Climbing gym

Climbing guide says coronavirus outbreak on Mount Everest has infected at least 100 people

KATHMANDU, Nepal — An expert climbing guide says a coronavirus outbreak on Mount Everest has infected at least 100 climbers and support staff.

This is the first comprehensive estimate among Nepal’s official denials of a Covid-19 cluster on the world’s highest peak. Lukas Furtenbach of Austria says his estimate is based on confirmations from rescue pilots, insurance companies, doctors and expedition leaders, among others.

He spoke to The Associated Press in Kathmandu on Saturday, a week after he halted his Everest expedition due to virus fears. He says one of his foreign guides and six Nepali Sherpa guides have tested positive. He saw sick people at base camp and heard people coughing in their tents.

Mountain guide Lukas Furtenbach speaking in Kathmandu, Nepal on May 22, 2021.Bikram Rai / AP

A total of 408 foreign climbers have received permits to climb Everest this season, aided by several hundred Sherpa guides and support staff who have been stationed at base camp since April. At the end of April, a Norwegian climber became the first to test positive at Everest Base Camp.

The climbing season ends at the end of the month. Mountaineering was closed last year due to the pandemic.

Nepal reported 8,607 new infections and 177 deaths on Friday, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to more than 497,000 confirmed infections and 6,024 confirmed deaths.

The Swiss government has transported $8 million worth of Covid-19 medical equipment and supplies to help Nepal, which is struggling with a failing health system and a severe shortage of hospital beds, medicine and oxygen for patients.

Nepal has been appealing for help from the international community since the Covid-19 situation worsened sharply this month. A lockdown has been imposed in most parts of the country since last month to curb peak cases.