North Korea ‘Flies out Foreign Diplomats to Russia’ After Lifting Coronavirus Quarantine

March 9, 2020 Updated: March 9, 2020
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North Korea has flown foreign diplomats out of the country following weeks of tight quarantine restrictions imposed by Pyongyang over the spread of the coronavirus.

The country, which borders China and South Korea, the two countries hit hardest by the outbreak, has so far not confirmed a single case of the COVID-19 disease.

However, a special flight carrying presumably dozens of diplomats and other foreigners reportedly arrived in the city of Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East on Monday.

Dozens of passengers wearing masks, some of them with children, were seen lining up at Pyongyang International Airport while health workers scanned them for fever. It wasn’t immediately clear how many were flown out to Vladivostok on Air Koyro Flight 271, which arrived at 10:49 a.m. local time, according to the website of Vladivostok International Airport. Previous reports said around 60 people would be evacuated.

North Korea lifted travel restrictions last week after a month-long quarantine on foreign diplomats based in Pyongyang, allowing them to leave their compounds.

Calling its anti-virus campaign a matter of “national existence,” the country has also banned foreign tourists, delayed the school year, sealed off its borders, shut down nearly all cross-border traffic with China, intensified screening at entry points, and mobilized tens of thousands of health workers to monitor residents and isolate those with symptoms, in an effort to prevent an outbreak inside the country.

Epoch Times Photo
Foreign diplomats, embassy staff, and their families check-in for a flight to Vladivostok at Pyongyang International Airport on March 9, 2020. (Kim Won Jin/AFP/Getty Images)
Epoch Times Photo
A child has her temperature taken as foreign diplomats and embassy staff prepare to board a flight to Vladivostok at Pyongyang International Airport on March 9, 2020. (Kim Won Jin/AFP/Getty Images)

On Monday, Colin Crooks, the British ambassador to North Korea, said Germany, which has an embassy in North Korea, and France, which runs an office there to foster exchanges, had withdrawn their representatives from the country and closed their missions. He did not mention the virus.

“Sad to say farewell this morning to colleagues from German Embassy and French Office #NorthKorea which are closing temporarily,” he tweeted, adding that the British Embassy would remain open.

Last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned of “serious consequences” if the virus reaches his country.

“In case the infectious disease spreading beyond control finds its way into our country, it will entail serious consequences,” Kim was quoted as saying by the state-run news agency KCNA. “No special cases must be allowed within the state anti-epidemic system.”

The North Korean supreme leader instructed officials to “seal off all the channels and space through which the infectious disease may find its way, and strengthen check-up, test, and quarantine.”

Experts have warned that North Korea is vulnerable to infectious diseases due to its chronic lack of medical supplies and poor health infrastructure, while the county’s land border with China makes it more at risk from the disease.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.