UP to 200 people have tested positive for Covid on Mount Everest amid a shocking outbreak on the world's highest peak, it's claimed.
An expert mountain climber says the killer virus has already infected swathes of intrepid adventurers and Sherpas at the South Base Camp.
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The claims come from Austrian Lukas Furtenbach, who last week became the only prominent guide to halt his latest expedition due to virus fears.
However, Nepalese officials insist there has not been an outbreak at the site where some 1,500 people are currently located.
They instead blamed any symptoms on other illnesses like altitude sickness.
"We have at least 100 people minimum positive for COVID in base camp, and then the numbers might be something like 150 or 200," "Furtenbach told The Associated Press.
He said it was obvious there were many cases at the base camp as he could visibly see people were sick, and could hear people coughing in their tents.
A total of 408 foreign climbers were issued permits to climb Everest this season, aided by several hundred Sherpa guides 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 and Nepalese officials could not immediately be reached for comment today.
Other climbing teams have not announced any Covid infections among their members or staff.
Several climbers have reported testing positive after they were brought down from the Everest base camp.
Furtenbach said many teams on the mountain were not carrying virus testing kits, and that before his team pulled out, they had helped conduct tests and had confirmed two cases.
"Most teams are still at base camp, hoping for clear weather next week so they can make a final push to the summit before the climbing season closes at the end of the month," he said.
In late April, a Norwegian climber became the first to test positive at the towering mountain's base camp.
He was flown by helicopter to Kathmandu, where he was treated and later returned home.
Nepal is experiencing a virus surge, with record numbers of new infections and deaths. China last week canceled climbing from its side of Everest due to fears the virus could be spread from the Nepalese side.
Nepal reported 8,607 new infections and 177 deaths on Friday, bringing the nations totals since the pandemic began to more than 497,000 infections and 6,024 deaths.
The country, located between China and India, has already vaccinated more than two million people with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
However, medics were forced to suspend the vaccination programme in April after the country failed to secure fresh dispatches of vaccine.
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