KATHMANDU, Nepal — An expert climbing guide says a coronavirus outbreak on Mount Everest has infected at least 100 climbers and support staff.
That’s the first comprehensive estimate amid official Nepalese denials of a Covid-19 cluster on the world’s highest peak. Lukas Furtenbach of Austria says his estimate is based on confirmations from rescue pilots, insurance providers, doctors and expedition leaders, among others.
He spoke with The Associated Press in Kathmandu on Saturday, a week after halting his Everest expedition due to virus fears. He says one of his foreign guides and six Nepali Sherpa guides have tested positive. He saw people sick at base camp and heard people coughing in their tents.
A total of 408 foreign climbers were issued permits to climb Everest this season, aided by several hundred Sherpa guides and support staff who’ve been stationed at base camp since April. In late April, a Norwegian climber became the first to test positive at the Everest base camp.
The climbing season closes at the end of the month. Mountaineering was closed last year due to the pandemic.
Nepal reported 8,607 new infections and 177 deaths on Friday, bringing the totals since the pandemic began to more than 497,000 confirmed infections and 6,024 confirmed deaths.
The Swiss government has flown $8 million in equipment and medical supplies to combat Covid-19 to help Nepal, which is struggling with a failing health system and acute shortages of hospital beds, medication and oxygen for patients.
Nepal has been appealing for help from the international community since the Covid-19 situation worsened sharply this month. A lockdown has been imposed in most parts of the country since last month to curb the spiking cases.