Antarctica New Zealand is gearing up for a much reduced season on the ice this year and a very different deployment to normal!
Before they head to one of the remotest places on the planet, all personnel flying south with the New Zealand programme will isolate for 14 days.
GM Operations Simon Trotter says, as per Ministry of Health guidelines, personnel will be tested for COVID-19 at least twice over the fortnight they’re in isolation facilities to ensure the virus doesn’t make it south.
“These are unprecedented times, our focus is keeping Antarctica COVID-19-free and to ensure our people remain healthy and safe through an isolation process. That’s why everyone heading to Scott Base with us will complete quarantine and be tested.
“We will be providing separate facilities to those established for Government Managed Isolation and Quarantine. We will not be impacting space for any Kiwis returning home,” he says.
Antarctica New Zealand will pay for the isolation of personnel deploying south with the organisation. These include scientists, Scott Base staff and contractors critical to base maintenance and infrastructure support. This includes critical staff/contractors who have received exemption to enter NZ from Australia.
Antarctica New Zealand has worked closely with other Ross Sea region partners and New Zealand government agencies to develop this isolation management plan.
Over the course of a normal season, Scott Base usually supports about 350 people. This year, there will be only 100. The season has been reduced to minimise the possibility of COVID-19 entering the continent. Antarctica New Zealand will support long-term science monitoring in the vicinity of Scott Base, critical Scott Base maintenance and essential Scott Base Redevelopment projects to ensure the project is not delayed.
The first flight south for New Zealanders is in early October. Before that, personnel will converge in Christchurch – the Antarctic Gateway City – for training before heading into an isolation facility … before heading into ice-olation in Antarctica!