Selin ATAY-TDO- Nepal will reopen its Himalayan mountains including Mount Everest to climbers for the autumn season, officials said on Thursday, in order to boost the tourism-dependent economy despite rising coronavirus cases.
Home to eight of the world’s 14 tallest mountains, Nepal shut down climbing and trekking in March to stem the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
Tourism Ministry spokesman said Nepal started issuing climbing permits for Mount Everest and other Himalayan peaks. Also, the Tourism Ministry spokesman Kamal Prasad Bhattarai said the government reopened hotels, restaurants and casinos in line with the Cabinet decision of July 21.
"We have reopened mountaineering and will issue climbing permits for the autumn season," tourism department official Mira Acharya said, emphasizing that climbers must follow health protocols issued by the government.
While infections in many Western nations are falling, South Asian countries including Nepal are still witnessing a consistent rise in the coronavirus cases.
The absence of climbing in the popular April-May season caused Nepal millions of dollars in losses. Most climbers come from the US, India, China, UK, Japan, and South Korea - and are a main source of revenue for the Nepalese government.
Though the government now wants to reopen climbing, international flights are shut until mid-August and travel restrictions within Nepal remain, meaning climbers will still be kept away in the short term, expedition organizers said.
Ang Tshering Sherpa, an expedition organiser in the capital Kathmandu said that "Some climbers to smaller mountains may come but I have doubts about big ones."
Nepal has so far recorded 19,547 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, with 52 deaths.