Beijing plans to draw a line on the summit of Mount Everest to prevent climbers from the China and Nepal sides of the world’s tallest mountain from coming into contact with each other, as climbing season gets underway.
Mountaineers can reach the 29,032-foot summit of Mount Everest from Nepal or the Chinese region of Tibet. But as Nepal faces a surge in COVID-19 cases, authorities over the border want to impose strict social distancing rules on the top of the world, China’s state news agency Xinhua reported on Sunday.
Nepal and neighboring India have both been hit with a ferocious second wave of the coronavirus, with India reporting more than 300,000 new cases every day.
No foreigners have been allowed to reach the Everest summit from the Chinese side since COVID-19 became widespread in early 2020. This year, however, some 21 Chinese climbers were approved to scale the peak, according to the Xinhua report.
In order to prevent them from making contact with those on the Nepal side of the mountain, a team of local guides will put a “line of separation” on the summit before climbers set off for the peak in mid-May, according to Nyima Tsering, the head of Tibet’s sports bureau.
He said Chinese climbers would be banned from crossing the line or touching any objects left by climbers from the Nepal side.
It’s unclear how the line will be set up or what form it will take. The summit of Mount Everest is a small dome of snow about the size of a dining table, with enough room for about six climbers to stand on, according to National Geographic.
The official said full-body suits, oxygen masks, and glasses worn by mountaineers also helped reduce contagion risks, adding that after descending, climbers would be disinfected and, if deemed necessary, put in quarantine.
Foreign visitors are a major income source for Nepal, a country with eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains and also one of the poorest nations in Asia. The country reopened its mountains to foreign climbers and trekkers late last year, and has yet to close them despite surging coronavirus infections.
The country reported more than 9,000 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since the beginning of the pandemic. Some Mount Everest climbers have tested positive for the virus, according to officials and doctors at the Nepal side of the mountain, BBC reported.
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