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China will set up a “separation line” on the peak of Mount Everest to avoid possible Covid-19 infections by climbers from virus-hit Nepal, state media has reported.
The decision was taken after a number of Covid-19 cases were diagnosed among climbers ascending the mountain from Nepal, official news agency Xinhua reported.
Over 30 sick climbers were evacuated from base camp on the Nepalese side of the world’s highest peak in recent weeks as Nepal faces a deadly second wave, raising fears that the virus might ruin the spring climbing season. The country’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism revenue.
While the virus first emerged in China in late 2019, it has largely been brought under control in the country through a series of strict lockdowns and border closures.
Mount Everest straddles the China-Nepal border, with the north slope belonging to China.
Also read | Covid-19 scales Mt Everest: At least 30 evacuated in recent weeks
A team of Tibetan mountaineering guides will set up the separation line at the peak before climbers attempt to reach the summit from the Chinese side, Xinhua reported.
The report did not make clear how the separation line will be drawn and defined or what it will be made of.
Tibetan authorities said at a press conference they would take the “most stringent epidemic prevention measures” to avoid contact between climbers on the north and south slopes or at the top, Xinhua reported on Sunday.
Twenty-one Chinese climbers have been approved to climb to the summit of Everest this year after having quarantined in Tibet since early April.
Both countries suspended the climbing season on the world’s highest mountain last year due to the pandemic. Nepal has issued permits allowing 408 foreigners to attempt climbs this year as it tries to boost tourism revenue.
An Everest permit alone from Nepal costs $11,000 and climbers pay upward of $40,000 for an expedition.
More than a thousand people are typically camped at the bustling tent city at the foot of Everest on the Nepalese side at any one time, including foreign climbers and the teams of Nepali guides that escort them to the peak. In the last three weeks, Nepal’s daily case trajectory has shot up with two out of five people tested now returning positive.