Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: North Korea imposing strict domestic COVID-19 measures, mainly in Kaesong city, as of July 26. International travel restrictions continue.

  • Alert Begins: 26 Jul 2020 01:30 AM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 31 Jul 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel and business disruptions, quarantine measures, increased security measures

North Korea has announced a state of emergency in Kaesong city, as of July 26, following reports of the nation's first suspected coronavirus disease (COVID-19) case. While entry and exit to the city remains restricted, authorities are also implementing nationwide limits on nonessential inter-regional and interdistrict travel. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) officials, protective face coverings are mandatory in public spaces nationwide, and restrictions on nonessential public gatherings continue. Health staff requires 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 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 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 Chongjin and other parts of North Hamgyong Province; only residents can enter or depart the areas. Chinese authorities in border regions have warned of potential shoot-on-sight measures near the North Korean frontier. Maritime shipments are continuing, although authorities are requiring imports to be 'quarantined' for ten days after arrival.

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; the facility remains closed as of July 1.

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 Korean state media reported the nation's first suspected case of COVID-19 July 26. On July 21, officials reported carrying out a total of 1117 tests nationwide during the pandemic, with no positive results. 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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