Nepal officials reject claims of climbers being Covid infected


Tourism officials in Nepal have rejected claims about foreign climbers, attempting to summit Mount Everest and other peaks, being infected with the novel coronavirus.

“We have been notified that some climbers were airlifted to Kathmandu for respiratory problems and pneumonia. We were not officially notified that any one of them had tested positive for Covid-19,” Bhishma Raj Bhattarai, a section officer at the Department of Tourism, told Xinhua news agency on Thursday.

Mira Acharya, Director of the Department, has been at the base Everest for the last few days.

“Nobody has complained to me that anybody has developed COVID-19 symptoms here,” Acharya told Xinhua from the base camp over the phone.

CIWEC Hospital, a Kathmandu-based facility dedicated to the treatment of the mountaineers, had a few climbers airlifted from the base camp two weeks ago after they developed Covid symptoms.

“They were confirmed to be infected with coronavirus in the polymerase chain reaction test,” Astha Pant, head of business development at the Kathmandu hospital, told Xinhua.

“All have been discharged from the hospital now. They were all foreigners.”

Pant, however, refused to give the exact number of the climbers who tested positive for coronavirus at the hospital.

The report about Covid-19 reaching the world’s tallest mountain came at a time when around 2,000 mountaineers, their guides and helpers, along with some Nepali government officials, have gathered at the base camp before the climbers make their first bid on Sunday.

The Nepal government issued climbing permits for 408 climbers this year, a record high for Mt. Everest, according to the Department of Tourism.

In 2019, a total of 381 permits were issued.

Many mountaineers have arrived in Nepal to scale the tallest peak in the world and other Himalayan mountains this spring, as they could not visit Nepal last year due to the suspension of all expeditions over Covid risks.

“Four Nepali Sherpa guides, who were evacuated from Dhaulagiri base camp to Kathmandu on Tuesday after developing symptoms of Covid-19, tested positive for coronavirus,” Mingma Sherpa, the chairperson of Seven Summit Treks, one of the leading expedition organizing companies in Nepal, told Xinhua on Thursday.

“They are people associated with different expedition teams.”

The Nepali government allowed 33 mountaineers to attempt Mt. Dhaulagiri (8,167m), the world’s seventh tallest peak.

Tima Deryan, the first Lebanese woman and the youngest Arab ever to conquer Mt. Qomolgama in May 2019 when she was 26 years old, fell sick while she was trying to climb the 6,476-meter-high Mera Peak days ago.

She was airlifted to Kathmandu where she tested positive for Covid.

Earlier, Norwegian climber Erlend Ness became the first to test positive for Covid-19 at the Mt. Everest base camp and was flown by helicopter to Kathmandu, where he was hospitalised.

He told the press last month that he tested positive on April 15.

Mountaineering is an important source of income for the Nepali government, and it collected a total of $4.65 million in royalty fees for issuing permits to foreign mountaineers in the spring.