NEPAL: Nepal has reopened its mountains — including Everest — for the autumn trekking and climbing season in a bid to boost the struggling tourism sector, officials said Friday, despite coronavirus uncertainty.
The Himalayan country shut its borders in March just ahead of the busy spring season when hundreds of mountaineers usually flock to the country, costing jobs and millions of dollars in revenue.
A nationwide lockdown was lifted last week, and Nepal is now open “for tourism activities, including mountaineering and trekking.” Mira Acharya of the tourism department told AFP.
The government will permit international flights to land in the country from August 17.
The decision comes despite over 1,000 new coronavirus infections reported this week, with a total of 19,547 cases.
Officials were “working on” safety protocols Acharya added, including for how long visitors would have to quarantine on arrival.
Mingma Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks, one of the biggest Nepali expedition organisers, said that clients were calling, but were waiting to find out how long arrivals will have to quarantine for.
Tent cities grow at the foot of Everest and other peaks in the climbing seasons, with climbers and support staff all living in close quarters.
Breathing is already difficult at higher altitude — adding to medical risks if there is an outbreak of any kind among climbers.