(AP) — An expert climbing guide said Saturday that a coronavirus
outbreak on Mount Everest
has infected at least 100 climbers and support staff, providing the first comprehensive estimate in the midst of official Nepalese denials of a COVID-19
cluster on the world's highest peak.
Austrian Lukas Furtenbach, who was the only prominent outfitter to halt his Everest expedition last week due to virus concerns, said one of his foreign guides and six Nepali Sherpa guides had tested positive.
“I think with all the confirmed cases we now know — confirmed from (rescue) pilots, insurance
, doctors, expedition leaders — I have the positive tests to prove this,” Furtenbach told The Associated Press
in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital.
“We have at least 100 people
in base camp who are positive for COVID, and the total number could be 150 or 200,” he said.
He stated that there were obviously many cases at the Everest base camp because he could see people who were sick and hear people coughing in their tents.
This season, 408 foreign climbers were granted permits to ascend Everest, aided by hundreds of Sherpa guides and support staff stationed at base camp since April
Mountaineering officials in Nepal have denied that there are any active cases this season among climbers and support staff at all base camps for the country's Himalayan mountains, despite the fact that the sport was closed last year due to the pandemic
Other climbing teams have not announced any COVID-19 infections among their members or staff, and several climbers have tested positive after being brought down from Everest base camp.
Most teams on the mountain, according to Furtenbach, did not have virus testing kits, and his team had assisted in conducting tests and confirmed two cases before leaving.
The majority of teams are still at base camp, hoping for clear weather next week so they can make one last push to the summit before the climbing season ends at the end of the month, according to Furtenbach.
A Norwegian climber was the first to test positive at Everest base camp in late April, and he was flown by helicopter to Kathmandu, where he was treated and later returned home.
Nepal is experiencing a virus outbreak, with a record number of new infections and deaths; China
canceled climbing from its side of Mount Everest last week, fearing the virus would spread from the Nepalese side.
On Friday, Nepal reported 8,607 new infections and 177 deaths, bringing the country's totals since the pandemic's inception to more than 497,000 infections and 6,024 deaths.