North Korea officially lifts Covid restrictions, allows citizens to return from abroad

Seoul, Aug 27 (EFE).- North Korea on Sunday officially announced that it was lifting restrictions linked to Covid-19 pandemic and would now allow its citizens living overseas to return to the country for the first time in over three years.

“Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (official name) citizens abroad have been allowed to return home, according to the decision of the State Emergency Epidemic Prevention Headquarters of the DPRK to adjust the anti-epidemic degree in reference to the eased worldwide pandemic situation,” state news agency KCNA announced in a brief note.

“Those returned will be put under proper medical observation at quarantine wards for a week,” it added.

The measure comes after last week North Korea resumed commercial flights with China and Russia after more than three years of a strict border shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Planes of state carrier Air Koryo flew from Pyongyang to Beijing and Vladivostok, where they collected North Korean citizens to bring them back to the country.

With the end of the strict border closure policy, many North Korean diplomats, students and workers stuck overseas are expected to be able to return.

North Korea seems poised for a gradual opening after in July it allowed two diplomatic delegations – from China and Russia respectively – to take part in celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War (1950-1953).

The same month, Pyongyang allowed members of its Taekwondo team to cross into China by land, after which they traveled to Kazakhstan for a tournament.

Moreover, the isolated nation has also entered seven judokas for the Asian Games, set to be held in China’s Hangzhou between Sep. 23 and Oct. 8 this year.

North Korea had imposed a strict border shutdown since January 2020 and later reinforced fences and security posts on its border, issuing a shoot-at-sight order for anyone approaching its territory, and only allowing limited trade exchanges with China through railway and sea routes, subjected to a strict quarantine regime.

The regime had maintained this paranoid approach – which allowed it to further strengthen its control over the people according to human rights groups – even after leader Kim Jong-un said last year that the country had defeated the virus.

Anti-Covid vaccines had been supplied to the nation in 2022, although the quantity and the types of the antidotes have not been revealed. EFE


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