Coronavirus reaches Everest as climber tests positive

KATHMANDU: A Norwegian climber hoping to summit Everest confirmed on Thursday that he has tested positive for Covid-19, in a blow to Nepal’s hopes for a bumper mountaineering season on the world’s highest peak.

The pandemic wiped out last year’s season but Nepal has eased quarantine rules in an effort to attract more climbers despite the difficulties of treating them if they contract the virus.

“My diagnosis is Covid-19,” Erlend Ness said in a Facebook message.

“I’m doing ok now… The hospital is taking care (of me).” Ness was evacuated from the slopes by helicopter and taken to a hospital in the Nepali capital Kath­mandu after spending time at Everest base camp.

Norwegian broadcaster NRK, which interviewed him, reported that a sherpa in his party had also tested positive.

“I really hope that none of the others get infected with corona high up in the mountains. It is impossible to evacuate people with a helicopter when they’re above 8,000 metres,” Ness told NRK.

Breathing is already difficult at high altitudes so any outbreak of disease among climbers presents major health risks.

“The plan was to get fast high up in the mountains to make sure that we wouldn’t get infected… I’ve been unlucky and I could have done more by myself when it comes to sanitary precautions,” Ness added.

One hospital in Kath­mandu confirmed it had taken in patients from Everest who had contracted coronavirus but could not give a number.

“I can’t share the details but some evacuated from Everest have tested positive,” Prativa Pandey, the medical director at Kath­mandu’s CIWEC Hospital, said.

But Mira Acharya, a spokesperson for Nepal’s tourism department, said it had so far not received any reports of Covid-19 among climbers.