A coronavirus outbreak on Mount Everest infected at least 100 climbers and support staff, a mountaineering guide said, as Nepal denied that the disease has spread to the world's highest peak.
Lukas Furtenbach of Austria, who last week halted his Everest expedition because of coronavirus fears, said on Saturday one of his foreign guides and six Nepali Sherpa guides were infected with the virus.
"I think with all the confirmed cases we know now – confirmed from [rescue] pilots, from insurance, from doctors, from expedition leaders – I have the positive tests so we can prove this," Mr Furtenbach said in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu.
"We have at least 100 people positive for Covid in base camp, and then the numbers might be something like 150 or 200," he said.
He said it was clear there were many cases at the base camp because he could see and hear people with symptoms.
A total of 408 foreign climbers were given permits to climb Everest this season, aided by several hundred Sherpas and support staff who were stationed at base camp since April.
Nepalese mountaineering officials denied there were active cases this season among climbers and support staff at all base camps for the country's Himalayan mountains.
Mountaineering was halted last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Other climbing teams have not announced infections among their members or staff. Several climbers have reported testing positive after they were brought down from the Everest base camp.
Mr Furtenbach said most teams on the mountain were not carrying virus testing kits, and that before his team pulled out, they had helped carry out tests and confirmed two cases.
Most teams are still at base camp, hoping for clear weather next week so they can make a final push to the summit before the climbing season closes at the end of the month, Mr Furtenbach said.
In late April, a Norwegian climber became the first to test positive at the Everest base camp.
He was flown by helicopter to Kathmandu, where he was treated and returned home.
Nepal is suffering a virus surge, with record numbers of new infections and deaths.
China last week cancelled climbing from its side of Mount Everest because of fears the virus could be spread from the Nepalese side.
Nepal reported 8,607 new infections and 177 deaths on Friday, taking the nation’s totals since the pandemic began to more than 497,000 infections and 6,024 deaths.