BEIJING (AP) — China has canceled attempts to climb Mount Everest from its side of the world’s highest peak because of fears of importing COVID-19 cases from neighboring Nepal, state media reported.
The closure was confirmed in a May 14 notice from China’s General Administration of Sport, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The move reflects the abundance of caution China has taken in dealing with the pandemic. While China has mostly curbed domestic transmission of the coronavirus, Nepal is experiencing a surge with record numbers of new infections and deaths.
China had issued permits to 38 people, all Chinese citizens, to climb the 29,032-foot-high mountain this spring. Nepal has given permission to 408 people. Climbing was not allowed from either side last year because of the pandemic.
In Nepal, several climbers have reported testing positive for COVID-19 after they were brought down from the Everest base camp.
The month of May usually has the best weather for climbing Everest. Scores have reached the summit and more are expected to make attempts this month once the weather improves. Two climbers have died on the Nepalese side, one Swiss and one American.
China earlier said it would set up a separation line at the peak and prohibit people on its side from coming into contact with anyone on the Nepalese side. It was unclear how that would be done.
An expert climbing guide, Lukas Furtenbach of Austria, said he was calling off his current Everest attempt with a team of over a dozen climbers from the Nepalese side because of virus fears.
“We ended our expedition today because of safety concerns with the given COVID outbreak,” Furtenbach said in a message from base camp. “We don’t want (to) send people or Sherpas up, they (could) get sick high up there and die.”
Before leaving for the mountain, he had warned that the virus could spread among the hundreds of other climbers, guides and helpers who are now camped on the base of Everest if all of them are not checked immediately and safety measures aren’t taken.