Coronavirus in Antarctica: how Argentineans live the pandemic at the Esperanza Base

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If you see a world map with the continents affected by the coranavirus only one place on the planet seems safe. Antarctica, that space as magical as it is hostile, as well known as unknown, so immense, so far and near is the only place on Earth where no cases have been registered yet.

While in big cities and small towns, the inhabitants are forced and surprised by the preventive and obligatory imprisonment, On the white continent, the occupants of the Argentine and foreign bases know that isolation is not a situation but a condition for them.

The characteristics of Antarctica with temperatures that in the warm months barely reach 0 ° and in the winter reach -20, its eternal days and nights of six months, its null terrestrial fauna and its frozen and white surface, for centuries they isolated it from populated territories. What seemed like a sentence, today is a salvation. There is no way that the coranavirus enters if it is not brought by someone from the continent.

To prevent the pandemic from reaching a region where health and logistics resources are complex, the governments of the member countries of the Antarctic Treaty, including Argentina, adopted various preventive measures. First Reciprocal inspections that base crews usually carry out to verify compliance with the international agreement were suspended.

Another preventive measure was to ban the arrival of tourists. In summer it is estimated that about 44 thousand tourists visit the continent. Although the amount may seem small and it is a very regulated activity -for example, the boots worn by travelers are disinfected after each excursion to prevent bacteria from going from one place to another-, All activities stopped since the end of February.

March is a key month for scientists and military personnel living in the different bases and research centers, since until at least the first fortnight of the month, the replacement of endowments and the replenishment of food, fuel and other supplies. Also the removal of the so-called “Antarctic waste”, an essential task to keep the ecosystem safe and sound. These actions that are carried out by air and sea are vital and were not suspended.

The Hope Base It was inaugurated in December 1952, since then it has been the protagonist of important investigations. The tasks that their 63 residents They range from reconnaissance and exploration of the terrain and geography, to the construction of shelters and studies of topography, meteorology and dizziness. In addition there is a school and a shortwave radio. Infobae contacted Norman Waltertripay, Commander of the Hope Base to know how they live these times of pandemic.

“So far in Argentina’s Antarctica is free of cases of coronavirus infection. However, as until the end of February tourist ships were received, the Ministry of Defense implemented a demanding protocol in which it established the obligation to present sworn declarations of maritime health under the absolute responsibility of the doctors and captains of the different vessels. In addition, social contact measures with non-staff personnel were limited to the maximum. As in other places, personal hygiene measures and in common spaces were maximized to minimize any possible contamination, “he explained. Waltertripay.

But If the isolation is complex, much more is if you add the uncertainty of how the relatives who lived on the continent live it. In this sense, the owner of the base stated: “To date, no cases of Covid-19 have been registered among the direct families of the inhabitants of the base. However, for all the personnel who do not have their family at their side, a permanent communication channel was established so that they remain informed of the health of their environment.. The doctors who provide services with us put themselves at the service of all the staff to reinforce the concepts and medical advice on those points in which they should insist their families to avoid infections ”.

Argentines try to cope with their confinement in the best possible way, but sometimes patience is lacking and optimism runs away. Based on his own experience of isolation in Antarctica, Infobae He asked Nahueltripay for some advice.

“This wonderful environment that surrounds us many times becomes hostile and complex. The climate, the terrain, the place as a whole forces us to isolate ourselves in our homes for quite some time. It is in those moments where we enjoy our families to the fullest, playing, reading a book, doing homework or communicating with our distant beings. We are proud to represent them 365 days in these latitudes so far and so close to our Argentina. So the advice is simple: Stay at home. Stay home for 14 days or whatever you need, your loved ones will thank you, particularly the most vulnerable. “

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