Concern grows over speculated Covid-19 outbreak on Everest

Kathmandu, May 5 (EFE).- Concerns are growing about a possible Covid-19 outbreak in the Everest base camp as the much-awaited climbing season inches closer.

Some officials at the Himalayan Rescue Association said scores of climbers suffered relentless coughing at the altitude of 5,600 meters Everest base camp perched on the Khumbu glacier at the foot of Everest.

“We are not sure, whether it is ‘Khumbu cough’ or symptoms of Covid-19 as tests are not done in the base camp,” Lakpa Norbu Sherpa, who has been coordinating rescue missions on Everest since 2003, told EFE.

The base camp manager of the Himalayan Rescue Association said the climbers having the cough had been increasing “at an alarming level.”

Khumbu cough is a high-altitude symptom named after the valley with the same name that houses Mt Everest and is caused by a combination of high altitude and low relative humidity.

It could be severe in some instances to result in broken ribs, said Lakpa Norbu.

On Apr.15, a Norwegian climber reportedly complained of a cough and fever at Everest base camp.

The climber was immediately airlifted to a hospital in Kathmandu.

The incident has triggered concerns among the mountaineering community if the coronavirus has made it to the base camp, where around 2,000 people have gathered.

But the government and mountaineering officials dismissed fear.

“As of Wednesday, everything is normal at the base camp,” said Mira Acharya, director of the tourism department, told Efe from the base camp.

Acharya said if things go as planned, the first summit by the high-altitude rope fixing sherpas will happen on May 10.

“The weathermen have projected at least a week-long climbing window by mid-May and we are expecting that everything will go smoothly,” said Acharya.

According to Acharya, 308 climbers have got Everest climbing permits.

It is the highest number of permits issued so far since the peak was climbed in 1953.

“The Covid-19 outbreak on Everest is just a rumor,” Santa Bir Lama, president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, told EFE.

“There were some cases of Covid-19 reported from the climbers evacuated from the base camp three weeks ago,” he said.

“But now, everything is fine. There is no need to worry.”

Mingma Sherpa, chairman of Seven Summit Treks, Nepal’s largest expedition outfitter, told EFE that there were no serious cases reported in the base camp this week.

According to him, Seven Summit Treks have 12 camps set up in the Everest base camp and have altogether 500 people, including 130 climbers vying for Everest.

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