Despite news of a COVID-19 outbreak at Mount Everest’s base camp, a Nepali government official said on Monday that several foreign climbers were continuing their attempts to summit the world’s highest mountain.
In April, a Norwegian climber was flown to Kathmandu after being evacuated from the mountain’s base camp at 8,848.86 meters (29,031.69 feet). He tested positive for COVID-19. He has since returned to his family.
The Austrian Furtenbach Adventures company’s Lukas Furtenbach evacuated his team from the mountain this month, citing a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases at the base camp.
“So far we have about one hundred confirmed cases in Everest base camp, confirmed by doctors, by hospitals, by insurance companies, by expedition leaders, by helicopter pilots who are flying out the patients and of course by the climbers themselves,” Furtenbach told Reuters TV in Kathmandu on Monday.
But Mira Acharya, a director at the Department of Tourism that oversees climbing activities in Nepal’s mountains, said the government had not received any notice of a COVID-19 outbreak at the Everest base camp and that expeditions were continuing through the climbing season that ends next week.
When asked about the one hundred cases mentioned by Furtenbach, she said: “We have not received any report about that.”
“Even some climbers whose teams had stopped climbing are continuing their expeditions,” she told Reuters without giving any names.
“There is no panic among the climbers there,” Acharya said during a recent visit to base camp. “If there were a few cases, they were dealt with quickly and effectively.”
Around 180 international climbers and their Sherpa guides reached the summit on Sunday, with more planned this week, she said.
After closing the peak last year due to the pandemic, Nepal released 408 climbing permits for the April-May climbing season this year, after receiving millions of dollars in revenue from climbers.
According to government statistics, Nepal has recorded 513,241 infections and 6,346 deaths since the outbreak started.