China will draw a 'separation line' atop Mount Everest to prevent the coronavirus from being spread by climbers ascending Nepal's side of the mountain, Chinese state media reported Monday.
A team of Tibetan mountaineering guides will set up the separation line at the peak before climbers attempt to reach the summit from the Chinese side, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
It was not clear what the separation line would be made of. The climbers ascending the north side of the mountain from China will be prohibited from crossing the line or coming into contact with anyone or any objects on the south, or Nepalese, side, it said.
It comes amid unconfirmed reports that there has been an outbreak of Covid-19 at Nepal's Mount Everest Base camp, with climbers taken by helicopter to a local hospital.
In this aerial photo released by Xinhua News Agency, the Mount Qomolangma, also known as Mount Everest, base camp is seen on May 25, 2020. China will draw a 'separation line' atop Mount Everest to prevent the coronavirus from being spread by climbers ascending from Nepal's side of the mountain
Nepal's government and mountaineering officials did not immediately comment on the separation line.
Both countries suspended the climbing season on the world's highest mountain last year due to the pandemic. Nepal has issued permits allowing 408 foreigners to attempt climbs this year as it tries to boost tourism revenue.
China has issued permits to 38 people to climb on Mount Everest this year. Xinhua said 21 Chinese climbers were approved to attempt to reach the summit from the northern slope. A separate group of 17 climbers has also received permits to hike on the northern slope.
While China has mostly curbed domestic transmission of the virus, Nepal is experiencing a surging outbreak with record numbers of new infections and deaths in recent days. Most major cities and towns are under lockdown and all domestic and international flights are grounded.
Mount Everest is seen from the way to Kalapatthar in Nepal. China will draw a 'separation line' atop Mount Everest to prevent the coronavirus from being spread by climbers ascending Nepal's side of the mountain, Chinese state media reported Monday
Officials in Nepal have refused to speak about any Everest outbreak. One climber, a Norwegian, told The Associated Press last month he had developed COVID-19 and has since left the country after getting better.
Ang Tshering Sherpa, a mountaineering expert who has been in the mountaineering community for decades, said it was not possible to draw any kind of separation on the Everest summit.
The only point where climbers from both sides would even come close is the summit, which is a small space where climbers spend only a few minutes to take photographs and experience the 360-degree views.
Climbers would be wearing thick layers of clothing and gear and their faces would be covered with oxygen masks, glasses and protection from the freezing air.
'The idea that anyone with coronavirus could even reach the summit is impossible because climbers with any respiratory difficulties will just not be able to reach the altitude,' he said.
It comes amid unconfirmed claims that the Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal has seen dozens of climbers evacuated from base camp.
A British climber who was flown to a Kathmandu hospital where he tested positive for Covid-19 has said that social distancing measures were not being properly enforced on the mountain.
Climber Steve Harris's planned two-month expedition was cut short when he was diagnosed with High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), a potentially fatal form of severe high-altitude illness, at Base Camp on April 20 and flown to the village of Namche Bazaar.
The Covid-19 outbreak at Mount Everest Base Camp has seen dozens of climbers evacuated from base camp, it has been claimed. The Base Camp is pictured above
British climber Steve Harris, pictured above, was flown to hospital in Kathmandu last week where he tested positive for Covid-19
Speaking to MailOnline, the mountaineer from York said: 'I was initially diagnosed with HAPE at Everest Base Camp and flown to Namche Bazaar to recover.
'I wasn’t asked about or offered a Covid-19 test. After four days in Namche, I was medivac by helicopter to hospital in Kathmandu where I was tested and confirmed positive for Covid-19 and pneumonia and spent a week in intensive care.
'I have been released from hospital but am still having to isolate in a hotel as I am still positive for Covid.'
He added that prior to his evacuation there were 'rumours' of Covid-19 in camp but nothing had been confirmed.
'Social distancing and masks weren't really being enforced,' he said.