Nepal will reopen its Himalayan mountains including Mount Everest to climbers for the autumn season, officials said, to boost the tourism-dependent economy despite rising coronavirus infections.

Home to eight of the world’s 14 tallest mountains, Nepal shut down climbing and trekking in March to stem the novel coronavirus, which has so far infected 19,547 people and caused 52 deaths in the country of 30 million.

While infections in many Western nations are falling, South Asian countries including Nepal are still witnessing a steady rise in the caseload.

The absence of climbing in the popular April-May season caused Nepal millions of dollars in losses. Hundreds of foreign travellers and some 200,000 sherpas, guides and porters were hit.

Though the government now wants to reopen climbing, international flights are shut until mid-August and travel restrictions within Nepal remain, meaning climbers will still be kept away in the short term, expedition organisers said.

Nepal also allowed the reopening of hotels and restaurants with some restrictions. No conferences, seminars, gyms or casinos would be allowed, said Binayak Shah, vice president of the Hotel Association Nepal (HAN).

Nepal to reopen Everest to climbers despite coronavirus case rise