Nepal relaxes quarantine rules ahead of Everest season

Kathmandu (AFP) –


Nepal has eased quarantine rules for visitors in an effort to attract more climbers to Mount Everest, officials said Friday, after the pandemic wiped out last year's season and devastated the tourism industry.

Visitors will be tested on arrival and will have to stay in quarantine only until their results come back negative, under a policy made public Thursday evening.

"We expect that climbers and trekkers who were postponing expeditions or trips due to tough rules will be coming to Nepal after this decision," Mira Acharya, director at the country's tourism department, told AFP.

Earlier, visitors had to stay in quarantine for seven days.

They will still have to present proof of vaccination or a negative PCR result before arriving in the country.

Dambar Parajuli, president of the Expedition Operators Association of Nepal, said the decision "opens doors for revival of tourism".

"This sends a positive message. Last-minute bookings are unlikely, but it will help long-term," he said.

Nepal has so far issued 45 permits for various Himalayan mountains, and it is expected that there will be around 300 foreign climbers on Everest, the world's highest mountain.

The Tibet side of Everest continues to be closed to foreigners this year, possibly adding more climbers on the Nepal side.

Expedition organisers are preparing in Kathmandu and some climbers are already trekking up to their camps.

The pandemic forced Nepal to shut its borders right before the beginning of the busiest mountaineering season last year.

This was a devastating blow to the many thousands of people in Nepal -- from guides to hoteliers -- who depend on the climbing industry for their livelihoods.

Before the pandemic, Nepal was struggling to cope with the large number of people summiting Everest, with sometimes deadly consequences.

In 2019, the traffic-clogged spring climbing season saw a record 885 people climb the peak, 644 of them from the south and 241 from the northern flank in Tibet.

The season ended with 11 deaths on the mountain, with at least four blamed on overcrowding.