China will create a "separation line" on Mount Everest's summit to prevent potential Covid-19 infections by climbers from virus-infected Nepal, according to state media, after dozens of people became ill at the summit's base camp.
While the virus first appeared in China in late 2019, it has been largely contained in the country thanks to a series of strict lockdowns and border closures.
According to the official Xinhua News Agency, a team of Tibetan mountaineering guides would set up the separation line at the peak before climbers attempt to reach the summit from the Chinese side.
Mount Everest straddles the China-Nepal border, with China owning the north slope.
It was unclear what material would be used to create the separation line. Climbers ascending the mountain from China would be forbidden from crossing the line or coming into contact with someone or something on the mountain's south, or Nepalese, side, it said.
Over 30 sick climbers have been evacuated from base camp on the Nepalese side of the world's highest peak in recent weeks as Nepal battles a deadly second wave of the virus, raising concerns that the virus will derail a successful climbing season.
According to the official Xinhua news agency, Tibetan authorities told reporters at a press conference on Sunday that they will take the "most stringent epidemic prevention measures" to avoid interaction between climbers on the north and south slopes or at the summit.
Due to the pandemic, both countries halted the climbing season on Mount Everest in 2020. As part of its efforts to raise tourism revenue, Nepal has granted permits to 408 international climbers this year.
China has granted permits to 38 people to climb Mount Everest starting this year. According to Xinhua, 21 Chinese climbers have been approved to attempt the summit from the northern slope. A separate group of 17 climbers has been granted permission to hike on the northern slope.
Ang Tshering Sherpa, a mountaineering expert who has been in the mountaineering community for decades, said it was impossible to draw any kind of separation on the Everest summit.
"The idea that anyone with coronavirus could even reach the summit is impossible because climbers with any respiratory difficulties will just not be able to reach the altitude," he said.
The summit, which is a small space where climbers spend just a few minutes taking photos and seeing the 360-degree views, is the only point where climbers from both sides can even come close.