China to create 'line of separation' at Everest summit over Covid fears

The line will prevent those ascending from the Tibetan side mixing with those from Covid-hit Nepal

Light illuminates Mount Everest, during sunset in the Solukhumbu District, also known as the Everest region. Reuters
Light illuminates Mount Everest, during sunset in the Solukhumbu District, also known as the Everest region. Reuters

China will set up "a line of separation" at the summit of Mount Everest to prevent the mingling of climbers from Covid-hit Nepal and those ascending from the Tibetan side, as a precautionary measure, Chinese state media reported.

Everest base camp on the Nepalese side has been hit by coronavirus cases since late April. The Nepalese government, starved of tourism revenue, has yet to cancel the spring climbing season, which usually runs from April to early June, before the monsoon rains.

It was not immediately clear how the line would be enforced at the summit – a tiny, perilous and inhospitable area the size of a dining table.

A small team of Tibetan climbing guides will ascend Everest and set up the "line of separation" at the summit to stop any contact between mountaineers from both sides of the peak, Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday, citing the head of Tibet's sports bureau.

FILE PHOTO: Mount Everest, the world highest peak, and other peaks of the Himalayan range are seen through an aircraft window during a mountain flight from Kathmandu, Nepal January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Monika Deupala/File Photo
A small team of Tibetan climbing guides will ascend Everest and set up the 'line of separation'. Reuters

A group of 21 Chinese mountaineers are en route to the summit on the Tibetan side.

The Tibetan guides will set up the separation line ahead of their arrival, Xinhua said, without describing what the line will look like.

It was also unclear whether the Tibetan guides would be the ones enforcing the "separation", or whether they would remain in the so-called death zone, where many lives have been lost owing to a dearth of oxygen, to hold the line.

The top of the 8,848.86-metre peak is a small mound of snow with barely enough space for half a dozen climbers and guides at any one time.

China has not allowed any foreign climbers to ascend from the Tibetan side since the outbreak of Covid-19 last year, owing to infection concerns.

Tourists in the Everest scenic area in Tibet are also banned from visiting the base camp on the Tibetan side.

Mainland China on Sunday reported 12 new Covid-19 cases – all of which involved travellers arriving from overseas – up from seven the day before. Nepal reported 9,023 new cases on Friday, the country's biggest one-day increase.

Updated: May 10, 2021 01:37 PM

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