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Explained: Why China’s plan to have a Covid-19 line on Everest is being scoffed at

China is planning to erect a "line of separation" at the top of Mount Everest to prevent mingling with climbers ascending from Nepal, where a wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is currently surging.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: May 11, 2021 7:44:49 am
Mount Everest is seen from the way to Kalapatthar in Nepal. (AP Photo/File)

To prevent coronavirus transmission at the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, China is planning to erect a “line of separation” at the top to prevent mingling with climbers ascending from Nepal, where a wave of the pandemic is currently surging.

Everest is on the border of Nepal and China, and can be climbed from both sides. In December, the two countries had jointly announced the “new” elevation of the mountain at 8,848.86 metres above sea level — 86 cm higher than what was recognised since 1954 by the Survey of India.

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What is China planning to do on Mount Everest?

Covid numbers are currently skyrocketing in Nepal, and cases have also been detected at the Everest base camp on its side of the border. The situation in China is sharply different, where the pandemic is largely suppressed.

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Nepal, whose tourism sector has been badly hit by the global crisis, has so far not cancelled the spring climbing season, which lasts from April to June before the monsoon rains begin. From its side, China has not allowed any foreign tourists to scale the mountain since the start of the pandemic.

As per China’s Xinhua news agency, a small team of Tibetan climbing guides will ascend Everest and set up the “line of separation” at the summit to stop any contact between mountaineers from both sides of the peak, but did not specify how it would do so, Reuters reported. A group of 21 Chinese nationals are currently en route to the summit on the Tibetan side.

Is it possible to stop climbers from mingling atop Everest?

It is unclear, however, how China plans to erect a line at the summit–the only place where climbers from two sides can meet– given its perilous location and size of approximately a dining table.

The mountain top– a small mound of snow– can accommodate six people standing at a time, and climbers have to queue to reach there on busy days. Climbers generally get a few minutes to witness the 360 degree view and click photographs at the summit.

Experts believe that it is not possible to erect any barrier at the top, and neither is it necessary. They say that it is highly improbable for a person with Covid to first of all complete the arduous journey to the summit, and that those who do reach there would be wearing thick layers of clothing and have their faces covered with oxygen masks and glasses for protection in the freezing surroundings.

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