Antarctica: Vaccinated polar researchers hit by Omicron outbreak miles from civilisation

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Two thirds of the staff based at Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth Polar Station have caught the Omicron variant, according to Le Soir newspaper. All staff passed multiple PCR tests, quarantining, and being fully vaccinated with one having received a booster shot.

Before leaving for the station, they had a PCR test two hours prior to a flight to South Africa.

In South Africa they then quarantined for ten days before taking another PCR test.

They were also tested before leaving Cape Town for Antarctica and also a final one five days after arrival.

Polar researchers in Antarctica are living in one of the most remote places in the world.

Only a relatively small number of scientists and logistical support staff live full time on the continent.

One person tested positive seven days after arrival on December 14.

Although the person was isolated it was revealed that two others had caught the virus.

The three were evacuated on December 23 but the virus has continued to spread. 

There are two emergency doctors at the station.

However, it’s not thought that any of the Belgian’s have experienced severe symptoms.

According to Le Soir, It’s thought that the researchers caught the virus in South Africa.

It is believed that it is the Omicron variant as that strain is now responsible for 99% of cases in South Africa. 

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No new arrivals will be allowed at the research station until the outbreak is over.

Belgium’s Polar Secretariat has decided that the research season will be shortened.

Staff will stay at the station until January when new expeditions will arrive. 

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