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Nepal closes access to Mount Everest due to coronavirus outbreak

Nepal closes access to Mount Everest due to coronavirus outbreak
Tourism to Mount Everest typically brings in about $1 billion each year for the Nepalese government. File Photo by Praphat Rattanayanon/Shutterstock/UPI

March 13 (UPI) -- The government of Nepal has closed off access to Mount Everest at the peak of the climbing tourist season due to the coronavirus spread, in a move that's expected to cost Kathmandu millions in lost revenue.

Officials said the closure will run through April 30. Peak climbing season runs from March through May.

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The decision was made Thursday after a meeting that included Nepal Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ishwar Pokhrel.

The government also said it would limit travel to and from India by land and maintain strict quarantine protocols at the border.

Climbers from the United States, Britain, China, India, Japan and South Korea make up the annual bulk of those who scale the world's tallest peak, where each pays an average of $11,000 in fees.

Nepal counts on those tourism dollars -- which are connected to hotel stays, airline guides and local employment of mountain guides -- to fund its economy year-round. Climbing tourism earns Nepal more than $1 billion each year.

Some have said the closure could give more time for locals to clean the mountain of debris and bodies along its trails, but Nepalese officials said that can't happen unless the government has the funds to pay those workers.

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Nepal granted permits to more than 1,000 climbers in 2019. Of that group, 644 reached the peak of Mount Everest.

The only other access point to Mount Everest, via China, was closed by Beijing earlier this week.

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