Rai lives about an eight-hour walk from Dingboche in Namche Bazaar, a bustling market town that serves as the unofficial entrance to most of the treks in Sagarmatha National Park in Khumbu, also known as the Everest region, in the north east of the country.
Trekkers on their way up usually stop off there to acclimatise for a day or two and to pick up some last-minute supplies.
Rai has worked as a guide for 10 years, helping to bring people to Everest Base Camp, where treks up the mountain begin, through the Three Passes trekking route or across the other popular trails that crisscross the region.
Business varies from season to season and Rai has had good years and bad years. In 2018, he was busy with work, with many tourists visiting the country. Last year, he said bad weather conditions meant a drop off in numbers. This year is set to be one of his worst.
“Three years ago I made good money here, there were many tourists, last year was not so good. This year has been very quiet, only two tourists so far,” Rai said as he walked.
Novel coronavirus (Covid-19) is sweeping across the world, with over 280,000 people currently infected and over 11,000 deaths.
The virus was first detected in China, but Europe is now considered to be the epicentre of the outbreak, with Italy, Spain and Germany among the worst-hit countries.
There are 683 cases in Ireland as of Friday, and the country has gone into a near lockdown, with pubs, schools and childcare centres all closed for at least the next two weeks and large social gatherings called off.
In Nepal and other south Asian countries,the virus has not spread as it has in Europe. As of Friday, Nepal had just two confirmed case of coronavirus – one of which has been treated and healed.
There are fears among health experts that the virus may catch on in countries in south Asia and spread rapidly due to issues around overcrowding and the difficulty of enforcing “social distancing” practices which are being used in Europe.
However, for now, the Nepalese economy is already suffering significantly from coronavirus due to an initial slowdown followed by a complete halt to tourists coming into the country.
Business was slower than normal at the beginning of the year, but this worsened last week when the Nepalese government announced it was stopping issuing tourist visas for people entering the country in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus.
All Mount Everest climbing expeditions – which usually take place in May during the brief window when weather conditions make climbing to the top possible – have been cancelled, dealing a huge blow to local employment.
Tourism is hugely important to the Nepalese economy, with the government’s decision set to significantly impact the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people who rely on tourism and trekking to make their living.