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Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
North Korean authorities have suspended Air Koryo’s Pyongyang-Vladivostok flight route, a note distributed to foreign residents in the country on Friday said, amid a broader expansion of measures to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus.
News of the suspension comes just days after it emerged Air China flights between Pyongyang and Beijing would be suspended until at least the end of February.
“Operation of the regular Pyongyang-Vladivostok-Pyongyang route shall be suspended for the time for the present,” the diplomatic note stated.
In contrast to information surrounding Air China’s suspension, the note didn’t specify when flights to and from Russia would resume.
The development now means only a highly limited Air Koryo scheduled service remains, with Flightradar24.com showing only limited tracking data between Beijing and Pyongyang in recent days.
SUSPENSION OF EVENTS & MEETINGS
Other new restrictions were revealed in the diplomatic note, a copy of which was seen by NK News early Saturday.
“During the month of February, events, ceremonial visits and meetings shall not proceed, and essential meetings shall be conducted via telephone,” the note read.
That could have implications for the DPRK’s hosting of a potential military parade in February, which recent satellite imagery analysis had suggested could be on the cards during the weeks ahead.
In addition, all diplomats or international organization staff going to North Korea will now be subjected to a mandatory 15-day quarantine process at their “place of residence” from the day of arrival.
That’s a broadening of rules which as of January 28 only applied to foreigners who had transited through China.
Furthermore, any diplomat or international organization staffer who arrived in the DPRK after January 13 “must submit to a medication examination from Pyongyang Friendship hospital in their place of residence.”
“Regular visits to each diplomatic mission and offices of international organizations shall be made in order to conduct medical examinations, while only those suspected of having contracted the new coronavirus shall be immediately moved to the already designated foreigner quarantine site,” the note continued.
And during the monitoring period, “those subject to quarantine must not enter public places or come into contact with other people.”
The latest measures to stop novel coronavirus follow the January 29 suspension of all operations at the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong.
Two weeks ago North Korea announced that it would not permit any international tourism while fears of an outbreak persisted, with authorities also issuing orders that resident foreigners were temporarily “completely forbidden” from traveling to China.
The rules echo steps taken by Pyongyang during an outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa in 2014, when visiting NGO workers and diplomats were subject to a 21-day quarantine period before being allowed to enter the country.
“We did not have any contact for three weeks,” Thomas Fisler, a former Resident Representative to North Korea who was quarantined twice under those measures, told NK News earlier in the month. “The restrictions were quite dramatic.”
It’s not immediately clear whether the quarantine measures announced on Friday will also apply to North Koreans visiting from China, or whether the state has made different arrangements for its nationals.