A Norwegian climber hoping to summit Mount Everest has confirmed he tested positive for COVID-19, in a blow to Nepal’s hopes for a bumper mountaineering season on the world’s highest peak.
The pandemic wiped out last year’s season but Nepal has eased quarantine rules in an effort to attract more climbers despite the difficulties of treating them if they contract the virus.
“My diagnosis is COVID-19,” Erlend Ness told the AFP news agency in a Facebook message. “I am doing ok now … The hospital is taking care (of me).”
Ness was evacuated from the slopes by helicopter and taken to a hospital in the Nepali capital Kathmandu after spending time at Everest base camp.
“I really hope that none of the others get infected with corona high up in the mountains. It is impossible to evacuate people with a helicopter when they are above 8,000 metres [26,246 feet],” Ness told NRK.
Breathing is already difficult at high altitudes so any outbreak of disease among climbers presents huge health risks.
“The plan was to get fast high up in the mountains to make sure that we wouldn’t get infected … I’ve been unlucky and I could have done more by myself when it comes to sanitary precautions,” Ness added.
One hospital in Kathmandu confirmed it had taken in patients from Everest who had contracted coronavirus but could not give a number.
“I can’t share the details but some evacuated from Everest have tested positive,” Prativa Pandey, the medical director at Kathmandu’s CIWEC Hospital, told AFP.