Nepal has opened Mt. Qomolangma and other Himalayan peaks from Thursday after a shutdown that had lasted for four and a half months, according to a Tourism Department official.
All spring season expeditions that usually last from March to May were suspended following fears of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. The Nepali government halted the issuance of climbing permits for expeditions and canceled already issued permits for the spring season 2020 on March 13.
"The mountains are now open for mountaineers and the department has started issuing climbing permits starting today (Thursday)," said Mira Acharya, director at the Department of Tourism (DoT).
The country has opened 414 peaks for mountaineering purposes. In line with the relaxation on economic activities, the government has allowed hotels, restaurants, trekking and mountaineering services to resume operations from Thursday.
Nepal bags more than 4 million U.S. dollars as royalty from climbers annually. The DoT collects 5,500 U.S. dollars as climbing permit fee for Mt. Qomolangma's normal route and 5,000 U.S. dollars for the other route from foreigners during autumn.
The disruption of mountaineering is likely to hamper the country's economy. As the country is gearing up to resume international flights, it is expecting tourists for the autumn season.
"The quarantine modality is still under discussion because of which we are unable to project the flow of climbers into the country," Acharya told Xinhua on Thursday.