A coronavirus outbreak near Mount Everest has called into question the continuation of the climbing season on the world’s highest mountain. Nepalese authorities have been accused of downplaying the seriousness of the situation due to a daily increase in the number of cases. An outbreak has been reported at Everest base camp in Nepal, open to climbers despite the pandemic, infecting a large number of foreign summit climbers who arrived at the camp.
Nepal reports a record number of more than 7,000 new infections a day. This is the highest since October. Reports from Everest describe a number of evacuations of climbers with COVID-19 symptoms. According to the Guardian, doctors at the base camp have privately complained that those infected are not being treated, and the country’s health ministry has struggled to convince them to conduct PCR testing. News of the growing infection problems came after the Nepalese government announced the suspension of all but two international flights a week from Delhi from May 6 until midnight on May 14.
“I flew out by helicopter from EBC (Everest base camp) back to Kathmandu a day ago,” New York climber Gina Marie Han-Lee wrote on Facebook April 29. – When I was in the hospital in Kathmandu, I tested positive for coronavirus. I also had pneumonia. I spent four nights in the intensive care unit.”
British climber Steve Harris was evacuated on April 20. He was initially diagnosed with high altitude pulmonary edema at Everest base camp and was later diagnosed with
COVID-19. “I wasn’t asked or offered a coronavirus test. Four days later I was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Kathmandu,” he told the Daily Mail. – I was tested there and it proved positive for COVID-19 and pneumonia. I spent a week in intensive care. I was discharged from the hospital, but I still have to be isolated in the hotel because I still tested positive for COVID-19.”
The first detected case at base camp occurred shortly after the climbers began arriving on Everest a few weeks ago. At that time, a Norwegian climber, Erlend Ness, was diagnosed with coronavirus, as well as a Sherpa working on the mountain. An International Society for Mountain Medicine (ISMM) doctor, who anonymously told the Explorersweb blog last weekend about the situation at the camp, complained about the inability to detect COVID-19 cases at the temporary Everest-based medical facility. He said the debilitating effects of altitude make visiting Western climbers more vulnerable to the coronavirus.
The decision by Nepalese authorities to reopen Everest for climbing this year and issue a record 408 climbing permits is controversial given the pandemic, experts say, because the start of the Everest season coincided with a second wave of infections in India that spilled over into neighboring countries. This has led to a surge of infections in Nepal, with the largest number concentrated in the Kathmandu area, through which all foreign climbers must pass.