Since last December 28, almost 300 scientists and military personnel have completed a preventive quarantine on board the icebreaker Almirante Irízar (RHAI) in the port of Buenos Aires, with the aim of not bringing the Covid-19 pandemic to the 13 bases that Argentina operates in its Antarctic territory during a crossing that will last between January 11 and May 1.
The Admiral Irízar is the main ship in the design of the Antarctic campaigns due to its ability to access distant bases such as Belgrano II or San Martín, transport large loads of supplies and materials, the possibility of operating with the two helicopters that are part of its endowment and the scientific capabilities it acquired in its modernization after the fire of 2017.
In order to prevent contagion of Covid-19, as happened in bases in other countries since the beginning of the pandemic, Argentine planning included strict quarantines and tests for all personnel who must carry out logistical and scientific tasks in the Antarctic continent.
The commander of the Irízar, the captain of the ship Carlos Musso Soler, stated in dialogue with Télam that “the ship has a capacity of 313 beds and we are at an occupancy level close to 90 percent because we are going to set sail on January 11 with 296 people on board, that implies that we are also going to have to organize different meal times ”.
“The ship has cabins for 6, for 4, for 2 and for a single person who are the ones used by the oldest people who are in charge of conducting the campaign, due to the protocols to reduce the risks of contagion instead of use the dining room, meals will be in the cabins, and in the case of those who share cabins of 4 or 6 people they will do so in turn; The rest of the time to circulate through the common spaces of the ship, the use of the chinstrap and the care measures are mandatory because in this way if a suspicious case arises we can isolate a cabin and not the entire icebreaker ”, he indicated.
The sailor recalled that “in the previous campaign we fulfilled a 140-day bubble, because we entered quarantine on November 16, PCR tests were carried out on all of us on December 3, we set sail the next day and just got off the ship on December 7. April; At that time we did everything in the hours when we were not directly involved in operations, from internet access to ping pong, chess, cards and even football tournaments in the warehouse, everyone knew that they had to take care of themselves and we did not have not a single problem of indiscipline or a contagion ”.
“The pandemic continues to exist and we cannot take the virus to a place where there are people who have not been vaccinated because they have been there for a year and who also have low defenses from being isolated for so long in that environmentFor this reason, since the beginning of the emergency in 2020, visits to Antarctic bases in other countries and those of tourist contingents were suspended ”, he remarked.
“The fundamental mission of the Navy is to safeguard life at sea, and when ‘Admiral Irízar’ sails in Antarctic waters there is tranquility in all the bases in the area because they know that there is a medical response nearby that has three operating rooms, respirators and the possibility of facilitating evacuations through its two helicopters ”, concluded Musso Soler.
The icebreaker Irízar will set sail this Tuesday from the port of Buenos Aires within the framework of the summer campaign with almost 300 people, provisions and fuel to distribute among the 13 bases that Argentina operates. As reported, at the moment there are about 200 people who have been on permanent bases since last year who must be brought back and take their relays through the different air and naval means.
With information from Télam