North Korea locks down capital for ‘respiratory disease’

SEOUL, Jan 25 (Reuters) – Authorities in the North Korean capital Pyongyang have ordered a five-day lockdown due to rising cases of an unspecified respiratory illness, the Russian embassy and NK reported on Wednesday. News, based in Seoul, citing a government advisory.

The notice, shared by the embassy on its Facebook page, said a “special anti-epidemic period has been established” and called on foreign delegations to keep employees indoors. The order also called for individuals to take their temperature four times a day and report the results to a hospital by phone.

The advisory makes no mention of COVID-19 but cites an “increase in winter cases of recurrent influenza and other respiratory illnesses”.

The lockdowns were first reported by South Korea’s NK News, which monitors secretive North Korea.

On Tuesday, the website reported that residents of Pyongyang appeared to be stocking up on goods ahead of tougher measures. It was unclear whether other parts of the country had imposed new lockdowns.

North Korea acknowledged its first outbreak of COVID-19 last year, but in August declared victory over the virus.

It has never confirmed how many people have caught COVID, apparently because it cannot afford large-scale testing.

Instead, Pyongyang reported the daily number of fever patients, a tally that rose to some 4.77 million, out of a population of around 25 million. But it has not reported such cases since July 29.

State media continued to report on anti-pandemic measures to combat respiratory illnesses, including the flu, 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 its public communication campaigns “so that all workers voluntarily follow anti-epidemic regulations in their work. and their lives”.

Reporting by Josh Smith; edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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