A coronavirus outbreak on Mount Everest has infected at least 100 climbers and support staff, an expert mountaineering guide said, giving the first comprehensive estimate of the outbreak.
Austrian climbing guide, Lukas Furtenbach, has estimated there are hundreds of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the mountain despite denials from the Nepalese government. His estimate is based on confirmations from people working with the infected climbers.
Furtenbach spoke to the Associated Press in Kathmandu on Saturday, a week after cancelling his Everest expedition due to virus fears. So far, he is the only prominent outfitter who has cancelled their expedition amid virus concerns.
“I think with all the confirmed cases we know now — confirmed from [rescue] pilots, from insurance, from doctors, from expedition leaders — I have the positive tests so we can prove this,” He told the Associated Press.
“We have at least 100 people minimum positive for COVID in base camp, and then the numbers might be something like 150 or 200,” he said.
Furtenbach said one of his foreign guides and six Nepali Sherpa guides have tested positive for the virus. He also said it was obvious that there were many cases at the base camp because he could visibly see people were sick, and heard people coughing in their tents.
A total of 408 foreign climbers were granted permits to climb Everest this season, after climbing season had been cancelled last year. The climbers were aided by several hundred Sherpa guides and support staff who have been stationed at the base camp since April.
Nepalese mountaineering officials have routinely denied reports of COVID-19 cases among climbers or support staff at the base camps.
Furtenbach said most teams on the mountain were not carrying testing kits, and that before leaving base camp, his team helped conduct tests and said they confirmed two active cases. Most teams are still at the base camp, hoping for clear weather next week so they can move towards the submit before climbing season closes at the end of the month, Furtenbach said.
In April, a Norwegian climber became the first to test positive at the base camp. He was flown to Kathmandu, where he was then treated and sent home.
Due to Nepal’s surge in active cases, China canceled climbing from its side of Mount Everest.
Nepal reported 8,607 new infections and 177 deaths on Friday, bringing their totals since the pandemic began to over 497,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 6,024 confirmed deaths.
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