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Nepal issues record number of Everest permits amid new virus outbreak

Kathmandu, Apr 23 (EFE).- Nepal has reopened Mount Everest with a record number of climbers aspiring to reach the highest peace this year amid a renewed virus outbreak in the region.

The tourism department said it has issued 394 climbing permits, which is the highest since the peak was first scaled in 1953.

With every fee-paying climber hiring a guide, Everest may see more than 800 people climbing its slopes this year, sparking safety and environmental concerns.

In 2019, Nepal had issued 381 permits. Among them, 280 climbers reached the summit.

“This is the record high numbers,” Tourism Director Mira Acharya told EFE, noting that the figure may go up.

In 2020, the pandemic closed Everest from both sides, Nepal and China.

Hundreds of climbers have returned to the Himalayan country in pursuit of their Everest dreams.

Nepal has exempted quarantine requirements in a bid to boost its ailing tourism industry that took a grave due to the pandemic.

However, Covid-19 cases are surging across the nation.

On Friday, Nepal recorded 2,449 new cases, according to the health ministry.

On Apr 15, Norwegian climber Erlend Ness had to be evacuated to Kathmandu from the Everest base camp.

Ness tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the first known Covid-19 case at Everest, his expedition organizer Pasang Norbu Sherpa, director of Himalayan Trail Blazer Trekking and Expedition, told EFE.

India, Nepal’s immediate neighbor, is also reeling under the rapidly expanding second wave of the virus, with more than 300,000 people testing positive daily in the past few days.

Thaneshwor Guragain, manager at Seven Summit Treks, Nepal’s leading expedition organizing company, told EFE that foreign climbers look desperate to climb Everest.

He said China did not open up Everest from their side, and as a result, Nepal saw a spike in the numbers.

The Everest or Khumbu region is humming back with tourism activities after a painful 2020.

Yaks and ponies are transporting supplies on their backs up to the base camp at 5,380 meters from Lukla’s Tenzing Hillary Airport, a small landing strip carved into the side of a mountain.

Porters and high-altitude guides, who eke out their livings through the income brought by foreign mountaineers, are back to their usual business.

To reach the highest point on earth at 8,848.86 metres costs $35,000 to $90,000 per person. This amount includes the climbing permit fee of $11,000.

Kami Rita Sherpa has announced he is climbing Everest for a record 25th time this year.

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