The COVID surge has hit Antarctica

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(NEXSTAR) – The latest wave of COVID-19 cases has reached even the furthest corners of the world, now including Antarctica.

Researchers on the isolated ice continent have started testing positive for the virus over the past few weeks. On Sunday, the Antarctic Report tweeted 16 of the 25 people stationed at the Belgian Princess Elisabeth Station have been infected with the coronavirus.

All cases have been “mild,” the Antarctic Report said.

“While it has been an inconvenience to have to quarantine certain members of the staff who caught the virus, it hasn’t significantly affected our work at the station overall,” Joseph Cheek, a project manager at the International Polar Foundation, told the BBC.

Some of the scientists came to Antarctica from Belgium with a stop in South Africa. The first positive test popped up on Dec. 14.

Anyone at the Princess Elisabeth Station has been granted an opportunity to leave on a flight scheduled for January 12, but so far everyone has decided to stay and continue working, Cheek said.

The station requires everyone to be vaccinated and test negative before coming to Antarctica, the BBC reports.

This appears to be only the second COVID-19 outbreak in Antarctica. The coronavirus pandemic first reached the continent in December 2020. Chile announced that 58 people at military bases in Antarctica or on a navy ship that went to the continent had tested positive for the virus.

These 16 cases in Antarctica make up an extraordinarily small part of the latest surge in coronavirus cases, largely driven by the omicron variant. Johns Hopkins COVID-19 data tracking project has recorded nearly 24 million cases globally over the past four weeks.

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