A Norwegian climber has tested positive for COVID-19 in the Mount Everest base camp, calling into question the decision by Nepal to open the world’s highest mountain to climbers.
The positive test has also sparked fears the virus could spread among the hundreds of other climbers, guides and helpers.
Norwegian climber Erlend Ness revealed on Friday that he tested positive on April 15.
He said another test on Thursday was negative and after being airlifted to Kathmandu, where he was hospitalised, he was now staying with a local family in Nepal.
“My diagnosis is Covid-19,” said Ness. “I’m doing OK now … The hospital is taking care (of me).”
“I really hope that none of the others get infected with corona high up in the mountain,” Mr Ness told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
“It is impossible to evacuate people with a helicopter when they’re above 8,000 metres.”
“Breathing is already difficult at high altitudes, so any outbreak of disease among climbers presents urgent health risks.”
Mountain guide Lukas Furtenbach says he is worried the virus could spread among those who are now camped on the base of Everest.
Mr Furtenbach, leading a team of 18 climbers to Mount Everest and its sister peak Mount Lhotse, warned there could be more than just one case on the mountain as the Norwegian had lived with several others for weeks.
Any outbreak could prematurely end the climbing season, just ahead of a window of good weather in May, he said.
The global pandemic has wreaked havoc on the tourist hotspot, which relies heavily on international visitors.
Nepal recently relaxed entry formalities for foreigners arriving by air.
Tourists visiting Nepal no longer have to stay in mandatory hotel quarantine for five days as long as they have a PCR negative report before they board their flight, and again test negative on their arrival in Kathmandu.
The popular spring climbing season in Nepal, which has eight of the highest peaks in the world, began in March and ends in May.