Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: North Korea to strengthen measures to prevent spread of COVID-19 as of April 13. Quarantine, movement restrictions and tourist ban in place.

This alert affects North Korea

This alert began 13 Apr 2020 07:53 GMT and is scheduled to expire 15 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

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

Summary
North Korea plans to strengthen measures to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) following a Workers' Party of Korea meeting April 11. Although specifics of the meeting remain unclear, the government is likely to further enforce existing measures throughout the country. Testing remains sparse in North Korea, but health staff are requiring residents exhibiting temperatures for more than three days to self-quarantine. Authorities are 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. Authorities have reportedly banned gatherings in some provinces.

There have been no indications of widespread disruptions within North Korea; however, state media indicates that officials have encouraged businesses to improve hygiene practices for staff. The government has closed all schools in the country through at least April 15, though further extensions are possible. Several foreign embassies remain closed after North Korean officials allowed diplomats to leave the country following mandatory quarantines.

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. The Dandong-Sinuiju border crossing remains closed to foreign travelers and transport. However, unconfirmed reports indicate that outbound cargo transport into China may be occurring. Chinese authorities in border regions have warned of potential shoot-on-sight measures near the North Korean frontier. Officials in coastal provinces have also reportedly improved monitoring of maritime traffic.

Travel Restrictions

A ban on inbound tourist travel remains in place as of April 13. Officials are conducting increased health screenings and have imposed quarantine periods on foreign nationals of up to 30 days.

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.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Consider deferring 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 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.