Covid-19 spreads at Mount Dhaulagiri base camp after Everest; authorities attempt to cover up the outbreak

A view of Mount Dhaulagiri. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Ashim Neupane

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Kathmandu: Covid-19 cases have been reported in Nepal’s mountains disturbing the annual climbing season as government authorities have continued attempts to cover up the outbreak.

At least six climbers, airlifted to Pokhara from Mount Dhaulagiri base camp after showing symptoms similar to Covid-19, have tested positive for the virus.

Santabir Lama, President of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) confirmed that samples of six climbers evacuated from Dhaulagiri on Monday have come positive.

“After the climbers—Sherpas and foreigners – showed symptoms like Covid-19, they were airlifted to Pokhara. We are getting information that many more on the mountain are showing symptoms similar to the pandemic,” Lama told Nepal Live Today on Wednesday evening.

On Wednesday, more climbers and Sherpas have also tested positive at the base camp. However, the exact number is still unknown.

A Mexican climber Viridiana Álvarez wrote on Instagram: “Bad news. Covid is in Dhaulagiri Base Camp Many climbers and Sherpas are positive and have been evacuated. Still waiting for more tests for everyone.”

This is the second incident of climbers testing positive at Nepal’s mountain this season.

According to Kul Bahadur Gurung, General Secretary at the NMA, they have come to know that many more climbers have also tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday, though he could not ascertain the exact number.

“We have failed to confirm the exact number of positive cases. Some climbers have been airlifted to Kathmandu already. However, due to poor weather, some climbers who tested positive are still at the base camp,” Gurung said.

When Nepal Live Today contacted the Department of Tourism (DoT) regarding the situation at Dhaulagiri, the concerned official said they were unaware of the situation.

“I have not got any information regarding Covid-19 positive cases at Dhaulagiri,” said Mohan Bahadur GC, Director at the DoT.

The government had issued climbing permits to 33 climbers of five expedition teams for Dhaulagiri, the seventh highest mountain in the world standing 8,167 meters tall.

According to NMA, there are almost 150 people at the base camp including climbers, Sherpas, and porters.

This is the second incident of climbers testing positive at Nepal’s mountain this season.

Last month, at least 10 climbers attempting to climb Mt Everest also tested positive for the virus. Despite the outbreak at the world’s tallest peak, the government officials had dismissed the reports.

At least 1,500 people, including climbers, Sherpas, porters, and other officials are at the Everest Base Camp.

In the meantime, the NMA claimed that the Everest Base Camp region is safe as of now.

“We have not received any information about positive cases from the EBC,” said Lama, president of NMA.

The number of Covid-19 cases has risen sharply in the recent week, and the country reported 8,659 cases on Wednesday.

The government, for this spring season, has opened 16 mountains for climbers. The information provided by the government shows 742 climbers of 85 teams are attempting to climb 16 mountains in this spring season.

NMA said that climbers are strictly following safety protocols on the mountains.

“There is no doubt that climbers are following safety protocols on mountains. Climbers from one team are not allowed to meet and interact with other team members. They are also not allowed to enter others’ camp,” said Lama.