China’s anti-Covid-19 ‘line of separation’ atop Mt Everest a needless provocation?

People climbing Mt. Everest. (Photo courtesy: Mountain Professionals)

(, May11’21) – China said May 10 that it planned to use an “isolation strip” atop Mount Everest to cordon off the north slope of the world’s highest mountain as a move to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on its climbers via climbers ascending from Nepal’s side of the mountain. But some officials in Nepal are said to be not happy about the move, seeing it as unnecessary and provocative.

The move was reported by China’s official Xinhua news agency and other official media May 10. 

The so-called isolation strip will be set on the Chinese side, to make sure climbers reaching the top from the north slope make no contact with those ascending from the south slope, the official May 10 cited Tsering Samdrup, head of the local mountaineering association in Tibet Autonomous Region, as saying. 

There has been no reported official reaction from Nepal yet.

A small team of Tibetan climbing guides will ascend to the Mount Qomolangma and set up the “line of separation” at the summit to stop any contact between mountaineers from both sides of the peak, Xinhua cited Nyima Tsering, head of the Tibetan Sports Bureau, as saying. He has said climbers will be forbidden to touch items such as Hada hung by climbers from the south.

Both countries suspended the climbing season on the world’s highest mountain last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, now Nepal has issued permits to allow 408 foreigners to attempt climbs this year as it tries to boost tourism revenue.

The reported cited the Himalayan Rescue Association, which runs a government-led medical clinic at the Everest base camp in Nepal, as saying last week that it had received confirmation of 17 positive Covid-19 cases in some climbers.

And from the Tibetan side of the mountain, the China-Tibet Mountaineering Association has approved 21 climbing permits, all for Chinese nationals.

Despite China’s precautionary moves, the chances of getting Covid atop Everest are next to nil, according to the May 10. Although the summit area is relatively small, about 25 square metres, virtually everyone is wearing oxygen masks. It’s breezy. The virus likely wouldn’t carry well in the thin air. Climbers won’t remove their masks and shout at each other from arm’s length, the report noted.

They have already dispatched guides to take care of the task of setting up a “separation line”. It is not clear what it will be. A line of red dye in the snow? A fence? How it will be enforced? the report wondered.

The report said some Nepali officials were not happy with what they considered a political pose impossible to enforce, adding erecting a line on any border is always extremely provocative.


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