Mount Everest Empties as Covid-19 Strikes Tourism in Nepal

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KATHMANDU, Nepal – Last year, Nepal attracted a large number of mountaineers, so much so that a large number of mountaineers in volcanic areas passed through the summit of Mount Everest.

The crowds were a testament to the speed – very quickly, some have said – Nepal’s tourism companies have grown, and they have become part of the country’s support system. Last year tourism brought in more than $ 2 billion to Nepal, one of the poorest countries in Asia, and registered millions of people, from freighters and pilots.

The plague has stopped.

Roads traversing the Himalayas have been abandoned, including the one leading to Everest Base Camp. At least 150 riders have arrived this summer, U.S. immigration officials said, starting with thousands last year.

Countless Sherpas and mountaineers have become increasingly sophisticated, leaving many to plant barley or to graze their way across empty spaces to survive.

Many Nepalese people fear that the combination of coronavirus and hammers that could affect the economy could reverse the country for years to come.

“I often thought I would starve to death before Corona killed me,” says Upendra Lama, a mountain watchman who now relies on donations from a small charity to support herself and her children. “How long will this continue?”

While the rest of the world is asking similar questions, Nepal has little to offer. Covid-19 cases are growing steadily, and with about 1,000 beds caring for 30 million people, the government has ordered patients to stay home only when they are in critical condition. An unknown number can die invisible and unknown.

The financial crisis is easy to see. Hotels and tea sticks along the side of the mountains have risen. Restaurants, arm shops and even the well-known holes in Kathmandu, have closed for a better future, including the Tom and Jerry mall, which for years served as a beacon for returnees.

“There is no hope,” said Puskar Lal Shrestha.

Exports from Nepal working abroad have also been met. When the time was right, millions sent money from all over Asia, mainly from countries in the Persian Gulf. Last year, total remittances were about $ 9 billion. Nepal relies on remittances more than any other country.

Many people in Nepal have taken up menial jobs, such as security guards or laborers. But the costs were good, especially for people from a country whose income is about $ 3 a day.

Now many of them have lost their jobs. Some have been repatriated, while others have been detained abroad, without working or being deported.

The respite they send abroad has threatened many families. Several respondents said they were forced to move to cheaper rooms and remove their children from public schools and send them to public schools that they considered inferior.

“If the country does not get a corona vaccine soon, our money, which contributes about 30% of global GDP, will dry up,” said Sujit Kumar Shrestha, general secretary of the Association of Foreign Employment Agency in Nepal.

While the economy is booming, hospitals are filling up. Doctors say the rich and politically affiliated are overseeing hospital beds, leaving the poor and homeless.

“Our health system is weak, and screening methods are limited,” said Drs. Rabindra Pandey, who works in Nepal Arogya Kendra, an independent organization of health professionals. “Well-connected and affluent people can easily go to public hospitals and pay their bills, but most of the poor people are dying.”

With winter fast approaching and the Hindu festival season in full swing, health experts warn that the Nepal Covid-19 crisis is on the horizon. The country has reported more than 175,000 cases, about the same as India. And although the death toll is less than 1,000, testing remains and the agreement between Nepali doctors is that viral infections and deaths are on the rise.

The problem has spread to rural areas and remote towns where few months ago were few or far between. Officials are accused of using the plague to make money. The parliamentary committee is looking into cases in which close associates of the Prime Minister, KP Sharma Oli, have raised prices for essential medical supplies. The authorities deny this.

In some areas, Covid-19 has passed through all households.

Dharma Kumar Shrestha, an elderly man who runs a small clothing business, went to a hospital in southern Nepal in late September to receive treatment for asthma, the beginning of a series of cases that killed nearly half of his family. He seized a Covid-19 in a hospital, his relatives said. Two of her children who visited her became infected.

As the hospitals were overcrowded, and authorities ordered home treatment, the children returned home. They got sick. When someone calls for an ambulance, the driver refuses, fearing for his life.

Less than two weeks later, Dharma and his two sons died.

“What could be worse?” asked Suman Shrestha, a young relative. “Let’s not pray for everyone to agree with what happened to us.”

Health experts say most of the diseases in Nepal originated from Nepalese people returning from India. India now ranks 2nd in the world in terms of disease outbreaks reported by Covid-19 – about eight million, behind the United States.

Nepal lives in the shadow of India. Her finances, her fitness and her health are always predetermined by what is happening in her southern region.

Particularly due to the growth of tourism, Nepal’s economy grew faster than India, about 6 percent in 2019. Most of the time, this time passenger planes pass through the mountains near Kathmandu International Airport and disrupt thousands of tourist heels, including thousands. Many Indians, eager to climb the Annapurnas or to camp on Mount Everest.

Last year, more than a million visitors left. The average person spends more than $ 50 a day.

Tourism management estimates that at least 800,000 tour operators will lose their jobs. Of the first to go, officials said, there will be about 50,000 riders, Sherpas and others walking naturally. Some have started protesting in the streets of Kathmandu, demanding that the government provide them with loans to help feed their families and threaten to destroy the Tourism Board office if they do not find relief.

“Leaders, formerly known as tourist activists, have been fired,” said Prakash Rai, a tour guide who participated in the recent demonstrations. “We have no way of surviving this crisis.”

Recently, some people inside and outside the country were saying that the tourist activities in Nepal are over. Nepal was keen to welcome the riders, say critics, that Everest’s appearance was unruly and dangerous.

Despite the rise of the Covid-19 lawsuit, other financial institutions, such as manufacturers, are trying to restore life, and some schools have reopened. Travel scheduled for this summer and summer has been reduced. The mass exodus has begun from cities to remote villages as Nepalis head home to celebrate the Hindu holiday of Dashain and Tihar.

However, such trips are beyond the reach of visitors.

Pokhara, a beautiful seaside town in the middle of the country, has been transformed into a shadowy place. Meanwhile last year, it was full of pedestrians.

But as Bibob Poudel, a hotel salesman in Pokhara, said, “I haven’t seen a single guest here since April.”

Bhadra Sharma said from Kathmandu, and Jeffrey Gettleman from New Delhi.

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