Guide: Over 100 virus cases on Everest despite Nepal denials

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KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A coronavirus outbreak on Mount Everest has infected at least 100 climbers and support staff, an expert mountaineering guide said, giving the first comprehensive estimate amid official Nepalese denials that the disease has spread to the world’s highest peak.

Lukas Furtenbach of Austria, who last week became the only prominent outfitter to halt his Everest expedition due to virus fears, said Saturday one of his foreign guides and six Nepali Sherpa guides have tested positive.

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“I think with all the confirmed cases we know now — confirmed from (rescue) pilots, from insurance, from doctors, from expedition leaders — I have the positive tests so we can prove this,” Furtenbach told The Associated Press in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.

“We have at least 100 people minimum positive for COVID in base camp, and then the numbers might be something like 150 or 200,” he said.

He said it was obvious there were many cases at the Everest base camp because he could visibly see people were sick, and could hear people coughing in their tents.

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A total of 408 foreign climbers were issued permits to climb Everest this season, aided by several hundred Sherpas and support staff who’ve been stationed at base camp since April.

Nepalese mountaineering officials have denied there are any active cases this season among climbers and support staff at all base camps for the country’s Himalayan mountains. Mountaineering was closed last year due to the pandemic.

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