Everest region open again for mountain tourists

Namche Bazaar

Roll backwards. The Khumbu Pasanglhamu Rural Municipality has reopened the region around Mount Everest for mountaineers and trekking tourists. These are allowed to enter if they can show a corona test on arrival, which is not older than 72 hours and was negative, the authority informs me on request. In the morning the first plane from Kathmandu landed in Lukla again.

Last week, foreign tourists had arrived in Nepal for the first time in about seven months, including mountaineers who want to climb the 6,818-meter-high Ama Dablam near Everest. In Kathmandu they had gone into the mandatory one-week hotel quarantine.

On Thursday, the local government banned all flights into the Everest region until further notice after a COVID-19 infection had been reported from Namche Bazaar. According to the newspaper “Nepali Times”, a team of doctors arrived by helicopter in the hub of the Khumbu on Saturday and tested 123 people there. Nine young men were tested positive but showed no or only mild symptoms of the disease. They are now in quarantine.

Tourism market has collapsed

Lukla airport

The Khumbu region lives from tourism. In the last fiscal year, which ran from mid-2019 to mid-2020, around 31,500 foreign tourists visited Sagarmatha National Park (Sagarmatha is the Nepalese name for Mount Everest).  Normally the number is about twice as high, but this year the spring season was completely canceled due to the corona pandemic. So far, the Khumbu has been largely spared from infection – unlike other regions of the country, such as the Kathmandu Valley. In Nepal, more than 158,000 infections with the corona virus have been registered so far. 847 people died of COVID-19, and the number of unreported cases is likely to be high.

There are also critical voices about the reversal of the Khumbu local government. “Only the 9 patients have minimal symptoms or are asymptomatic – wjat about other people in the region,” asks Tsering Namgyal Sherpa, who works for a trekking agency from Kathmandu, on Facebook. ” Despite all the PCR check at Lukla airport, Corona still managed to get into Khumbu.” It is not always just about economy, health is more important than wealth, the Sherpa wrote: “Especially (the) Khumbu Pasanglhamu Rural Municipality needs to understand this fact and act properly.”