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Coronavirus: China shuts down Mount Everest spring expeditions over virus fears

Joe Gamp
Contributor, Yahoo News UK
Expedition operators on Mount Everest say that Chinese mountaineering officials will not allow spring climbs from their side of the mountain (AP)

Expedition operators on Mount Everest say Chinese mountaineering officials are to ban spring climbs from their side of the mountain due to coronavirus fears.

On the south side of the mountain, in Nepal, operators said they have received a high number of cancellations for the popular spring season – although Everest remains opens for climbers.

Climbers using the northern route in China generally use operators based in Nepal to equip and manage their expeditions.

The north side of Everest is seen as safer because climbers avoid several difficult south-side features like the Khumbu Icefall.

Climbers using the northern route in China generally use operators based in Nepal to equip and manage the expeditions (AP)

Tourist areas in Tibet have been closed since January, according to the local tourism office.

Dawa Shepra, of Kathmandu-based Climbalaya Treks and Expeditions, claimed Chinese officials told them that although the virus was coming under control, they could not risk bringing in foreign climbers.

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He said the conversation with the China Tibet Mountaineering Association officials was over the phone and no official messages were sent.

Although China has cancelled most sports events for the foreseeable future, Zhang Mingxin, of the Tibetan sports administration, said it was still monitoring the situation.

Zhang said: “We have been maintaining contact with overseas organisers of the mountaineering teams to get updated information.

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“It depends on the development of the epidemic situation and the ability of our providing services.”

A map showing the number of Coronavirus cases in Europe (PA)

In Nepal, the mountaineering season began last week, meaning Everest is still open for climbers.

But expedition operators said they fear there will be a significant drop in the number of climbers this year.

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A drop in visitors could see government revenue decline, and affect thousands of workers who depend on the climbers and spring season for their livelihoods.

Passengers wearing face masks arrive at Tribhuwan International airport in Kathmandu, Nepal (AP)

“This season is not very encouraging for the mountaineering industry in Nepal,” said Surendra Thapa, director at Nepal’s Department of Tourism.

Operators said that though climbers generally arrive in April so they can attempt to scale the peak in May, they were getting many cancellations.

Last year, a record 885 people made the summit of Everest - 644 of them from Nepal and 241 from the northern flank in Tibet.

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