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COVID-19 Impacts Antarctic Field Season

As COVID-19 sweeps the planet, only one continent remains untouched and Antarctica New Zealand is focused on keeping it that way.

After close consultation with other National Antarctic Programmes in the Ross Sea region and considering a range of scenarios for the upcoming research season, Antarctica New Zealand has decided to support only long-term science monitoring, essential operational activity and planned maintenance this season in Antarctica.

Chief Executive, Sarah Williamson, says the key mechanism for keeping Scott Base COVID-19 free is to limit the number of people travelling to Antarctica and a strict managed isolation plan.

“Antarctica New Zealand is committed to maintaining and enhancing the quality of New Zealand’s Antarctic scientific research. However, current circumstances dictate that our ability to support science is extremely limited this season” she says.

Antarctica New Zealand will support long-term science monitoring programmes in the vicinity of Scott Base, essential maintenance and priority engineering projects and critical Scott Base Redevelopment project tasks.

GM Operations, Simon Trotter, says this has been a difficult decision.

“We acknowledge the impact this COVID-19 response will have on research this season, but these are unprecedented times. Our focus is to keep Antarctica free from the virus, and the best way to do that is minimise its opportunity to get onto the continent” he says.

Antarctica New Zealand is developing a managed isolation plan with multiple government agencies to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t enter Antarctica.

Other National Antarctic Programmes have indicated that they also face significant operational challenges and will likely only support essential operations and critical services.

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