Story at a glance
- A coronavirus outbreak at the Mount Everest base camp in Nepal continues to spread.
- Nepal is currently reporting more than 7,000 new cases a day.
- The first case at Mount Everest base camp was reported a few weeks ago.
A coronavirus outbreak at the Mount Everest base camp in Nepal continues to spread, with new cases popping up as evacuations continue.
Despite reports of numerous evacuations and rising numbers of climbers with coronavirus symptoms, Nepal’s ministry of health won’t allow base camp doctors to perform PCR testing.
Everest watcher Alan Arnette, a mountaineer and Everest watcher, described the unfolding situation.
“It’s clear that there is or has been Covid at 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 receiving treatment. It’s also clear that Nepal is seeing a huge spike in new cases and has gone under lockdown once again,” he said.
“Nepal tourism officials continue to deny there are any problems at base camp other than one person who had pneumonia. The guides, both foreign and domestic, are posting only climbing updates with no mention of the virus. This includes those who are well-known to have multiple cases within their teams and some who have been evacuated,” Arnette added.
On social media, climbers who have fallen ill have taken to describing their own experiences.
“I have taken a helicopter out of EBC [Everest base camp] back to Kathmandu after 1 day,” Gina Marie Han-Lee, a climber, wrote on Facebook. “Once I was in the hospital [in Kathmandu] a Covid test confirmed I was positive and had pneumonia. I’ve spent four nights in the ICU.”
“I wasn’t asked about or offered a Covid-19 test. After four days in Namche [Bazaar, where he was initially taken], I was medivaced by helicopter to hospital in Kathmandu,” British climber Steve Harris said, “where I was tested and confirmed positive for Covid-19 and pneumonia and spent a week in intensive care.”
A few weeks ago, Norwegian climber Erlend Ness became the first reported case of COVID-19 at the base camp. He was evacuated by helicopter from the base camp to Kathmandu, where Ness tested positive for the coronavirus. A Sherpa — a member of a Tibetan ethnic group native to the Himalayas — working in his party also tested positive for the virus.
Initially, it was believed that Ness had pulmonary edema, a condition where the air sacs in the lungs fill with fluid that is often associated with altitude sickness.
At the time, a Himalayan Rescue Association volunteer, Sangeeta Poudel, relayed the area’s concerns.
“Of course we are worried,” Poudel said. “… It would be an earthquake-like situation.”
The decision to open the mountain to climbers has been controversial, with some accusations of a lack of transparency of its coronavirus tally and situation on Everest.
Nepal is currently reporting more than 7,000 new cases a day, the country’s highest new day cases since October.
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