Nepal’s government has announced it is suspending climbing permits for Mount Everest and all other peaks due to concern over the spread of the coronavirus.
The decision effectively shuts down the world’s tallest mountain after China earlier closed its side of Everest over similar fears.
Shutting down the popular spring climbing season across the country is a precautionary measure to block any possibility of the spread of Covid-19, said Surendra Thapa, an official with Nepal’s Department of Tourism, which issues climbing permits.
The government said it was also cancelling all visas on arrival for tourists and that those arriving after Saturday would be subject to 14 days of self-quarantine.
Visitors will also no longer be able enter through land borders and must travel through the only international airport in the capital Kathmandu.
Nepal has eight of the highest peaks in the world and the adventurers who head to the country are a significant source of revenue for the government and the thousands of workers who support the expeditions.
Even before the closure, expedition operators in Nepal had said cancellations for the spring climbing season had been pouring in.
There had been concerns about the new virus and how it could spread among climbers living for weeks on the mountains in shared tents in extreme temperatures. Fever, coughs and colds are already common among climbers.
Nepal so far has had one confirmed case of the virus – a Nepali student who had returned home for a holiday from China. They have already recovered.
Schools in the country have been ordered to wrap up the academic year by next week and close down, while citizens have been advised to stay away from crowded gatherings and avoid unnecessary travel.