Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: North Korea continues to enforce domestic COVID-19 restrictions as of Sept. 14. Border closure to continue indefinitely.

Alert Begins 14 Sep 2020 05:40 AM UTC
Alert Expires 15 Oct 2020 11:59 PM UTC

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel and business disruptions, quarantine measures, increased security measures

North Korea continues to enforce domestic restrictions nationwide. A state of emergency remains in effect. Protective face coverings are mandatory in public spaces nationwide, and restrictions on nonessential public gatherings continue. Authorities are limiting nonessential inter-regional and interdistrict travel and require temperature checks before trips. Temperature checks are also occurring at malls and other gathering points; state media indicates that officials have encouraged businesses to improve staff hygiene practices. Residents exhibiting temperatures for more than three days must self-isolate.

Stricter measures continue in the capital, Pyongyang, where reports indicate that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has restricted foreign nationals from traveling outside the city. Authorities have also increased security in the capital, with new guard posts set up at subway stations, long-distance bus terminals, and main roads into the capital. Officials are screening travelers on public transport in the capital and travelers into the city and can impose quarantine on people with COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever. Business restrictions are also likely in the city.

Authorities have increased security along the border with China to prevent the unauthorized movement of goods and people. Officials have reportedly restricted movement in and out of Chongjin and parts of North Hamgyong Province; only residents can enter or depart the areas. Reports indicate that officials have issued shoot-on-sight measures for people attempting to enter the country from China; Chinese authorities previously warned of potential shoot-on-sight measures near the North Korean frontier. Maritime shipments are continuing, though authorities still quarantine imports for 10 days after arrival.

Several foreign embassies remain closed after North Korean officials allowed diplomats to leave the country following mandatory quarantines.

Travel Restrictions
A ban on inbound tourist travel remains in place. Officials are conducting increased health screenings and have imposed quarantine periods on allowed foreign nationals of up to 30 days.

Background and Analysis
North Korean state media has stopped reporting that the country has no COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, but the government has yet to confirm any COVID-19 activity in the country. Some experts have questioned these figures 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 relative 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 may be 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. Make allowances for likely shipping delays and supply chain disruptions. 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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