Nepal suspends Everest expeditions over coronavirus fears

Nepal has announced a slew of measures to avert a possible coronavirus outbreak in the country, including suspending all expeditions on Mount Everest and other Himalayan peaks, according to an official on Friday, SIA reports.

A high-level task force on coronavirus measures, led by Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokharel, took the decision to suspend expeditions on Thursday, said Mira Acharya, a director at the tourism department.

In a statement on Friday, she said the issuance of climbing permits for this year’s spring season has been halted, while permits issued earlier stand revoked. Nepal's commercial climbing season, which runs from April to May, attracts hundreds of adventurers attempting to scale some of the world's highest mountains.

The decision means that Mount Everest is now closed to climbers for the rest of the expedition season, as China had cancelled permits for its side earlier this week. Earlier, the Nepalese government suspended visas on arrival for tourists from eight countries worst hit by the virus; China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Spain, Germany, Japan, and France.

The Tourism Ministry also called off Visit Nepal Year 2020, a campaign that was expected to attract two million tourists this year.

On Thursday, the government stopped approval for foreign employment for Nepalese migrants. It also cancelled all international conferences and urged people to refrain from going to movie theaters and holding public gatherings.

The measures are effective from March 14 to April 30. Foreigners with prior visa can travel to Nepal, but are subject to a 14-day self-quarantine, the Department of Immigration said in a statement on Friday. The country, so far, has only one confirmed case of coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19,.

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