Ebola outbreak: North Korea says visitors must remain in quarantine for 21 days, despite few being allowed to enter

Ebola outbreak: North Korea says visitors must remain in quarantine for 21 days, despite few being allowed to enter
by Kashmira Gander
Thursday, 30 October 2014

Medical personnel in protective suits standing by an ambulance, at the Sunan International Airport, in Pyongyang, North Korea. AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

North Korea has reacted to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa by announcing it will quarantine all foreigners who enter the country for 21 days.

According to an announcement sent to diplomatic missions on Thursday, tourists are currently banned, and business visits have been put on hold in an escalation of North Korea’s suspicious attitude towards foreigners.

The ruling comes even though the small numbers of visitors allowed in the insular nation stay for less than 21 days, and no cases of the deadly virus have been reported in Asia. And as tourist visits to North Korea were halted last week, few were likely to still be in the country. The majority of visitors are on diplomatic and government missions, and North Korea has virtually no contact with west African countries affected by Ebola, although the continent is one of the places it has tried to develop good relations.

To increase public awareness of the disease and its symptoms, North Korean state media features daily broadcasts on the disease. On Sunday, North Korea's Korean Central Television aired a segment showing quarantine officials strengthening inspections of people and boats moving in and out of the port city of Nampo.

“Our army, which protects our borders, has a high responsibility to block the disease,” Han Yong Sik, director of the Nampo inspection center, told the network. “We are strengthening quarantine education and thoroughly inspecting boats and planes to ensure that not even a single person carrying the disease enters our country," he added.

The new rules took force earlier this week, when a high-level delegation from Japan in Pyongyang were met by people met in full protection gear. It was unclear if they or others already in North Korea on shorter stays, for example on business, would have to remain for the quarantine period. There has not yet been an official statement in North Korea's English-language media outlining the tourism ban, which groups are affected, whether travel out of North Korea will be stopped and under what conditions the restrictions would be lifted.

“It was poorly communicated,” said a post Monday on the website of the Choson Exchange, a Singapore-based organization that specialises in promoting business and educational exchange with North Korea. It added that stakeholders were not given time to prepare for the measures, and Choson could subsequently lose tens of thousands of dollars. “Overall, this episode seems to reflect two things. First, a callous attitude toward stakeholders in the country's development stemming from poor communications or the lack of will to communicate,” said the post blog. “Second, that North Korea's 'fear of the foreign' outweighs their interest in whatever benefits foreign investment brings," it added.

Source: Independent UK.