On Friday (13 March), Nepal announced that it has suspended permits for people who want to climb Everest due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, just a day after China cancelled entry from its side.
This latest move has sealed off access to the world’s highest peak, ahead of the spring climbing season.
Minister for Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation of Nepal Yogesh Bhattarai told AFP that the country has halted climbing on all mountains in its nation and stopped issuing tourist visas.
Every year, the Himalayan country earns millions of dollars from just issuing permits for Everest.
“The government has decided to suspend all spring expeditions and scrap permits for the time being. The decision can be reviewed after analysing the global scenario over the coming month,” said Mr Bhattarai.
Nepal has two confirmed cases of the deadly coronavirus in the country as of 12 March. The two Nepalis, Shiva Kumar and Rajan Paswan, have tested positive for the virus at a screening test at the Indian border Jayanagar.
During last year’s spring climbing season, the mountain saw a record of 885 people at the Everest summit, in which 644 of them were from Nepal and 241 from the northern flank in Tibet.
The traffic-congestion claimed the lives of 11 people on the mountain, with at least four blamed on overcrowding.
On average, Nepal attracts hundreds of mountaineers from across the globe each spring, when a short period of time with good weather between late April and the end of May, prompting a rush for the summit.
Besides suspending climbing permits to Everest, the Nepali government has also suspended visas to all foreigners and Non-Resident Nepalis entering the country from 14 March to 13 April, in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a pandemic.
Earlier on 10 March, Nepal suspended “visa-on-arrival” for citizens from eight countries including China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Japan, France, Germany, and Spain.
But, individuals from these countries will be allowed to gain entry into Nepal if they can produce a recently issued coronavirus-free health certificate.