Chinese authorities have cancelled the spring climbing season on the Tibetan side of Mount Everest, citing concerns about coronavirus cases in neighbouring Nepal. The General Administration of Sport of China said on Friday that all permits issued to Chinese climbers had been cancelled, state news agency Xinhua reported. The administration said it cancelled the permits to ensure there was no chance of imported cases of Covid-19 amid the outbreak in Nepal. A group of 21 climbers was already en route to the summit from the northern side and 38 had approval to scale the peak this year, according to Xinhua. Mount Everest is known as Qomolangma in China and straddles the Himalayan border between China and Nepal. Last week, Chinese authorities said they would establish “a line of separation” on the summit to prevent transmission between climbers after a cluster of Covid-19 cases was reported at a base camp in Nepal. China reaches peak Covid-19 prevention with Everest ‘separation line’ At least 17 climbers have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, according to base camp officials, raising fears of an outbreak at the site where climbers begin their first step of the ascent. “Because the northern and southern routes of ascent are different, there’s no infection risks there. The most important focus for preventing transmissions will be at the summit,” Nimaciren, head of the Tibetan autonomous region’s sports bureau, was quoted as saying. But the decision has been criticised for being unnecessary because contact is almost impossible at the summit, an area known as the death zone for its freezing temperatures and lack of oxygen. Masked-up climbers from the north and the south interacted very little and could normally stay no more than 20 minutes at the peak, according to veteran mountaineers. Nepal’s reopening to tourists hit by Everest coronavirus case – evacuated climber confirms Covid-19 diagnosis on Facebook, is ‘doing OK now’ After the climbing season was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic , the Nepalese authorities reopened Mount Everest in late March, issuing a record 408 permits to climbers. The Chinese precautions come as Nepal is in the grip of a Covid-19 outbreak, reporting more than 8,000 daily new cases for the past week.