Nepal suspends all Everest expeditions over coronavirus fears

Government cancels all visas on arrival for tourists

Samuel Osborne
Friday 13 March 2020 13:28 GMT
Decision effectively shuts world's tallest mountain after China closed its side
Decision effectively shuts world's tallest mountain after China closed its side (AP/Rizza Alee)

Nepal has closed Mount Everest and all of its Himalayan peaks because of coronavirus fears, a government minister has announced.

Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai said expeditions to all peaks in the March-May spring climbing season had been suspended.

The decision effectively shuts down the world’s tallest mountain, after China closed its side of Everest over similar concerns about Covid-19.

“Climbing this season has been closed,” Mr Bhattarai told Reuters. ”It is as a precaution for that,” he added, when asked it its was because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The government also said it was cancelling all visas on arrival for tourists and that those arriving after Saturday would be subject to 14 days of self-quarantine.

Visitors will also no longer be able enter through land borders and must travel through the only international airport, which is situated in the capital, Kathmandu.

Nepal has eight of the highest peaks in the world and the adventurers who head to the country to climb them are a significant source of revenue for the government and the thousands of workers who support the expeditions.

Even before the closure, expedition operators in Nepal had said cancellations for the spring climbing season had been pouring in.

There had been concerns about the new virus and how it could spread among climbers living for weeks on the mountains in shared tents in extreme temperatures. Fever, coughs and colds are already common among climbers.

It is the second time in recent years that the climbing season has been disrupted. Expeditions were suspended in 2015 after a major earthquake struck Nepal on 25 April that year, killing some 9,000 people. Eighteen people were killed at the Everest base camp when an avalanche triggered by the quake roared down a slope.

Nepal has confirmed one case of coronavirus in a student studying in China on a trip home.

Additional reporting by agencies

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