The Coronavirus Plague Has Even Reached Mount Everest as People Evacuate From There

The Coronavirus Plague Has Even Reached Mount Everest as People Evacuate From There

As India’s massive coronavirus wave spreads, neighboring Nepal is also quickly becoming overwhelmed. An average of 6,700 cases are now reported a day as of May 5, an increase from 1,100 just two weeks earlier. Even as the country faces its steepest coronavirus wave yet, it has kept its main tourist attraction, the Nepali side of Mount Everest, open to foreigners seeking to climb the world’s tallest mountain.

After the 2020 climbing season was canceled, this year a record number of 408 expedition permits have been issued for the peak, leaving climbers to work out rules to contain the spread of the virus. Now growing concerns of a coronavirus outbreak at the mountain cast doubt on the safety of climbers and locals after multiple people were evacuated from base camp and later tested positive for the virus.

Nepal’s Department of Tourism requires a negative coronavirus test 72 hours before entering the country. But in late March the government removed a seven-day quarantine requirement, in an attempt to revive the country’s $2 billion tourism industry that contributes roughly 8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Everest expeditions alone contributed more than $300 million to the economy in 2019.

Once on the mountain, climbers have no way to access tests unless they bring their own. “We don’t have tests,” said Prakash Karel, a doctor who treats patients at the Everest base camp, explaining that the clinic he works at doesn’t have laboratory permission to test for the virus. “And high altitude makes it difficult to identify covid from cough and HAPE [high-altitude pulmonary edema], which is common here.”

Some guide companies are taking their own precautions. To reduce exposure to the virus, Furtenbach Adventures is running “flash expeditions” that last three to four weeks instead of the classic nine-week trip. They provide climbers with hypoxic tents, used at home to help them get acclimated with high altitudes, a process that usually requires a four-week stay at base camp.

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Source: Washington Post

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