As the first case of COVID-19 positive cases reported from Everest Base camp, the government is considering to take some drastic step to contain the disease. Despite the COVID-19 threat, Nepal's tourism department had issued 377 climbing permits to foreign climbers attempting to scale Everest this year.
This is close to the same number issued in 2019, when 11 people died on the peak and numerous fatalities were blamed on the long wait to descend from the summit to base camp.
When Nepal welcomed foreign climbers back to Mount Everest for the spring climbing season, many feared it was only a matter of time before the coronavirus made its way to the world's highest peak.
Just weeks into the season, symptoms of the virus have been found at Everest's base camp, sparking a renewed debate about whether Nepal's reliance on the mountain as a source of revenue is getting in the way of safety.
On Thursday, the government reported first reported a climber at base camp had been evacuated by helicopter for what was believed to be high-altitude pulmonary edema and tested positive for the coronavirus upon arriving at a hospital in Kathmandu last week.
Making matters even worse, many common coronavirus symptoms bear a close resemblance to the symptoms of altitude sickness and the "Khumbu cough" that often plagues climbers at high altitudes.
The government has already collected more than $3.8 million in fees from climbing permits this year, and the amount of money that climbers spend while in the country typically accounts for an estimated $300 million in revenue.
Nepal has also gradually eased its own restrictions for Everest trekkers: After initially mandating all foreign climbers to obtain additional insurance that would cover the costs of coronavirus treatment, it quickly relaxed that requirement. Climbers must test negative for coronavirus infection before boarding a plane to Kathmandu, but in late March the government announced that a seven-day quarantine period would no longer be mandatory as long as a second coronavirus test came back negative.
Source: Various newspapers