October 14, 2020 (Google Translation) – The Defense Minister, Agustín Rossi , yesterday headed a meeting of the Antarctic Joint Command in which the different actions aimed at carrying out the 2020/2021 Antarctic Summer Campaign (CAV) were reviewed, which in this edition will have the challenge of fulfilling the tasks essential for the relief of endowments and supplies, under strict sanitary measures in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Present were the Secretary of Malvinas, Antarctica and the South Atlantic, Daniel Filmus; and the chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces, Brigadier General Juan Martín Paleo; the Operational Commander of the Armed Forces Deimundo Escobal; and the Undersecretariat of Operational Planning and Defense Logistics Service, Lucia Kersul, among other authorities.
“This year’s Antarctic Summer Campaign, like all the activities that are being carried out, will also be conditioned by the Covid. It must be understood that Antarctica is the only continent that does not have recognized Covid cases, therefore we have taken all the corresponding precautions, that is why a prior protocol will be implemented for the personnel who will participate in the campaign, ”explained Rossi.
“We are going to strengthen our presence in those bases that are permanent, those that are open all year round, the temporary bases will not be opened, in these only an inspection will be made to see the state in which they are, so much so that this will reduce the number of military and scientific personnel participating in the campaign, “said the Minister of Defense, who clarified that all personnel who will participate in the CAV” will have to comply with the previous protocol, which consists of a 14-day quarantine, before to be able to board ships or airplanes ”, affected to the development of the same.
Regarding the development of the campaign this year so complicated by the pandemic, the minister pointed out that “there are countries that have already made the decision to suspend their summer Antarctic campaign, we believe that this is not feasible, and we decided to do it with all the care and the corresponding protocol “, and recalled that” since before the first case of Covid was known in Argentina, in February of this year, the Argentine Antarctic bases already began to have a very strict personal care protocol “, which included no contact with personnel from other bases.
“Argentina has an enormous history of uninterrupted presence in Antarctica. It is one of the countries with the largest number of bases, with scientists who participate throughout the year, and all this means a highly deployed logistics operation carried out by our Armed Forces ”, he concluded.
In order to effectively comply with the CAV and minimize the risks posed by the coronavirus – in the only region on the planet that has been free from contagion since the beginning of the pandemic – the Joint Operational Command established an operations plan that envisages the three phases in the that annually the CAV develops that begins in the first days of December.
The novelty is the inclusion of a preliminary phase: at this stage the main objective is to comply with a strict sanitary protocol that consists of preventive isolation for 14 days for each crew that is about to travel. Each of its members is given a PCR test on the first day (swabbing to detect the coronavirus) and during those two weeks medical controls are carried out, which conclude on the 14th with another PCR test, and whose result undetectable finally enables you to safely enter Antarctica.
Then, the Antarctic campaign will continue with the planned development, more restricted, but which has three phases like every year: the first one that begins in December, with the replacement and supply of the Marambio Base, then due to glaciological conditions, in In January, the Belgrano II Base was replaced, and then in the third phase the supply was completed around the San Martín Base.
This 117th edition of the CAV will have as its main objective to supply the 6 permanent Argentine bases (Marambio, Esperanza, Orcadas, BelgranoII, San Martín and Carlini), and due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the seven temporary bases will not be opened ( Primavera, Melchior, Cámara, Brown, Matienzo, Decepción and Petrel), nor the shelters and camps that scientists use. The priority will be the replacement of the endowments of the six permanent bases, the supply of food and fuel, and the removal of waste as is done every year.
For the implementation of these directives, in this context of a pandemic, the Ministry of Defense -through Resolution 2020/373- instructed the chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces “to have the administrative, operational, sanitary and logistics that are considered necessary to minimize the effects of Covid-19 in the 2020-2021 Antarctic Campaign ”.
The EMCO of the Armed Forces was also instructed to implement the following specific instructions during the 2020-2021 Antarctic Campaign: temporary bases and shelters may not be occupied; the Dr. Raúl Alfonsín School at Base Esperanza, will remain closed during the 2021 school year; and specific policies will be established for the entry of personnel to Antarctica.
Among these measures, it was also established that scientific activity will be very limited. The transfer of scientists and researchers to winter and develop their activities in the permanent bases, as well as personnel for the development of essential tasks during the summer stage will be authorized. This will be carried out as follows: there will be seven (7) embarked personnel with exclusive dedication to science tasks, without the possibility of disembarking and access to the bases.
In addition, in order to carry out some tasks with international commitments of priority interest and with exclusive permanence in the Bases, thirteen (13) researchers and scientists were authorized at the Carlini Base, two (2) at the Esperanza Base, and two (2) at Orcadas Base.
Finally, all logistical tasks must be channeled and coordinated with the Joint Command.
Meanwhile, the commander of the Antarctic Complex, Colonel Edgard Calandin, explained in his presentation that “scientific activities this year will be limited by restrictions and health care due to the pandemic.” He also indicated that this year “families will not be transferred to Antarctica, and the Esperanza Base school (the only one that operates in Antarctica) will remain closed, only essential tasks will be developed” such as those already listed, and those oriented in trying to reduce historical waste.