The coronavirus pandemic is having a significant impact on all aspects of the Australian Antarctic Program.
So far, careful management and screening of expeditioners has prevented the spread of COVID-19 to our Antarctic stations and on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.
However, the virus has forced substantial changes in our Antarctic and Southern Ocean operations that include:
· limiting movement of people south on ships and planes
· reducing ability to recruit and train new teams for next summer season
· decreasing operational capacity
· disrupting supply chains, resulting in increased costs
· delaying work on major projects including the RSV Nuyina
Australian Antarctic Division Director, Kim Ellis, said these impacts will result in the 2020–21 summer season being scaled back.
“We will focus solely on resupplying our stations and changing over teams. As a result, there will be no major construction activities and science projects will be limited to automated data collection,” Mr Ellis said.
“Projects requiring the deployment of dedicated expeditioners or logistics outside of essential activities will be re-evaluated in the future.”
“Our planning for the 2020–21 summer season continues to centre on the need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through the Australian Antarctic Program as it is deployed south.”
“The safety of our expeditioners living and working at our three Antarctic stations and on Macquarie Island is our priority,” he said.