Pandemic conquers Mount Everest

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The pandemic has conquered Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain. In recent weeks multiple people fell ill, were evacuated from the Mount Everest base camp, and later tested positive for Covid-19.

Himalayan Rescue Association officials say there have been at least 17 confirmed Covid cases at the base camp, but mountaineers in Nepal say the number is much higher.

An expert climbing guide recently said that the coronavirus outbreak on Mount Everest has infected at least 100 climbers and support staff.

This is the first comprehensive estimate amid official Nepalese denials of a Covid-19 cluster on the world’s tallest peak.

“We have at least 100 people minimum positive for coronavirus in base camp, and then the numbers might be something like 150 or 200,” said Lukas Furtenbach of Austria. He ended his Everest expedition due to coronavirus concerns. He told that six Nepali guides and one of his foreign guides tested positive.

The Nepali government denies there’s an issue. “There is no health safety risk at Everest base camp as claimed by some media’’ said the ministry of culture, tourism, and civil aviation in a statement.

But social media posts by several climbers suggest otherwise. “The Covid situation at EBC is a total shitstorm. I had no clue what I was flying into,” Gina Marie Han-Lee, a climber from America, wrote on Facebook. She was tasted coronavirus positive when she reached Kathmandu, the capital of the country. She spent four nights in the ICU.

The first case was confirmed in April after Norwegian climber Erlend Ness tested positive. He says this himself. He was flown to Kathmandu by helicopter where he was treated and later he returned home.

The government of Nepal seems to underestimate the problem to avoid shutting down the base camp. Nepal relies heavily on tourism revenue, generating $2 billion in 2018, according to the report of the World Travel and Tourism Council. The tourism industry supported more than 1 million jobs directly and indirectly. The nation’s tourism industry lost out millions in revenue last year when the climbing season was canceled last year due to the pandemic. Nepal’s Tourism Department granted 408 permits – up from 393 in 2019, to Everest climbers this year in an effort to get the tourism industry back up and running.

But far more than 408 people will be filing through base camp and up the mountain. Chefs, guides, and Sherpas accompany each climbing team, making it harder to practice social distancing at the top of the world. Base camp officials say there is no Covid testing facility at their health clinic, and camp doctors report privately that they were denied government permission to carry out PCR tests.

 Meanwhile, Nepal is in the grips of a devastating second wave of the coronavirus. Hospitals in Kathmandu, the capital, are flooded with coronavirus patients who are lying on the ground gasping for oxygen. Many coronavirus patients lost their life due to the lack of oxygen. Several private and community hospitals in Kathmandu have refused to take any more patients due to a lack of oxygen. The health system of Nepal cracked under the strain of surging coronavirus cases.

 Now, the Himalayan country of 30 million people is even more helpless than India. The data tracking site of Oxford University shows a staggering 668% increase in confirmed Coronavirus cases in the two weeks to 1 May, compared with the previous fortnight. Similarly, the Red Cross reported that, nationally, 44% of all tests were positive.

Nepal initiated its vaccination campaign in January and vaccinated 1.9 million people, all provided by India and China. But the campaign couldn’t be continued as Nepal couldn’t procure vaccines from India or any other countries.

Recently, Prime Minister K.P.Sharma Oli urged foreign donors to supply vaccines and medicines to prevent a collapse of the health infrastructure of the country. Oli urged neighbors, international donors, organizations, and friendly nations to help with the vaccines.

Nepal is a small Himalayan country lying between two warring giants India and China. The strategic importance of Nepal is on the rise not only for two neighbors but also for the US.

China and the US are responding to Nepal’s crisis. China recently donated 400 oxygen cylinders, 160 oxygen concentrators, and 10 ventilators to Nepal. China also donated 800,000 doses of the Chinese VeroCell vaccine to continue its vaccination drive after India put a stop to the vaccine export.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced emergency assistance to help Nepal fight its devastating second-wave surge.

People of Nepal recently launched an online petition demanding that the US provide vaccines as the country struggles to contain the devastating second wave.

 Nepal is on the brink of an unprecedented disaster. Every day, the mortality rate due to coronavirus continues to spike. Nepal is in a war zone and it is helpless. The vaccination rate in Nepal is very low, only 7.2 percent of the population is vaccinated from the first dose. Nepal urgently needs vaccines and medicines from foreign donors, or else the cataclysm will engulf the country.

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