'Coronavirus in Nepal may impact Everest season'

Nepal's lack of preparedness to deal with COVID-19 may impact Everest season: Industry experts

Mountaineers make their way to the summit of Mount Everest, as they ascend on the south face from Nepal. (AFP Photo)

The coronavirus outbreak across the globe may impact the Everest climbing season in Nepal beginning from March with many trekkers from countries like China, South Korea, Italy and Japan cancelling their expeditions due to lack of government preparedness to deal with the epidemic, according to a media report.

Only one person tested positive for the COVID-19 till now in the Himalayan country even as the death toll due to the deadly disease that emerged in early December reached 2,788 in neighbouring China and the confirmed cases touched 78,824.

Hundreds of climbers flock each year to Nepal, home to several of the world's highest mountains, to scale the Himalayan peaks during the spring season that begins around March and ends in June.

According to trek operators, many Chinese climbers have already started cancelling their expedition bookings after the COVID-19 outbreak that has speared its head in several countries, including South Korea, Iran and Italy, the Himalayan Times reported.

Pasang Sherpa, managing director at Pioneer Adventure Treks, said that seven Chinese members, who booked for the trek from his company, cancelled their plans to scale the Everest this season.

Damber Parajuli, President of Expedition Operators Association Nepal, was quoted as saying in the report that now they can hardly expect climbers from China, Iran, South Korea, Japan, and a few European countries, including Italy to come for trekking this year.

Parajuli, who returned from Italy on Thursday without being screened at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, said that lack of government preparedness, as well as an action plan too, is going to impact the country's tourism.

“Looking at the pathetic scene at the airport, I can only feel sorry about the airport authority and other agencies concerned,” he added.

Rishi Bhandari, managing director at Satori Adventure, said that the Everest climbing season would face a tough challenge if the government fails to introduce an immediate action plan to contain the COVID-19 threat.

“At least six Italian climbers who planned to scale Mt Everest from Tibet side have already canceled their booking from my company,” he was quoted as saying in the report.

Meanwhile, China would not be opening its Tibet route in the spring season to allow Nepali operators for Mt. Everest, Cho Oyu and Sishapangma expeditions, the report said.

“The country will certainly bear severe economic losses this season and it will have a long-term impact on the tourism businesses,” Parajuli said.

Noting that Chinese tourists are an important source of income for Nepal, Nima Namgyal Sherpa, who operates exclusive Chinese expeditions, said his Chinese clients want to come for spring expedition to the Everest.

"But should they be allowed to share base camp with other country members without being quarantined in Nepal?” he asked. 

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