Nepal restricts visas to all countries, ends spring Everest expedition

Kathmandu, March 12 (efe-epa).- The Nepalese government Thursday suspended on-arrival visas to all countries and announced the end of the spring Everest climbing season.The decision came a day after the World Health Organization declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic and urged countries to take precautionary measures.A high-level coordination committee under the leadership of deputy prime minister and defence minister Ishwar Pokhrel decided to close the mountain route on Thursday.The visa suspension will come into effect on 14 March and will last until 30 April.There will be an exception for diplomatic and official visas, Rajan Pokhrel, director-general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and a member of the committee, told Efe.The meeting also decided to limit traveller movement to and from India via land routes.Mountaineers generally apply for Everest permits from the end of March. The spring season begins in early April as hordes of climbers start trekking to the Everest region.A number of industries, including hotels, restaurants, guides, airlines and helicopter operators, eagerly await the spring climbing season as it generates much-needed income and jobs in the mountainous region.The government earns around $4 million by issuing Everest climbing permits every year. Last year, the department issued Everest permits for 1,024 climbers, including 382 foreigners. Among them were 644 who reached the top. The two-week summit window normally begins in the second week of May.In the wake of the global coronavirus outbreak, China has already cancelled all Everest expeditions from the Tibetan side.The China Tibet Mountaineering Association, the body that issues climbing permits, notified expeditions on Wednesday that all Everest ascents from the north side had been cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Mingma Sherpa, managing director of Seven Summit Treks, told Efe.“Cancellation of this year’s spring Everest expedition will mean a big blow to expedition operators,” Sherpa said.Seven Summit Treks, the largest expedition operator in Nepal, said 60 climbers have already booked with them to climb Everest.But on Thursday, six climbers cancelled their plans. Countries across the world have stepped up measures and revised travel advisories to help control the virus spread.The United States has suspended all travel with Europe for 30 days and India has temporarily suspended almost all visas from Friday until 15 April. EFE-EPAsp-daa/rb

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