SEOUL (Reuters) – Authorities in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, have ordered a five-day lockdown due to a rise in cases of an unspecified respiratory disease, the Russian Embassy and Seoul-based NK News reported on Wednesday, citing a government notice, citing a government notice.
The notice, posted by the embassy on its Facebook page, said that “a special period has been set to combat the epidemic” and called on foreign delegations to keep staff inside. The order also called for individuals to take their temperatures four times a day and report the results to the hospital by phone.
The notice made no mention of COVID-19 although it did note “an increase in winter cases of frequent influenza and other respiratory illnesses”.
The closures were first reported by South Korea’s NK News, which monitors covert North Korea.
On Tuesday, the site reported that Pyongyang residents appeared to be stockpiling goods in anticipation of tougher measures. It was not clear whether other parts of the country had imposed new lockdowns.
North Korea acknowledged its first outbreak of COVID-19 last year, but by August it declared victory over the virus.
It has never confirmed how many people have contracted COVID, apparently because it lacks the means to carry out widespread testing.
Instead, Pyongyang reported daily numbers of patients with fever, a number that rose to about 4.77 million, out of a population of about 25 million. But it has not reported such cases since July 29.
State media continued to report on anti-pandemic measures to combat respiratory diseases, including influenza, but has yet to report on the lockdown order.
On Tuesday, the official KCNA news agency said the city of Kaesong, near the border with South Korea, had stepped up public communication campaigns “so that all workers will voluntarily abide by the anti-epidemic rules in their work and life.”
Reporting by Josh Smith. Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan
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