A new synthesis paper investigates the Implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for Antarctica. The paper was published in Antarctic Science and contributes to SCAR's 'State of the Antarctic Ecosystem' research programme (AntEco).
The paper also discusses the implications for Antarctic governance, national operator logistics and tourism, but also for scientific research away from the continent such as the move to virtual SCAR 2020 Online following the cancellation of the physical meetings.
To date, Antarctica is the only continent to have escaped the COVID-19 pandemic. This was facilitated by the continent's isolation and low human presence, combined with the global emergence of the pandemic at the end of the Antarctic summer season and the rapid action of those national governmental operators and other actors still active on and around the continent during the early phases of the outbreak. Here, we consider the implications of the pandemic for Antarctic governance, national operator logistics, science, tourism and the fishing industry, as well as for Antarctic environmental protection. Global disruption will result in a temporary decrease in human activity in Antarctica, in turn leading to a reduction in environmental impacts for a period, but also a reduced capacity to respond to environmental incidents. Given the diversity of transmission routes and vectors, preventing the introduction of the virus will be difficult, even with stringent quarantine procedures in place, and the risks and implications of virus transmission to Antarctic wildlife are largely unknown. With control of the pandemic a major global challenge, international cooperation will be essential if Antarctica is to remain free of coronavirus.
Hughes, K., & Convey, P. (2020). Implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 32(6), 426-439. doi:10.1017/S095410202000053X