International expedition quits Everest ascent amid Covid surge

Kathmandu, May 16 (EFE).- An international expedition has abandoned its plans to climb Mt Everest due to the growing coronavirus outbreak at the base camp, one of the organizers told EFE on Sunday.

Tendi Sherpa, director of local firm Icela Trekking and Expedition that was assisting in the expedition organized by Austria’s Furtenbach Adventures, said that concerns over Covid-19 have grown in recent days.

“We had more than 50 people in the base camp. First, we tested some of them and four of them were found to be infected,” said Sherpa, adding that four more people tested positive a few days later.

All the patients were shifted to a Kathmandu hospital before the company canceled the expedition.

However, six of the 21 climbers involved in the expedition decided to continue separately.

Sherpa warned that the Covid-19 outbreak at the Everest camp was “out of control” and lack of testing had made it difficult to understand the real magnitude of the problem.

“I am devastated, (…) I am sorry for my clients, I am sorry for our sherpas and guides. We tried to do everything right. As right as it can get, running an expedition during a pandemic. We had our safety protocols, we were moving isolated, we were isolated in base camp, and we did extensive testing,” director of the Australian firm, Lukas Furtenbach said in a statement.

The director of another adventure company Seven Summit Treks, Mingma Sherpa, said that 10 members of their expedition had tested positive for Covid-19 two weeks ago, including seven foreigners.

“But they have recovered and have returned to the base camp to continue their expedition,” he added.

The tourism ministry’s liaison officer at the base camp, Gyanendra Shrestha, confirmed to EFE that a group of climbers had left the camp due to fever and cough.

“We don’t know how many left the base camp or joined the team after recovery. Without testing, we cannot say anything,” he added.

After keeping the world’s highest peak closed due to the pandemic in 2020, this year Nepal had issued a record 408 climbing permits. Between May 11 and 13, over 150 people have managed to reach the Everest summit.

However, the record surge in Everest climbing aspirants has come even as the Himalayan country has been hit by a virulent second wave of the pandemic.

On Saturday Nepal registered 8,046 fresh infections and authorities have imposed restrictions to limit the disease’s spread, including a ban on international flights which has led to thousands of foreigners getting stranded.


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