Nepal’s decision to allow people to continue climbing its Himalayan peaks as a vicious wave of Covid-19 sweeps the country received a further blow after 19 other climbers tested positive for the virus.
Last month it was reported that the pandemic had reached Everest base camp and although authorities later denied it, climbers reported a wave of infections that were being covered up .
It has now emerged that 19 people – foreign climbers and Sherpas – have tested positive at Dhaulagiri base camp, the seventh highest mountain in the world and part of the same range as Everest.
Mingma Sherpa, chairwoman of Seven Summit Treks, who is leading an expedition to Dhaulagiri base camp, confirmed that four climbers were airlifted to Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, on Tuesday after being found positive in diagnostic tests. fast to camp.
Three positive cases were detected in Dhaulagiri on Monday and 11 more were discovered on Wednesday.
“They are currently undergoing tests at the hospital in Kathmandu, we could not transport more today. [Wednesday] because of the weather, ”Sherpa said. Other climbers would be rescued on Thursday, he said.
Nepalese army spokesman Brigadier General Shantosh Ballave Poudyal also confirmed that three Sherpas from the army’s mountain cleanup campaign tested positive. The Nepalese army recently launched a clean-up campaign to collect waste from six mountains, including Everest and Dhaulagiri.
Mexican climber Viridiana Álvarez wrote on Instagram: “Covid is in Dhaulagiri, British Columbia. Many sherpas and climbers test positive and have been evacuated. Still waiting for tests for everyone. “
However, Mohan Bahadur, the director of the tourism department, which issues permits to climbers, said he was not aware of the incident.
At 8,167 meters above sea level, Dhaulagiri is one of the highest peaks in the world and is popular with international climbers. So far, 33 members of five expedition teams have been granted permits to climb the Dhaulagiri this season.
Overall, Nepal has issued climbing permits to 740 climbers this season, including 408 for Everest, but the Dhaulagiri outbreak has cast doubt on the possibility of the climbing season continuing in Nepal. International flights have already been suspended until May 14.
Nepal is in the throes of a rapidly growing wave of Covid-19 which the Ministry of Health says threatens to drive the health system to the brink of collapse.
Nepal reported 8,659 new cases on Wednesday, a record high, and 58 deaths in 24 hours. Many fear that the country will suffer a fate similar to that of its neighbor, India, which is battling a deadly second wave. A shortage of hospital beds and oxygen has been reported in cities in Nepal.