Skip to main content

COVID-19 disruption to polar fieldwork and responses by EPB Members

On 1st July 2020, the EPB held a discussion meeting on COVID-19 disruption to polar fieldwork and responses by Members, chaired by Prof. Dame Jane Francis (NERC).

The meeting enabled Members to share information on:

  • Experiences of disruption and responses from the previous Antarctic season and current Arctic season, including lessons learnt
  • Information on planning for upcoming seasons for both Antarctic and Arctic
  • The scope of activities in the coming season (scaleddown or minimal seasons)

A report from this meeting is available here. A follow-up meeting will be held for EPB Members on 7th August 2020.

Background information and documents:

  • British Antarctic Survey (BAS) provides more detail about its Antarctic season operational plan for the forthcoming field season and how it plans to keep Antarctica virus-free: https://www.bas.ac.uk/media-post/update-on-2020-21-antarctic-field-season-responding-to-covid-19-pandemic/
  • NSF Office of Polar Programs Science Support and Operational Changes Re: COVID-19 (ARCUS): https://www.arcus.org/arctic-info/archive/30495
  • Coronavirus Information (NSF): https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/coronavirus/
  • Impact of COVID-19 on Antarctic Research – joint SCAR/COMNAP Panel Discussion (SCAR 2020 Online): https://youtu.be/HDMsDaFdCE4
  • Small glimmers of hope amidst the turmoil of a pandemic? - The implications of COVID-19 for Antarctic research and governance (Plenary Presentation by Dr. Daniela Liggett, SCAR 2020 Online): https://youtu.be/8X_RX8_vzsk
  • COVID-19 Resources from FARO: https://faro-arctic.org/covid-19-resources/
  • European Commission COVID-19 Governmental Measures Database: https://covid-statistics.jrc.ec.europa.eu/Measure/DashboardMeasures
  • Monitoring and evaluation framework for COVID-19 response activities in the EU/EEA and the UK (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control): https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/covid-19-framework-monitor-responses.pdf
  • Information on travel to Svalbard from RCN (as of 6th August 2020):
    • As per the 7th of August 2020 the general rule is that anyone arriving in Norway from abroad shall be in quarantine for 10 days. Travel to Svalbard is permitted only after the 10 day quarantine period has been completed on the Norwegian mainland. 
    • Exceptions to this general rule applies for travellers from specified countries in Europe with sufficiently low transmission - see map and table here: www.fhi.no/en/op/novel-coronavirus-facts-advice/facts-and-general-advice/travel-advice-COVID19/.
    • From the 15th of July, regions within the EU/EØS with low infection rate will also be exempt from travel and quarantine regulation. The most recent information on which regions this applies to will be available at www.fhi.no/en/op/novel-coronavirus-facts-advice/facts-and-general-advice/travel-advice-COVID19.
    • For general information regarding travel to Svalbard, see also www.researchinsvalbard.no.
    • The rules for travel to Svalbard also apply to Ny-Ålesund, but in order to minimise the risk locally Ny-Ålesund Research Station operates at reduced capacity until further notice. Other than that, planning and execution of research projects in Ny-Ålesund should follow the detailed description here: nysmac.npolar.no/research/researchers-guide.html.
    • Please note that travel advise may change on short notice and travellers are strongly encouraged to seek out updated information prior to making any travel arrangements.
  • COVID-19 in the Arctic: Indigenous Insights and the AC Briefing Document:
    • For the past several months, COVID-19 has been threatening the Arctic region with new challenges to human life and health, social and cultural systems, economic prosperity, and the communities. COVID-19 once again reminded everyone of how vulnerable the Arctic region can be.
    • In June 2020, the Arctic Council prepared a briefing document, which accumulated the information on the COVID-19 impact and countermeasures in the Arctic. The document was contributed by the researchers, Working Groups, Indigenous representatives and Indigenous knowledge holders from all Arctic States and Permanent Participants. The briefing document includes information on the existing public health actions and activities across the Circumpolar Arctic, stipulates the COVID-19 consequences and public health responses. The full text of the briefing document is available here: https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/handle/11374/2473
    • The document also provides the insights by the representatives of the Arctic Council’s Permanent Participants on how Indigenous Peoples across the Arctic are affected by the pandemic and the measures taken to contain it. Permanent Participants addressed a set of questions for narrative input. Oral and written contributions were received from the Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska, Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, ICC Chukotka, the Aleut International Association, the Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich'in Council International, the RAIPON - Ассоциация КМНСС и ДВ РФ (Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North), and The Saami Council, involving all six Permanent Participants. The interviews can be found here: https://arctic-council.org/en/news/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-indigenous-peoples-in-the-arctic/
  • Strategic foresight for the COVID-19 crisis and beyond: Using futures thinking to design better public policies (OECD): https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/view/?ref=134_134395-2n53o8sh0y&title=Strategic-foresight-for-the-COVID-19-crisis-and-beyond-Using-futures-thinking-to-design-better-public-policies
  • On August 5, 2pm ET / 10am AKT, (20:00 CEST) join the National Science Foundation for a program manager chat https://www.iarpccollaborations.org/events/18372 about COVID-19 impacts to NSF operations. The Arctic Sciences (ARC) Sections in the Office of Polar Programs (OPP) will be offering a virtual office hour to share information with the polar research community  regarding NSF's current operations. These office hours will also allow the community to ask questions, share concerns, and/or offer suggestions on how ARC can do more to address the impact of COVID-19 on researchers. All are welcome to attend this webinar. Register here: https://iarpc.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYlfuyprTwoE9fyB5hb9rIuWdXkhjtTRr-_
  • Impact of COVID-19 on Antarctic Research – joint SCAR/COMNAP Panel Discussion (SCAR Online conference session)
    • 22:00-23:00 CEST Wednesday 5th August - The COVID-19 pandemic has given the Antarctic community pause to consider how to manage risks and impacts in a constantly changing situation. This is crucial if Antarctica is to continue to provide vital answers to questions about the fate of our planet. As national Antarctic programs begin to make decisions and implement plans for the upcoming Antarctic season, these plans, by necessity, include restrictions and provisions to reduce risk to expeditioners. With many international borders closed, disrupting travel, this session will explore what the impacts of COVID-19 might be for carrying out research in and around Antarctica over the coming years. It will also explore how we can address challenges such as maintaining long term data series and supporting researchers at an early stage in their careers, and look at the role of international cooperation in helping face these challenges and opening up opportunities for researchers. (https://www.scar2020.org/program)