Antarctica is the last continent without COVID-19. Scientists want to keep it that way.
Studying Antarctica is critical to combating climate change, but most scientists can’t travel to the continent this upcoming season.
The busy summer season in Antarctica begins in October and runs through February, when thousands of scientists from dozens of countries usually pack into the continent’s remote research stations. Forty permanent bases dot the desolate landscape, a number that nearly doubles when summer-only facilities resume operations. This year, however, getting to this icy scientific realm comes with a serious concern: Antarctica is the only continent without a single reported case of COVID-19.
Medical care at the research stations is limited, and dorm-like living makes it easy for disease to spread even in the best of years. During a pandemic, reducing the number of scientists on the continent will mitigate the risk of an outbreak, but it also disrupts urgent research.