North Korea begins Ebola quarantine

Published: Thursday 30th October 2014 by The News Editor

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North Korean officials have announced they will quarantine all foreigners for 21 days over fears of the spread of the Ebola virus.

An announcement distributed to foreign diplomatic missions in Pyongyang said that, regardless of country or region of origin, all foreigners will be put under medical observation for 21 days.

It said foreigners from areas affected by Ebola will be quarantined at one set of locations, while those from unaffected areas will be sent to other locations, including hotels. It said the staff of diplomatic missions and international organisations in North Korea will be allowed to stay in their residences.

There have been no reported cases of Ebola in North Korea. More than 13,700 people have been affected in the outbreak, and nearly 5,000 have died. Nearly all were in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, although there have been 20 in Nigeria, four in the US and one each in Mali, Senegal and Spain. No cases have been reported in Asia.

North Korea’s frantic response to Ebola, including a broad but so far poorly defined ban on foreign tourism, is also surprising because the notoriously reclusive country admits so few foreigners.

Other than diplomatic and government missions, it has virtually no contact with any of the countries that have been most affected in west Africa, though it has tried to cultivate relations with some African nations. Kim Yong Nam, the head of North Korea’s parliament, is touring other parts of Africa.

Last week, North Korea’s state media announced that travellers and cargo would be subject to stricter monitoring at airports, seaports and railway border crossings. Warnings are also being aired on television to increase public awareness of the disease and its symptoms.

North Korea’s reaction is not unprecedented. It closed its borders for several months in 2003 during the scare over Sars, although that was a much more obvious threat. Sars affected China, and Beijing is where most flights into Pyongyang originate.

Published: Thursday 30th October 2014 by The News Editor

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