Mount Everest, the world highest peak, and other peaks of the Himalayan range are seen through an aircraft window during a mountain flight from Kathmandu, Nepa, in this January 15 2020. File photo: REUTERS/MONIKA DEUPALA
Mount Everest, the world highest peak, and other peaks of the Himalayan range are seen through an aircraft window during a mountain flight from Kathmandu, Nepa, in this January 15 2020. File photo: REUTERS/MONIKA DEUPALA

China has extended its defence against the coronavirus to the world’s highest peak, pledging to deploy a “quarantine rope” on the summit of Mount Everest to prevent the close contact of climbers.

Before trekkers starting out for the top, a Tibetan team will be dispatched from China’s northern slopes to erect the rope, the state-run Xinhua News agency reported, citing Nyima Tsering, the head of the Tibet Sports Bureau. The summit is the only area where climbers from China and Nepal will come into contact, he said.

A deadly virus flare-up in India and a resurgence in Nepal has seen China taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 across its borders after it largely contained the outbreak last year. China’s measures are some of the strictest in the world. Besides lockdowns and mass testing whenever flare-ups occur, China’s aggressive policing of its borders has extended to testing containers of frozen food and subjecting some travellers to anal swabs.

No foreign nationals have reached the Everest climbing camp at 5,200m above sea level on the China side, or trekked any higher since the virus outbreak, according to the Tibetan Climbing Association. The broader area around the mountain on its northern flank has just started to partially reopen, with visitors only able to traverse to a temple some distance from base camp.

Only 21 Chinese nationals have been given approval to climb Everest from its northern slope, according to Xinhua, and all are from “low-risk” areas with green health codes, a pass used in China to exclude the risk of someone carrying the pathogen.

Climbers have already started to ascend from the more trafficked Nepal side of the mountain, the New York Times reported, despite concerns about a possible outbreak at that side’s base camp.

Most of the infections now seen in China are from travellers allowed in from other countries, with entry restricted to citizens and holders of visas, which are hard to obtain.

China recently quashed an outbreak on its border with Myanmar through lockdowns and mass testing.

Cases in Nepal have been rising rapidly, with the resurgence in neighbouring India now the world’s fastest-growing outbreak.

Bloomberg News. For more articles like this, please visit bloomberg.com

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