Mount Everest reopens to tourists, trekkers

Mount Everest reopens to tourists, trekkers

FOREIGN tourists and trekkers can now visit the Mount Everest area without any restrictions as the local authorities there have removed all Covid-19 related restrictions.

Reeling from a loss of economic activity since the nation shut its doors to foreigners at the start of the pandemic, Nepal has been trying to woo back tourists to the mountainous region since October.

Nepal’s government had previously decided to allow foreign tourists for trekking and mountaineering from Oct 17 and all visitors needed to submit a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test report.

But with the Everest climbing season set to start in March, the authorities decided to go the next step by removing any such requirement for foreigners, only for the region.

Binod Bhattarai, chief administrative officer at Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality, the region where Everest is located, told the Kathmandu Post that since last Saturday, sightseers visiting the Everest region were no longer required to submit a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test report or go into quarantine.

“The government has lifted the lockdown fully, the rate of the spread of the virus has dropped, and Nepal is expected to begin an inoculation drive against the infection this week,” said Bhattarai.

“Based on all these factors, we deemed it necessary to lift the negative Covid-19 RT-PCR requirement to visit the Khumbu or Everest region.”

“However, if any travelling passengers are suspected to have developed Covid-19 symptoms, we have made arrangements to conduct antigen tests at Nicole Niquille Hospital in Lukla,” he said.

“There are no foreign tourists at this moment. But we are planning to draw some numbers this spring when the Everest climbing season begins in March,” said Bhattarai.

On Sunday, Nepal recorded 270 new Covid-19 cases and the total cases is now almost 270,000 with more than 3,300 active cases.

In mid-December, Nepal threw open its doors to foreign tourists when it restored all tourist visas and foreign visitors were allowed to fly into the country.

However, its land borders are still closed.

Visitors are still required to submit a negative Covid-19 test result before being allowed entry.

The Everest region is the second most popular trekking route in Nepal after Annapurna. In 2019, more than 57,000 thrill seekers walked over the trails there.

The country had planned a Visit Nepal 3.0 campaign for 2020, hoping to attract some two million tourists, but it ended up becoming the worst year for tourism since 1986.

The Covid-19 pandemic crisis resulted in an almost 81 per cent drop in tourist arrivals from the previous year, making it the worst year-on-year decline since Nepal opened to the outside world in the 1950s.

According to Immigration Department figures, Nepal received 230,085 foreign tourists last year, equivalent to the arrivals figure of 1986.

Most of them came before the country slapped restrictions on tourist entry on March 20. Between April and December, fewer than 15,000 individuals visited Nepal.

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