Chinese officials have announced the cancellation of all Mt. Qomolangma (referred to as Mt. Everest in the West) summit expeditions in the face of rising COVID-19 cases on the neighboring side of the mountain, according to Reuters.
Just a week prior, the Tibetan Sports Bureau announced plans to build a separating line to distance Chinese climbers from the hordes on the Nepalese side of Mt. Everest. Something clearly easier said than done as they were unsure of the logistics when the announcement was first made.
Twenty-one Chinese climbers had already embarked on their expedition to the summit, while a further 17 had been permitted access to the Chinese base camp, Caixin Global reports. The window of opportunity to summit the mountain can be very short, with the first team reaching the peak from the Nepalese side on May 10.
The team of 21, including a female climber from Henan named Sun Ning who successfully conquered the mountain in 2019, had already reached the summit camp. Henan News Radio reported that the team will turn back after ascending 7,300 meters – the peak sits at 8,848 meters above sea level.
The team has been on the mountain for 37 days as climbers must slowly acclimatize to the low-oxygen environment to avoid dangerous health complications.
Henan’s first woman to successfully summit Mt. Everest, Sun Ning. Image via @Dahe/Weibo
Climbers in Nepal have been asked to return their used oxygen containers due to a shortage. Empty oxygen canisters are often discarded on the mountain, included in a plethora of trash left by climbers, which has raised calls for cleanup expeditions. In May 2019, the Everest Cleaning Campaign, along with help from a Nepalese army helicopter, removed 3 metric tons of garbage from the slopes in the first two weeks of a six-week campaign.
Additionally, Nepal’s hospitals are suffering from an oxygen tank shortage, Xinhua reports. Nepal is recording as many as 9,000 new infections daily for the past week after reporting just 70 to 100 cases per day back in March.
The growing fear is that Nepal’s COVID-19 crisis will mimic that of neighboring India. Nepal has fewer doctors per capita than India, as per CNN.
Some of Nepal’s hospitals reported being unable to accept new patients due to a lack of oxygen.
Oxygen cylinders donated to Nepal. Image via @达尔文红梅/Weibo
India experienced a similarly devastating oxygen shortage in its most recent surge in cases. As of May 8, India Today reported that 17% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 required oxygen support, a rate three times higher than during the first wave of the virus.
[Cover image via Pixabay]