This is a developing story. For up-to-date information on traveling during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
After expedition operators on Mount Everest said Thursday that Chinese mountaineering officials will not allow spring climbs from their side of the mountain due to fears of the coronavirus, Nepal’s government announced Friday that it was suspending climbing permits for Mount Everest and all of the other peaks in the country.
The decision effectively shuts down the world’s tallest mountain, since Everest straddles the border between Nepal and China and can be climbed from both sides.
Dawa Sherpa of Kathmandu-based Climbalaya Treks and Expeditions said the officials told them though the virus was getting under control in China, they could not risk bringing in foreign climbers. He said the conversation with the China Tibet Mountaineering Association officials was over the phone and no official emails, faxes, or messages were sent.
Jiban Ghimire of Shangrila Nepal Trek also said he spoke on the phone with Chinese officials who said there would be no climbing on Everest during this year’s popular spring climbing season. Climbers using the northern route in China generally use operators based in Nepal to equip and manage the expeditions.
Shutting down the popular spring climbing season across the country was a precautionary measure to block any possibility of the spread of the virus, said Surendra Thapa, an official with Nepal’s Department of Tourism, which issues climbing permits.
The Nepalese government also said it was canceling all visas on arrival for tourists and that those arriving after Saturday would be subject to 14 days of self-quarantine. Visitors will also no longer be able enter through land borders and must travel through the only international airport, which is situated in the capital, Kathmandu.
Nepal has eight of the highest peaks in the world and the adventurers who head to the country to climb them are a significant source of revenue for the government and the thousands of workers who support the expeditions. So are trekkers and other tourists who flock to the Himalayan nation.
Even before the closure, expedition operators in Nepal had said cancellations for the spring climbing season had been pouring in. There had been concerns about the new virus and how it could spread among climbers living for weeks on the mountains in shared tents in extreme temperatures. Fever, coughs, and colds are already common among climbers.
Nepal so far has had one confirmed case of the virus. The Nepali student who returned home for a holiday from China has already recovered. Schools in the country have been ordered to wrap up the academic year by next week and close down, while citizens have been advised to stay away from crowded gatherings and avoid unnecessary travel.
This article originally appeared online on March 12, 2020; it was updated on March 13, 2020, to include current information.