China cancels Everest climbs over fears of virus from Nepal

China has canceled attempts to climb Mount Everest from its side of the world’s highest peak because of fears of importing COVID-19 cases from neighboring Nepal

The closure was confirmed in a notice Friday from China’s General Administration of Sport, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

China had issued permits to 38 people, all Chinese citizens, to climb the 8,849-meter (29,032-foot) -high mountain this spring. Nepal has given permission to 408 people. Climbing was not allowed from either side last year because of the pandemic.

In Nepal, several climbers have reported testing positive for COVID-19 after they were brought down from the Everest base camp.

The month of May usually has the best weather for climbing Everest. Scores have reached the summit this week and more are expected to make attempts later this month once the weather improves. Two climbers have died on the Nepalese side, one Swiss and one American.

China earlier said it would set up a separation line at the peak and prohibit people on its side from coming into contact with anyone on the Nepalese side. It was unclear how that would be done.

“We ended our expedition today because of safety concerns with the given COVID outbreak,” Furtenbach said in a message from base camp. “We don’t want (to) send people or Sherpas up, they (could) get sick high up there and die.”

Before leaving for the mountain, he had warned that the virus could spread among the hundreds of other climbers, guides and helpers who are now camped on the base of Everest if all of them are not checked immediately and safety measures aren't taken.