Even the world's tallest peak was no match for the spread of the new coronavirus as Nepal’s government announced Friday it was suspending climbing permits for Mount Everest.

With China already halting its permit program earlier this week, the more-than-29,000-foot mountain that sits between Nepal and Tibet is effectively shuttered for the popular spring climbing season.

Surendra Thapa, an official with Nepal’s Department of Tourism, said the decision to shut down the climbing season was a precautionary measure as countries around the world combat the spread of the new virus that causes COVID-19.

"While cancelling a climb is never an outcome we want, this time, it's the responsible thing to do. A COVID-19 outbreak at base camp would be dangerous and potentially devastating," Adrian Ballinger, CEO of Alpenglow Expeditions, which leads Everest climbing trips, said in a statement.

Everest draws hundreds of adventure seekers every spring who try the physically taxing task of summiting the highest peak in the world.

"Breathing is already a challenge at high altitudes, so an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, a severe respiratory disease, among the climbers would be particularly devastating," Furtenbach Adventures, an expedition company, said in a statement.

Last year, a record-breaking number of climbers traveled to the mountain, causing traffic jams of humans moving slowly through areas of thin air.

Eleven people died, a four-year high, climbing the mountain in 2019 amid overcrowding, inexperience and poor weather, according to Everest blogger Alan Arnette, a Colorado climber who tracks the climbing season.

Everest climbing permits rake in around $4 million every year for the Nepalese government, the Kathmandu Post reported. The season also provides money and resources for local Sherpas who guide the groups up and carry supplies.

According to Arnette, Nepal planned to issue fewer permits this year to combat some of the issues from last season, but a crowded climbing season was still expected.  

Nepal and China's Tibet Autonomous Region each confirmed only one case of the virus, with the infected people recovering, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. The virus was first detected in Wuhan in China's Hubei province late last year.

While early data indicates many COVID-19 illnesses are mild, some experience severe respiratory complications. More than 134,000 people worldwide are confirmed to have been infected, and almost 5,000 people have died.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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