Everest Covid outbreak throws climbing season into doubt | Mount Everest

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The coronavirus outbreak in Everest base camp in Nepal, which was controversially opened to climbers despite the pandemic, infected “many people” with ongoing evacuations and complaints about a lack of transparency about the severity of the situation.

After Nepal reported a record number of more than 7,000 new cases per day, the highest number since October, Everest reports described a series of evacuations of climbers showing symptoms of Covid-19, even as doctors at the base camp privately complained, that they weren’t allowed by the country’s Ministry of Health to run PCR tests.

The news of the mounting problems came when the Nepalese government announced the suspension of all international flights except two a week from Delhi from May 6th to midnight on May 14th.

The experienced Everest observer Alan Arnette summarized the complexity of the situation over the weekend and increasingly speculated about whether the climbing season would be canceled.

“It is clear that there is or was Covid in Everest Base Camp. Well, at least it’s clear that people who had it there were taken to Kathmandu, where they tested positive and are being treated. It is also clear that Nepal has seen a huge surge in new cases and has been locked again.

“Tourism officials in Nepal continue to deny that there are other problems in the base camp than a person with pneumonia. The guides at home and abroad only publish climbing updates without mentioning the virus. This includes those known to have multiple cases on their teams and some who have been evacuated. “

In posts by climbers on social media, however, the situation in the camp was described as a “total shit storm”. Some suggest that up to 30 cases have been identified, despite the Nepal Mountaineering Association only allowing four confirmed Covid cases so far this season – three climbers and a local guide.

“I took a helicopter from EBC [Everest base camp] After a day back to Kathmandu, ”wrote Gina Marie Han-Lee, a climber from New York, on Facebook on April 29th. “I was in the hospital once [in Kathmandu] A Covid test confirmed that I was positive and had pneumonia. I spent four nights in the intensive care unit. “

“The Covid situation at EBC is a total shit storm. I had no idea what I was flying into. “

A British climber, Steve Harris, was evacuated on April 20 and was initially diagnosed with high altitude pulmonary edema at Everest Base Camp before being diagnosed with Covid-19.

“I was not asked or offered a Covid-19 test. After four days in Namche [Bazaar, where he was initially taken]I was taken to the hospital in Kathmandu by helicopter, “he told the Daily Mail,” where I was tested for Covid-19 and pneumonia and confirmed positive and spent a week in intensive care.

“I was released from the hospital but still have to isolate myself in a hotel as I am still positive for Covid.”

The first identified case in base camp came shortly after the climbers arrived on Everest a few weeks ago, when Erlend Ness, a Norwegian climber, was diagnosed with coronavirus and a Sherpa working on the mountain.

A doctor from the International Society for Mountain Medicine (ISMM), who spoke anonymously to the Explorersweb blog about the situation in the camp over the weekend, complained about the inability to identify cases of Covid-19 in the temporary medical facility located in Everest -Based camp is set up every season.

“We have protocols in place at the Himalayan Rescue Association clinic for treating patients with suspected Covid,” he said. “The Ministry of Health has denied us permission to run PCR tests.

“Khumbu cough [the nickname for a high-altitude chest complaint] and other respiratory diseases can look like Covid, so we basically treat all cases as if they were Covid.

“Many climbers are currently isolated in their tents. Expeditions also isolate themselves and minimize interaction with other expeditions. In Kathmandu, the hospitals are not yet fully occupied, but the intensive care units are filling up quickly. “

“The government seems determined not to end the climbing season, but this could change at any time. I agree with my colleagues that this would not be a good time to come to Nepal for those who are not here yet. “

While the camp is outdoors to make it theoretically safer, Everest Base Camp is one of the most densely populated temporary camps to emerge around the globe during the climbing season, while the debilitating effects of altitude are suspecting western climbers more susceptible to coronavirus.

Nepal’s decision to reopen Everest for climbing this year and issue a record 408 climbing permits has always been controversial in the face of the pandemic. The beginning of the Everest season coincided with the catastrophic second wave in India that has spread to neighboring countries.

This has led to an increase in the number of infections in Nepal, with the highest number being concentrated in the Kathmandu area, which all foreign climbers must travel through.

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