Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: North Korea begins to ease measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as of June 1. Quarantine, movement restrictions, tourist ban in place.

This alert affects North Korea

This alert began 01 Jun 2020 07:30 GMT and is scheduled to expire 30 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel and business disruptions, quarantine measures, increased security measures

North Korea has begun to ease some restrictions previously implemented to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). State media announced that schools across the country have reopened as of June 1, though kindergarten and nurseries will open later in early June. Education officials must provide hand sanitizer and conduct temperature checks at entrances to school campuses. The announcement comes after authorities lifted restrictions on foreign nationals from visiting department stores in Pyongyang; officials in the capital previously eased bans on foreign nationals at retail shops and restaurants in April.

There have been no indications of widespread disruptions within North Korea; however, health staff are requiring residents exhibiting temperatures for more than three days to self-quarantine. Authorities were also screening passengers into Pyongyang and imposing quarantines on people with COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever. Reports indicate that officials are requiring people to wear masks before using public transport - including taxis - and undergo temperature checks before embarking on long-distance journeys. Similar requirements are likely in other spaces, including shops; state media indicates that officials have encouraged businesses to improve hygiene practices for staff. Authorities have reportedly banned gatherings in some provinces.

Authorities have increased security along the border with China, including North Pyongan, Changang, Ryanggang, and North Hamgyong provinces, to prevent the unauthorized movement of goods and people. Officials have reportedly restricted movement in and out of Rason, North Hamgyong Province; only residents can enter or depart the city. Chinese authorities in border regions have warned of potential shoot-on-sight measures near the North Korean frontier. However, maritime traffic with China has resumed through the military-controlled Haeyang Port. Unconfirmed reports indicate that some shipments are also occurring at the Dongyang and Unpasan ports.

Several foreign embassies remain closed after North Korean officials allowed diplomats to leave the country following mandatory quarantines. The UK Embassy closed in late May, citing the inability to circulate staff and maintain supplies.

Travel Restrictions

A ban on inbound tourist travel remains in place. Officials are conducting increased health screenings and have imposed quarantine periods on foreign nationals of up to 30 days. The Dandong-Sinuiju border crossing remains closed to most foreign travelers and transport.

Background and Analysis
North Korea has continued to report no confirmed cases of COVID-19. Many experts have questioned these reports due to limited ability to test for the disease outside Pyongyang, the delay in Chinese reporting on the extent of COVID-19 activity, and the frequency of travel across the border before restrictions were put in place. Nevertheless, claims from dissident exile organizations of numerous COVID-19 cases in North Korea are likely at least partially politically motivated, and may be inaccurate. North Korean authorities imposed strict inbound travel restrictions and quarantine measures during an Ebola outbreak in parts of West Africa in 2014 and during the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in East Asia.

Follow all official instructions. Defer nonessential travel to North Korea due to quarantine measures; delay travel if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19. Contact travel providers for reservation status if scheduled to visit North Korea in the coming months.

Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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