Nepal halts Everest expeditions over coronavirus fears

Clay Curtis
March 15, 2020

Nepal has temporarily suspended its visa-on arrival system till the end of April and has also cancelled all the spring mountaineering expeditions, including that to Mount Everest, as precautionary steps to combat the spread of the coronavirus, a government official said here on Friday.

"It is responsible", Adrian Ballinger, climber and founder of Alpenglow Expeditions, wrote on his Instagram account, adding that climbing a mountain is not now worth the transmission risk in the base camps, nor upon returning home.

According to an estimate, Everest permits earn the government around $4 million each year. Everest straddles the border between Nepal and China and can be climbed from both sides.

Although China has cancelled most sports events for the foreseeable future, Zhang Mingxin, of the Tibetan sports administration, said it was still monitoring the situation. "The threat of a Covid-19 outbreak and the underlying issues of ascending from the south side, including the lack of effective management, overcrowding, and an unpredictable icefall, make such an expedition unsafe in our eyes". Visitors will still be allowed to enter Nepal but they will require a visa from a Nepali mission overseas and also a Coronavirus-free health certificate.

Nepal has confirmed just one case of the coronavirus - a student studying in China on a trip home - out of 450 people tested.

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"Even if the government allows permits post May, we can conduct some short expeditions and treks but an Everest expedition is not possible this year", said Keshab Paudyal, the director of Peak Promotional Hiking agency in Nepal. Every spring a tented city of hundreds of foreign climbers and support staff grows at the foot of Everest and other peaks.

Last year, a record 885 people made the summit of Everest - 644 of them from Nepal and 241 from the northern flank in Tibet.

But the expedition is not cheap. This will be the third time in the last decade that Everest's summit will remain empty.

Nepal's government announced that it would cancel all climbing permits from 14 March until 30 April. "But it is a responsible thing to do considering the risks", Lama said. All of us have families and children to send to school.

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