Mount Everest COVID outbreak: escalation guide points to at least 100 virus cases


An expert climbing guide said on Saturday that a coronavirus outbreak on Mount Everest had infected at least 100 climbers and support staff, giving the first full estimate among official Nepalese denials of a COVID-19 cluster on the highest peak in the world.

Austria’s Lukas Furtenbach, who last week became the only leading outfitter to interrupt his Everest expedition due to virus fears, said one of his foreign guides and six Nepalese Sherpa guides were tested positive.

“I think that with all of the confirmed cases that we know now – confirmed by (rescue) pilots, insurance companies, doctors, expedition leaders – I have the positive tests so that we can prove it”, Furtenbach told The Associated Press in Nepal’s capital. Kathmandu.

“We have at least 100 people at least positive for COVID in the base camp, and then the numbers could be something like 150 or 200,” he said.

He said it was evident that there were many cases at Everest Base Camp because he could visibly see people were sick and could hear people coughing in their tents.

Mountain guide Lukas Furtenbach speaks to The Associated Press in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, May 22, 2021. Furtenbach, an expert climbing guide said on Saturday that a coronavirus outbreak on Mount Everest had infected at least 100 climbers and support staff, giving the first estimate amid official Nepalese denials of a COVID-19 cluster on the world's highest peak.  (AP Photo / Bikram Rai)

Mountain guide Lukas Furtenbach speaks to The Associated Press in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, May 22, 2021. Furtenbach, an expert climbing guide said on Saturday that a coronavirus outbreak on Mount Everest had infected at least 100 climbers and support staff, giving the first estimate amid official Nepalese denials of a COVID-19 cluster on the world’s highest peak. (AP Photo / Bikram Rai)

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A total of 408 foreign climbers have received permits to climb Everest this season, aided by several hundred Sherpa guides and support staff who have been stationed at base camp since April.

Nepalese mountaineering officials have denied that there have been any active cases this season among climbers and support staff at all of the country’s Himalayan mountain base camps. Mountaineering was closed last year due to the pandemic.

Nepalese officials could not be reached immediately for comment on Saturday. Other escalation teams have not announced any COVID-19 infections among their members or staff. Several climbers said they tested positive after being taken down from Everest base camp.

Furtenbach said most of the teams on the mountain were not carrying virus testing kits and before his team retired they had helped with testing and confirmed two cases.

Most of the teams are still at base camp, hoping for clear weather next week so they can make one last push to the top before the climbing season ends at the end of the month, Furtenbach said.

At the end of April, a Norwegian mountaineer became the first to test positive at Everest base camp. He was taken by helicopter to Kathmandu, where he was treated and then returned home.

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Nepal is experiencing a viral outbreak, with a record number of new infections and deaths. China last week canceled the ascent on its side of Mount Everest over fears the virus could spread from the Nepalese side.

Nepal reported 8,607 new infections and 177 deaths on Friday, bringing the country’s totals since the start of the pandemic to more than 497,000 infections and 6,024 deaths.

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