Covid cases at Everest base camp raise fears of serious outbreak

Health officers have warned of rising numbers of Covid-19 cases at base camp

Mountaineers and authorities at Everest base camp in Nepal have advised the BBC they’re seeing rising numbers of climbers with Covid-19 signs and rising numbers of constructive exams, elevating fears of a serious outbreak.

Base camp officers mentioned they’d acquired studies of 17 confirmed cases from hospitals within the capital Kathmandu, the place a quantity of climbers have been despatched from the base camp and better camps to be handled.

And workers at a personal hospital in Kathmandu, the CIWEC clinic, confirmed to the BBC that sufferers had examined constructive for coronavirus after arriving from Everest base camp.

The Nepalese authorities has to this point denied having any information of constructive cases at Everest base camp, elevating considerations that officers are downplaying the extent of the scenario out of concern it can convey extra stress to shut the mountain to expeditions.

Foreign climbers are a significant supply of income for the Nepalese authorities, which shut Everest final yr in the course of the pandemic.

Authorities are mandating that visiting climbers quarantine in Nepal earlier than continuing to base camp, however considerations have been raised throughout the climbing group {that a} serious outbreak at the mountain can be devastating.

The quantity of coronavirus cases has risen sharply in Nepal in latest weeks, and the nation has the best charge of an infection among the many international locations neighbouring India, the place a second wave has sparked a full-blown disaster.

Officials from Nepal’s Department of Tourism, which immediately oversees expeditions, couldn’t be reached for remark, however Prem Subedi, the under-secretary at Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, advised the BBC the ministry was not conscious of any coronavirus cases at base camp.

“None of the Covid cases at Everest base camp have been reported so far to the Ministry of Tourism,” he mentioned.

Mount Everest

Nearly 400 climbing permits have been issued for Everest this season

Confirmed cases

The Himalayan Rescue Association, which runs a government-authorised medical clinic at the base camp, advised the BBC it had acquired affirmation of constructive cases in some climbers flown out to Kathmandu by expedition groups.

“We have just received from Kathmandu confirmation of 17 positive cases [in climbers flown out of Everest],” mentioned Lhakpa Nuru Sherpa, an official with the Himalayan Rescue Association.

“We have now asked expedition teams to first let us know before they fly out their members [to Kathmandu] who fall ill so that we know what is going on,” he mentioned.

Lhakpa Nuru Sherpa’s colleague at the Everest base camp clinic, Dr Prakash Kharel, mentioned the quantity of folks displaying coronavirus-like signs, comparable to a persistent cough and fever, was rising each day

“Almost all climbers get a cough here, but we are seeing people with other symptoms, and we are making sure that they stay in isolation,” Dr Kharel mentioned.

The CIWEC clinic in Kathmandu additionally confirmed to the BBC that it had seen Covid-positive climbers come to them as sufferers from Everest.

“We did have patients come to us from the Everest region who tested positive at our hospital a couple of weeks back,” mentioned workers member Astha Pant. “We cannot share how many people or any other information at this time.”

Mount Everest

Everest was closed to mountaineers final yr because of the pandemic

One of the large expedition groups, who requested to not be named, advised the BBC that some of their members had beforehand examined constructive, however had now recovered. A Norwegian climber, Erlend Ness, told the BBC that he had tested positive for the virus 3 times in two completely different hospitals in Kathmandu final month.

Ness was initially considered affected by altitude illness, however was identified with coronavirus after being airlifted from base camp. Climbers have raised fears that coronavirus signs can be mistaken for the same results of being at altitude.

“You can hear people coughing everywhere,” Lukas Furtenback, group chief of Furtenback Adventures, advised the BBC from base camp. “But this is not just the regular cough that mountaineers catch here. You can make it out that people are in pain and they have other symptoms like fever and body aches.”

According to the web site of the Department of Tourism, the federal government had issued 394 Everest climbing permits for this climbing season, as of 26 April. That would permit greater than 1,500 folks to be on the mountain, the bulk of them help workers.

Officials at Everest base camp mentioned there was additionally concern over climbers getting back from Kathmandu both after Covid therapy or after acclimatisation rotation to regulate to the altitude.

“They may have recovered themselves but they might bring the virus along with them as things are getting serious in Kathmandu,” mentioned the military official. “We have therefore recommended that climbers do the rotation acclimatisation at places below the base camp, instead of going to Kathmandu.”

No Covid testing facility

Mountaineers and officers at the Everest base camp additionally mentioned that the shortage of a coronavirus testing facility at the base camp well being clinic was a significant handicap.

“We had requested a testing facility but the government said they could not give the permission,” mentioned Dr Kharel.

Some of the large expedition groups have mentioned they’ve introduced their very own testing kits to Everest base camp, which has helped them to take well timed steps like isolating folks and evacuating them.

Everest base camp aerial view

Authorities have mentioned there isn’t any Covid testing facility at the Everest base camp

Himalayan Rescue Association officers mentioned they’d solely not too long ago acquired the confirmed studies of 17 constructive coronavirus cases in climbers from Everest base camp.

“It is unfortunate that we have not been receiving the details of the confirmed cases and the identities of the climbers all this time,” a military official at the base camp advised the BBC.

“That would have helped us in contact tracing and containing the spread much earlier,” he mentioned. “We could have then isolated the climbers who had come in contact with those who tested positive much earlier.”

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