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China's drastic move on top of Mount Everest

As India's Covid crisis spreads rapidly to neighbouring Nepal, China has taken drastic action to safeguard its border with the newly virus-ravaged nation.

Continuing its meticulous and sometimes draconian approach to Covid-19 prevention, which has largely eradicated the virus since its explosion in Wuhan over a year ago, China has announced it will be taking no chances nearly nine kilometres above sea level.

A "line of separation" will be introduced at the summit of Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain.

The border between China and Nepal runs through its summit point and with a spate of Covid cases at the Nepalese base camp, China moved to protect its own climbers from infection.

It was not immediately clear how the line would be enforced on the summit, a tiny, perilous and inhospitable area the size of a dining table.

The summit of the world's highest mountain Mount Everest, also known as Qomolangma, can be seen at sunset in the Tibet Autonomous Region May 4, 2008. Heavy snowfall over the past few days has hampered efforts for the Olympic torch's ascent of Mount Everest.             REUTERS/David Gray    (CHINA)
The summit of the world's highest mountain Mount Everest that will be strictly divided to prevent Covid transmission. Source: Reuters

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, Xinhua news agency reported, citing the head of Tibet's sports bureau.

A group of 21 Chinese nationals are en route to the summit on the Tibetan side, Xinhua claimed.

The Tibetan guides will set up the separation line ahead of their arrival, the state-run news agency said, without describing what the line would look like.

It was also unclear whether the Tibetan guides would be the ones enforcing the "separation", or whether they would remain in the so-called death zone, where many lives have been lost due to a dearth of oxygen, to enforce the line.

The top of the 8,848-metre peak is a small mound of snow with barely enough space for half a dozen climbers and guides at any one time.

Nepal is in the midst of a Covid crisis and is rapidly running out of oxygen as its second wave spirals out of control.

On Sunday, the nation reported a daily increase of 8,777 infections and currently has the highest reproduction rate in the world, according to the ABC.

Climbers told to bring oxygen canisters back for Covid patients

It is so short of oxygen canisters, mountaineering officials have asked climbers on Mount Everest to bring back their empties instead of abandoning them on mountain slopes.

The country issued climbing permits to more than 700 climbers for 16 Himalayan peaks - 408 to Mount Everest - for the April-May climbing season in a bid to get the mountaineering industry and tourism back up and running.

Kul Bahadur Gurung, a senior official with the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said climbers and their Sherpa guides were estimated to have carried at least 3,500 oxygen bottles this season.

Staff member of a government run hospital checks to refill the empty oxygen cylinders in Kathmandu, Nepal, Friday, May 7, 2021. Across the border from a devastating surge in India, doctors in Nepal warned Friday of a major crisis as daily coronavirus cases hit a record and hospitals were running out of beds and oxygen. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
Nepal is suffering from an acute shortage of oxygen. Source: AP

These bottles often get buried in avalanches or are abandoned on the mountain slopes at the end of the expedition.

"We appeal to climbers and sherpas to bring back their empty bottles wherever possible as they can be refilled and used for the treatment of the coronavirus patients who are in dire needs," Gurung told Reuters.

Many private and community hospitals in Kathmandu have said they are unable to take any more patients due to lack of oxygen. There was a shortage of both the gas and canisters.

"We need about 25,000 oxygen cylinders immediately to save people from dying. This is our urgent need," Samir Kumar Adhikari, a health ministry official said.

"We also need oxygen plants, compressors and ICU beds urgently."

Nepal has asked China to send 20,000 cylinders, some of which will be airlifted to meet urgent needs, another official said.

With Reuters

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