Health

Mt. Everest to reopen after months-long Covid-19 shutdown

Kathmandu, Jul 31 (efe-epa)- The government of Nepal on Friday announced the reopening of Mt. Everest and 414 other peaks in the Himalayan mountain range for mountaineers, after a four-month closure due to the Covid-19 crisis.

All trekking and mountaineering activities were halted in March, along with hotels and restaurants, as a result of which tourism and hospitality sectors suffered huge losses and thousands of people lost their means of livelihood.

“The move is to boost tourism activities for autumn, which begins in September,” Department of Tourism director Meera Acharya told EFE.

However, Acharya added that they were still “in the process to introduce the standard operating procedure guideline for the climbers, mountain guides, porters and rescue officials and agencies.”

The Nepal government stopped international flights from Mar.20 and put the country under lockdown from Mar.24. The lockdown was lifted on Jul.21, with some of the restrictions still in place.

The government has allowed hotels and restaurants to reopen from Thursday next week. Scheduled international and domestic flights are set to resume from Aug.17.

Mingma Sherpa, managing director of Seven Summit Treks – one of the biggest mountaineering expedition operators in the country -, told EFE that the government’s decision has been welcomed by the industry.

“We are waiting for clarity from the government on the documents tourists require to enter Nepal, so that we can inform our clients,” he said.

He added that they were also waiting for the government’s decision on whether foreign tourists would require PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test certificates to enter the country, and if they would need to be quarantined after arrival.

Regarding this matter, “the government will soon decide on the requirement,” Tourism Ministry’s joint-secretary Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane told EFE, adding that these details were still being discussed.

Despite the uncertainty, Sherpa said they already have at least 100 bookings from mountaineers looking to climb the 8,163-meter high Mt. Manaslu the forthcoming climbing season this autumn.

“We are also receiving inquiries for Mt. Everest expedition in autumn,” he underlined.

The decision to reopen tourism comes as the country registered over 1,000 new coronavirus cases this week, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 19,547, according to Health Ministry figures on Friday.

In 2018, the Himalayan nation generated revenues of 240.7 billion Nepali rupees ($2 billion) – almost 8 percent of the GDP – from the arrival of some 1.2 million tourists, a third of them in the autumn season, according to the latest annual report by the World Travel and Tourism Council. EFE-EPA

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