarctic peninsula that curls toward the tip of South America, field guide Rob Taylor described what it's like in "our safe little bubble." In pre-Coronavirus days, long-term isolation, self-reliance and psychological strain were the norm for Antarctic teams, while the rest of the world saw their life as fascinatingly extreme.

"In general, the freedoms afforded to us are more extensive than those in the UK at the height of lockdown," said Taylor, who arrived in October and has missed the pandemic entirely. "We can ski, socialise normally, run, use the gym, all within reason."

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First Published: 13 September, 2020 07:35 IST

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