COVID-19 (coronavirus) Measures at ALMA

19 March, 2020

Updated April 2, 2020.

Total Shutdown of ALMA

ALMA shut down its operations on March 22 due to the developments related to coronavirus. “We made the unprecedented decision to shut down ALMA for the well-being and health of all staff, to ensure they can be at home with their families while this pandemic unfolds. An incredible effort was made by staff to ensure a safe and successful shutdown,” indicated the ALMA Director, Sean Dougherty. He added that “a team continues  working at the observatory to keep vital telescope systems operational and ensure that  we are ready to restart operations whenever that is feasible.”

The last scientific observations were completed on Thursday, March 19. Many ALMA staff are now working from home and the observatory has implemented technical support to facilitate teleworking.

The observation proposal deadline for Cycle 8 was postponed until a date to be determined, which will be no sooner than May 19, 2020. In addition, the proprietary times of ALMA data sets have been extended by three months.

Updated, March 19, 2020.

With the current developments in Chile related to coronavirus, the ALMA Director decided to initiate preparations for the total shutdown of the Observatory. This shutdown will enable ALMA staff to reduce social contact through not traveling to and from the Observatory, better protect them and their families, and help reduce the spread of the virus.

The current plan is:

  • All Santiago-based staff is now working from home. The Observatory is emplacing technical support to teleworking, as necessary.
  • The last science observations will be completed by 21:00 Thursday, March 19, and shut down procedures of the ALMA observatory will start. 
  • The number of staff and contractors at the Observatory site in the Atacama is being reduced and will continue until the telescope shutdown completes on Sunday, March 22.
  • ALMA Observatory staff will continue to ensure the safety and security of the site during the shutdown.

Delay of the Cycle 8 Proposal Submission Deadline

The ALMA Director, along with the regional partners, have decided to delay the proposal deadline for the ALMA Cycle 8 Call for Proposals to no earlier than 15:00 UT on May 19, 2020.

Updated, March 17, 2020.

Visits to ALMA

All public visits, including educational, institutional, and media visits to the observatory, are suspended until further notice.


Unless mission-critical or time-critical, meetings with external participants at either Santiago headquarters or the observatory in northern Chile, are suspended until further notice. Whenever possible, meetings should be held by videoconference or postponed. 

ALMA Proposal Review Committee (APRC)

Contingency plans for the ALMA Proposal Review Committee for Cycle 8 proposals of observation, scheduled for June in Atlanta, USA, are being developed to ensure the credibility of the review and the wellbeing of the scientists from around the world who participate. 

Duty Travel

No new international duty trips are being approved. All staff members who have traveled to countries designated CDC Warning Level 3 are to complete a 14-day self-quarantine at home after their return from travel. 

Since this is a rapidly evolving situation, ALMA management will be regularly re-evaluating the situation. We ask for the understanding of all affected by these extraordinary measures.